‘I can never make any sense of what happened to you, Ethel. There were people had it in for you and I don’t know why. I think you were a soft target for cruel men.’
Timid Ethel Slater grows up in a squalid terraced house in a railway community in 1950s York. Perpetually at the mercy of the men she encounters, she falls pregnant out of wedlock, retreats into obscurity and gives birth alone at home. When her newborn is found dead in her bedroom a few days later and fatal head injuries are discovered at the post-mortem, Ethel breaks and confesses to the killing.
On trial for murder, Ethel is plunged into a legal world she does not understand. The voices of well-meaning neighbours who give evidence are twisted and distorted by their own secrets and fears. Ethel faces the death sentence for a brutal crime she may not have committed. The right questions are asked, but in this secretive and insular community, nobody can ever be sure of the right answers.