Woman accused of illegally aborting baby with poison before dumping body in bin

Elliot Benham, 25, (second left under umbrella) and Sophie Harvey, 25, (second right under umbrella), at an earlier hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court  (PA)
Elliot Benham, 25, (second left under umbrella) and Sophie Harvey, 25, (second right under umbrella), at an earlier hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court (PA)

A young woman broke down in court as she was accused of obtaining and taking poison to illegally abort her baby, before dumping the body in a household black bin.

Sophie Harvey was aged 19 and more than 28 weeks pregnant when she took an abortion pill ordered over the internet, a jury at Gloucester Crown Court was told on Tuesday. In the weeks before, Harvey, now aged 25, had gone to have a legal abortion when an ultrasound revealed she was past the legal 24-week pregnancy limit for the procedure.

Hearing evidence on her arrest, when she allegedly told a police officer she had wrapped the 15cm-long infant’s body in a towel after giving birth in a bathroom, before disposing of it in a bin, Harvey broke down in the dock.

She was sat next to her former partner, Elliot Benham. The court heard how the pair had been in a relationship for a year before the miscarriage in 2018.

Harvey, of St Mary’s Road in Cirencester, denies procuring a poison and procuring own miscarriage by poison. Harvey and Benham, 25, of Wingfield in Swindon, deny perverting the course of justice by disposing of a child - but both admit concealing the birth of a child.

KC Mrs Anna Vigars, prosecuting, told the jury that Harvey was referred to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) after asking her local GP for an abortion, believing she was four months’ pregnant, on 13 August in 2018.

At her appointment at BPAS’s clinic in Swindon, an ultrasound scan estimated that the baby was 28 weeks and five days gestation and she was told she could not have the operation, Mrs Vigars said.

A client care coordinator spoke to the couple, and later said Harvey appeared “scared and stunned and completely shutdown”, said Mrs Vigars.

Mrs Vigars told the jury: “Whatever your own view about abortion, whether you think that it is a woman’s right because of the risk and affect of childbearing, or you think abortion is wrong, it is clear that Harvey and Benham were in a desperate position and one that wasn’t going to go way unless they did something about it.

“What had no doubt been fun teenage sex had led to a baby they weren’t expecting or ready for.”

The crown alleges that the pair then carried out internet searches on their mobile phones for ways to carry out an abortion, including the use of drugs and herbs.

Two sets of tablets to induce a medical abortion were then purchased over the internet for £309.44 on 7 September, said Mrs Vigars. She said they were picked up from Royal Mail’s collection office in Swindon by Benham on 22 September.

Harvey took one of the tablets before giving birth in the bathroom of her parents in Cirencester, Mrs Vigars said. The baby was then disposed of by wrapping it in a towel and placing it in the bin, she added.

“The prosecution position is that the pregnancy was brought to an end by the taking of that pill,” Mrs Vigars concluded, “the crown’s position is that having done the research, they obtained the pills and she took the first pill and then gave birth, before getting rid of the baby’s body.

“In getting rid of the baby’s body they were also getting rid of any medical evidence that she had taken the pill.”

Mrs Vigars said Harvey had ignored several attempts by a midwife to reach her after the abortion appointment on 30 August, before police were contacted in November.

When officers located Harvey at Benham’s family home, she told them she had lost the baby. She denies taking a tablet to trigger a miscarriage.

The trial continues.