Death gran spared jail

Bernadette Quirk
Bernadette Quirk

A SECRETIVE Wigan grandmother who hid the remains of three unregistered babies in a bedroom bin and buried a fourth in a makeshift grave has been spared jail.

Following high-profile court proceedings Bernadette Quirk, 55, who had been bailed to an address in Scholes, was yesterday sentenced to a supervised two-year community order and ordered to take part in a women’s intervention project.

Earlier this year Quirk, a former care home worker, pleaded guilty to the concealment of four births after living a lie for the best part of 25 years.

In theory, each of the birth concealment charges could carry a maximum sentence of two years behind bars.

Police made their first gruesome discovery at Quirk’s home in Harlow Close, St Helens, last August after her eldest daughter, Joanne Lee, alerted the authorities, via a friend, to a trio of infant remains being kept, along with an air freshener, in a red plastic bin in a bedroom wardrobe.

Officers then exhumed a fourth set of baby remains from a shallow grave just days later following an unregistered burial on a family plot at St Helens Cemetery.

Experts who examined the “deeply decomposed” remains said the infants – all believed to have been girls – were all Quirk’s, all full-term and were most likely still-born to three different fathers between 1985 and 1995.

Two of the girls were twins but forensic tests suggested that each of the infants had congenital disorders.

A Home Office pathologist recorded the cause of all the deaths as “unascertained” due to a lack of firm evidence.

In a sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday, prosecutor Anya Horwood told how Quirk, a mother of three grown-up children, drank heavily in the mid 1980s following the breakdown of her second marriage and fell into a “chaotic and dysfunctional” lifestyle.

The court heard that the defendant had several casual sexual relationships during that time.

Quirk told detectives that each of the four babies had been still-born when she gave birth at her former home in Brandreth Close, Rainhill.

Each of the infants will now be given a proper private burial by Quirk’s family.