Bernadette Quirk put three of her four babies – all girls – in a bin and the other in a canvas bag beside her bed in St Helens, Merseyside
A mum hid her stillborn babies in a bin in her wardrobe for 20 years.
Bernadette Quirk put three of her four babies – all girls – in the same bin and the other in a canvas bag beside her bed for decades.
They’ve since been laid to rest in legal graves St Helens, Merseyside.
“She said she gave birth at home alone on her own and that the babies didn’t move and were still and didn’t make any noise – it was at that point she wrapped them up and put them into the bin,” said Detective Chief Inspector Neil Bickley, of Merseyside Police, at the time.
Quirk gave birth to the four baby girls – including one set of twins – during a chaotic period of her life when she was drinking heavily and having casual sex, a court heard.
She even claimed she ‘got off with Michael Jackson’.
She was since sentenced in court, but died aged 64 in February.
And in a chat with Liverpool Echo , her daughter Joanne Lee, 47, says: “I wouldn’t change any of it.”
Joanne, who discovered her mum’s dark secret, added: “I couldn’t stand the woman – and what she put us all through. But I wouldn’t go back and change any of it.
“It’s made me a better mother and person.”
Joanne, from St Helens, walked in on her boyfriend having sex with her mum when she was just 15.
The woman later found out the boyfriend she had lived with for 19 years was the dad of one of the four stillborn baby girls hidden by her mum – making her the dead baby’s half-sister and stepmum.
But now mum-of-three Joanne has now written Silent Sisters (to be published by Mirror Books on April 18), which tells the whole harrowing story.
Quirk was spared jail for concealing the births – instead receiving a two-year community order, subject to supervision. She was also ordered to take part in a women’s intervention project.
Forensic evidence suggested all Quirk’s babies had congenital disorders . Each tot had a different father.
Joanne was just 26 when she and her sister Cath found of Quirk’s secret.
Following one of her mum’s frequent house moves, Joanne and Cath, full of suspicion, confided in their brother, Chris, who looked inside the plastic bin and saw bin bags and air fresheners.
Joanne, her mum and her brother – who was living with his mum – were all arrested.
The gran-to-four continued: “If I had known then what I know now I would have gone to the police there and then.
“I knew I was doing wrong and I could have gone to jail but I think a lot of it was to do with me losing my own child, and I felt sorry for her. I thought she was grieving.
“I just felt I had to do it. I knew she wouldn’t talk to anyone, and she was a compulsive liar anyway so I thought if I went behind her back there was no guarantee she would admit anything.”
Quirk used to claim Freddie Mercury had given her ballet lessons and that she had “got off” with Michael Jackson.
Joanne added: “It’s sad, really, because she clearly had a mental illness.”
Recalling the moment after she and family members were arrested, Joanne said: “We had a massive row and broke up, but then got back together again. I never actually blamed him. I knew what my mother was like – I blamed her. He was 17 and she was in her 30s.”
And a next door neighbour whispered “murderer” at her in the street: “I told him ‘Well, you’d better watch your back, then!’
“He scurried off. He was a hard knock, a big lad – and he always says ‘hello’ when he sees me now!”
Asked for her reaction when, after a seven month wait, she was told she wouldn’t be facing charges,Joanne says: “It was like winning the lottery. I had committed a crime and was convinced I was going to jail. I cried, and I don’t cry very often.”
But now Joanne, who is currently going through a divorce, has had her third child, Alex. He is profoundly deaf, and this has led to his mum working at Happy Hands Deafness Resource Centre in St Helens.
“It is so rewarding and has definitely been part of my recovery – Alex has totally changed my life.”
And of Silent Sisters, Joanne said: “I’d always wanted to write a book because my life had been a jigsaw puzzle which I wanted to piece together. But I will never know the whole truth. I will never know how she hid those babies all those years.
“Where were they in between her moving houses? How do you hide the smell of a dead body? The smell is indescribable. It clings to you and you can taste it.”
After the court case, Joanne organised a funeral service for the babies – Katie Anne, Angela Sheila, Elizabeth Julia and Helen (now named Angelica Helen).
Before their ashes were scattered, Joanne gave a reading which included the words: “This shouldn’t be a sad day. Our four sisters are at peace. They are now free.”