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British mom hid remains of three stillborn daughters in wardrobe for more than 20 years

Bernadette Quirk, of St. Helens, Merseyside, was charged with four counts of concealing birth and ultimately spared jail time
(Source : Getty Images)
(Source : Getty Images)

A British mother, who hid three of her stillborn daughters in her wardrobe and another in a bag beside her bed for 20 years, has died at the age of 64. Bernadette Quirk, of St. Helens, Merseyside, died this past February, and had been charged in 2010 with four counts of concealing births in connection to the stillborn children after her daughter, Joanne Lee, had contacted the police.

According to the Liverpool Echo, Lee, now 47 years old and a mother and grandmother herself, has written about her harrowing experiences in a new book titled 'Silent Sisters' which is scheduled to be published on April 18.

Lee had first found out that her mother had hidden a stillborn daughter in a red plastic bin in her wardrobe in 1988 through her then-16-year-old sister Cath. But instead of telling the authorities, Lee helped her mother bury the baby in the family grave where her own son, John, had been legally buried.

But in 2009, during one of Quirk's frequent house moves, Lee looked inside a plastic bin and saw bin bags and air fresheners, and fearing that her mother might be hiding a second dead baby, asked a friend to report her to the police. As it turned out, police found the remains of not one, but three further babies at her mother's home — all wrapped in newspaper and rags and kept in the same plastic bin Lee saw. 

It then shockingly emerged that one of Lee's former partners was the father of one of the stillborn babies, making the 47-year-old the dead baby's half-sister and stepmother at the same time.

After her arrest, Quirk claimed that all the babies, which were full-term, were born stillborn, with forensic evidence confirming that all infants had suffered from congenital orders. Police said she had given birth to the children between the mid-1980s and late-1990s following the end of her marriage. 

She reportedly fell into a downward spiral of drinking and had numerous sexual encounters, which would explain why all four children had different fathers. In 2010, she pleaded guilty to all four counts of concealing birth but was spared jail and instead received a two-year community order, subject to intervention. She was also ordered to take part in a women's intervention project. Lee, despite her role in the burial of the first stillborn, was spared jail time as well.

While Lee insisted to the Echo that she wouldn't change anything now because the experience has made her "a better mother and person," she said she would have probably not helped her mother bury her stillborn in 1988 if she had known about the others.

"If I had known then what I know now I would have gone to the police there and then," she said. " 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."