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Forum Home > Other Crimes and Punishments. > Poisonous Effects.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Have you ever sat and wondered, that one of your ancesters, may have resorted to " speeding up " a relatives demise, for the inheritance money. Well if you have, without any tests to prove otherwise, they may well have done, it's not all that uncommon. They had plenty of things to choose from, most of them growing in the garden. Take Hyoscymus Niger for example, more commonly known as Henbane, or Stinking Nightshade. It was a preparation to be found in Anesthetic Potions, which were sold to relieve aches and pains, and had also been used, prior to Hops, for flavouring beer. Derived from the plant is the drug Scopolamine, which was the substance allegedly used by the infamous Doctor Crippen. One famous TV Chef confused Henbane with the herb, Fat Hen, and recommended it's use in Salads. Good job they took all the Magazines off the shelf. Arsenic was readly available, as you will know, and many a Doctor has signed a death certificate in the past, as died of a Gastric illness. The symtoms of Monkshood, are very similar, severe stomach upset and pain, followed by heart failure. The Poison in this case being Acontine. It was used by one Doctor Lamson, to kill his nephew, in pursuit of his wifes family inheritance. In use possibly  even before the Ancient Greeks, Hemlock, ( Conium Maculatum ) was supposed to be a pain free way to go. The poison, Coniine, produces paralysis of the nervous system, and leads to total respiratory failure. If thats painless, I'll eat my hat.The Victorians, as well as Arsenic, also seemed to favour Murcury, Antimony Sulfide, and concoctions made from Thorn Apples and Wolfsbane. In fact, almost every plant we grow, whether flowers, herbs, shrubs, and even the leaves of some vegetables, are deadly to the unwary. Deadly Nightshade, or a more popular name Belladona, is a plant everyone knows about. The pioson extracted from it has been used in a few murders, Marie Jeanneret, a Swiss nurse, in 1868, Doctor Robert Buchanan, ( another one! ) in 1892, and nurse Jane Toppan, in 1900/1901. We all know, not to pick Mushrooms and other Fungi, but a suprising number of people still die every year from eating what they think is an safe species. And of course, a number of murders have been committed, using someones knowledge of what not to pick and eat. It can be a very slow and painful death. Going back to Henbane, one of the other effects it has, is, like some mushrooms, the power of Hallucinations. The stories of Witches, being able to fly on broomsticks, may very well have come from a potion of Henbane, being rubbed into the skin. In countries far away, they still use some of the old pills and potions, personaly, I think I will stick to the NHS methods.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 24, 2012 at 2:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now here's a strange tale, from the dark and distant past, and from the dark and grime streaked streets of Bilston. At number 1, Lambs Yard, just off the High Street, dwelt a couple by the name of William and Eliza Griffiths. William had been born in Shrewsbury, in 1828, and by trade was a Puddler. ( see Iron working ) his wife was born in Bilston in 1831. Eliza, during the course of their marriage, had given birth to 12 children, and at the time of this story, had just one surviving child. In September,1871, two of her offspring died, an 8 month old lad called Thomas, and her 13 year old daughter, Mary Jane. This was followed in October, by the death of 6 year old William, and concidering the appalling housing conditions and the un-hygenic surrounding, this was by no means unusual for the time. The Doctor had been called in, when Mary Jane had first fallen sick, and although given medicine, she had failed to improve. The good Doctor suspected that Eliza had not given her the presciption as directed, and her death went down as the dreaded Cholera. The Coroner though wasn't happy, and ordered a Post-Mortem to be carried out. The Surgeon elected was Henry William Larkin, who. on finding out that young William was also sick, treated him. The symptoms were Sickness and Diarrhoea, coupled with a fever, which again, would have been fairly common place. William died on the 10th October, just as the test results arrived from Doctor Alfred Hill, which showed clear traces of Antimony, a deadly poison. The recently dead William was examined, with the same result, and then they dug up Thomas, who also had the stuff in his system. Now at this stage, it should be noted, Antimony was in common use, in low doses of course, in a variety of patent medicines known as Tartar Emetic's. These were sold as a pick up, by clearing out the system, making you sick would make you feel better. Or so the poor believed. In any case, no trace was found in the house, but on learning that the three children had been insured, Eliza Griffiths was arrested, and charge on a Coroners warrant with 3 counts of Murder. Fairly simple case you might think, but not so, as the next part will clearly show.


The tiny back court house was searched from top to bottom. Every bottle and container was tested for traces of the Antimony, but all with zero results. When the case finally got to the Magistrates, they refused to put the case forward, but could do nothing to stop Eliza appearing at Stafford Assizies, on the murder charges. In the event, there was no evidence offered, and Eliza, and lets not forget William as well, walked free from the taint of some rather nasty accusations. But the reason for the lack of any action seems a bit strange. The undeniable fact remains, that 3 children, one 13, one 6, and the other barely 8 months old, all had Antimony in their bodies. Its not likely that one so young could have taken it by himself, and its not likely that either of the other two could have bought it, so where did it come from ? There may be a possible explanation, taking several other known case's into concideration. Tartar Emetic, will, if taken in any quantity, make you violently vomit. It has been known to be used by some, as a cure for Drunkeness, adminstered after a heavy bout of indulgence. The husband of one such indivdual, was very lucky to escape with her life, after almost killing him with some. Its not beyond the realms of fancy, that the children may have drunk the emetic, left lying around by Eliza, after silently slipping her husband a cupful. The other theory, and one shudders to think it, is that Eliza and William, unable to support a large family, killed all the other children the same way. If they did, then they got away with a mass killing, on a par with that other famous poisoner, Mary Ann Cotton, two years later, in 1873.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Slipping a loved one a dose of poison, has always been asumed to be a womans style. This is grossly unfair claim many women, as they point out that that many more men than women.  have adopted this method. That of course isn't strictly true, the records show, that in the 1840s, the ratio in poison cases were heavily on the womans side. It's the one form of murder, where the perpetrator doesn't have to be actually on the scene, when the victim takes the final curtain. Arsenic Trioxide, the type most associated with crime thrillers, which comes in the form of a odourless and tastless white powder, is absolutely deadly. It may surprise you to know, that up until 1851, anyone could buy this substance from a local Chemist, or even a Grocer who had a sideline in home remedies. There were many uses for the product, it would kill all manner of bugs, insects, mice, rats, as well as a pick-me-up tonic if you were feeling a bit lethargic. Fowler's, was a popular product, and contained a certain ammount of Potassium Arsenite, and which could still be obtained, on prescription, in the 1930s.Most folk believed what  Doctors told them in the 19th century, and Arsenic was used as a cure for anything from Asthma, Tyhphus, Anaemia, Worms, and even Syphilis. That lovely colour of Green, in both cloth and wallpaper, and even the craze for Green Blamange, all included the deadly Arsenic. It was the case of Sarah Chesham, in early 1851, that produced the required curbs on the sale of arsenic. Three years earlier, she had escaped with her life after allegedly poisoning a neighbours child for money, and then her two children. She did not however escaped from the charge of killing her husband with a large dose. She was the second case in a few years in Chelmsford, Essex, the other being Mary May, a repulsive women by all accounts, who did away with her half-brother. Sarah Chesham wa hanged on the 25th March,1851, and the day before, an amendment was slipped into the Sale of Arsenic Regulation Bill, that banned women and children from buying the drug. The proper use of a poisons register, the colour added to the powder, all help bring down deaths, but above all, the better detection by improved tests ensured that the use of Arsenic would no longer go unpunished. Mind you, there were plenty of other poisons available, and if a determind women fanicied a fresh start with a more generous lover, she pick and chose how her husband left this world. Screaming in agony, or deep in a coma.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 11, 2013 at 3:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I have already mentioned this particular poisoner, Sarah Westwood, but didn't go into too much detail. As the case involves Arsenic, I shall do so now.


Sarah Parker, was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1800. She was christened at Saint Michaels Church, on the 12th October, the same Church she was to marry John Westwood at, on 22nd December, 1823. He was born in 1803, not far away in the little hamlet of Hammerwich, an apt name really, for John was a Nailer by trade. Now as those who have already browsed through the website will know, making nails wasn't going to make John rich, especially, as over the years, the couple had 8 children. Their tiny cottage at Burntwood would have been a bit overcrowded, even when 3 of the children left, but in 1836, the couple took in a lodger, Samuel Philips. Something that John Westwood would come to regret in the next 7 years, and one which would ultimately cost him his life. There were a s few rows at times, as John suspected that Samuel was paying a bit to much attention to Sarah, but nothing as serious as that which occured on 2nd September,1843, when it erupted into a full blown fight in the street between the two men. John had apparently caught the two in some kind of " intimate embrace ", and during this scrap, she was heard to encourage Samuel to kill her husband. Why John didn't throw Samuel Philips out at this stage has never been explained, for he was still there in October, and the atmosphere in the house was festering. On the 1st November, Sarah Westwwod, and the mother of Samuel Philips, Hannah, paid a visit to a Chemists shop in Walsall. Here at Heighways Drug Store, because she was known to the staff, Hannah purchased, and mixed up in he shop, several packets of drugs into a potion. One of the packets contained Arsenic. Hannah was known as a "wise woman ", a term used to describe those who knew many remedies to cure the sick. A week later, on the 8th, Sarah Westwood, alone, entered the same shop, and purchased, because they now knew her, more drugs, including of course, a packet of Arsenic. This time there was no mixing and Sarah left with the packet. John Westwood, and his son Charles, who worked with him in the nailshop, were in the habit of retuning home for lunch every day. On the 9th November, they had a bowl of gruel, some bread, and a small piece of meat, after which John fell ill, and Charles went back to work without his father. On his return, he found his father worse, and heard his mother asking John if he wanted a Doctor called. The answer was no, Doctors cost money and it's unlikely that they could afford one. In any case, it would have made no difference, for later that evening, in dire agony, John Westwood died.


Suspicion was aroused at once, for Westwood was a fit man, and had been at work that morning. It didn't take long for Charles Chevasse, a Doctor from Lichfield, to find out that Westwoods enflamed stomach was full of Arsenic, and he speedily informed the Coronor. Thomas Philips, convinced by the results, quickly returned an Inquest verdict of poisoning against Sarah Westwood. She was arrested on 20th November, refused bail, and then was quickly sent into custody at Stafford Gaol, escorted by Inspector John Raymond, from the Shenstone Police. The charge was soon changed to Wilful Murder, although Sarah continued to deny any wrong doing, and at one stage, challenged them to prove that she was involved. There may not have been much sophistication about the early Policemen, but they soon found the shop where she had made the purchase of Arsenic, even though it was nearly 10 miles away. At her trial, which started on 28th December in front of Baron Rolfe, her Daughter, Eliza, aged 10, scuppered any pretense of innocence, by telling the court that she had asked her mother, what the white powder was that had been put in her fathers gruel. Her defence put up a valient show, but it only took the jury 15 minutes to reach a verdict of guilty as charged. For some strange reason, they recommended mercy, for when asked by the Judge for an explanation, the foreman couldn't provide one. Sarah Westwood, knowing what was coming, now pleaded that she was with child. This was very quickly disproved, and Baron Rolf proceeded to sentence her to death, for the wilful murder of her husband. Execution was set for the 13th January,1844. Once back in prison, Sarah quickly went to pieces, her children were forbidden to see her as it would have been to upsetting, and Samuel Philips, the possible cause of all the trouble, was refused entry into the prison. The Home Office refused to interceed, and the date was confirmed, Sarah Westwood had but a few days to live.


On the morning of the execution, and in front of a large crowd, a greater part of which were women, two prison officers escorted Sarah Westwood to the Gallows. They were needed, for Sarah could hardly walk, and when they reached the drop, she had to be placed on a stool. Just to her left stood the executioner, one George Smith, a native of Rowley, Staffordshire, ( see Executioners ) just for once, sober, and dressed in what would become his trademark outfit at Stafford, a Tall Hat, and a White Smock. Despite the slightly unusual position of the woman, he quickly arraned the rope and the hood, and stepping smartly to the left, he released the trap. Sarah Westwood, complete with the stool, went smoothly out of this world, and into the next, although the stool went back into the office, while Sarah had to settle for a spot within the old prison walls. Such is the price that had to paid for a bit of what you fancy, but in this case, it didn't do anyone any good.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 12, 2013 at 3:26 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404


The Great Wryley Horse Maiming. 1903.


Now it's perfectly possible to poison someone, without actually using any drugs, and only if it's aimed at the mind. I refer of course to the rather nasty crime of threatening and abusive letters dubbed " Poison Pen Letters ". Today, they have taken a different course, being mainly sent in the form of abusive and offensive e-mails, or insulting comments via many other media methods. They have the same effect that they did back in 1903, frightening and intimidating those who recieve them. The sender of the ones in this article, managed to go undetected for over 25 years, and only the persistance of a Policeman and the Post Office, prevented further years of misery for the poor victims.


The Horse maiming at Great Wryley caused a great deal of mistrust in the small community, and was reported nationwide. I won't go into details, for there is a great deal already online, but I will concentrate on the writer of these obnoxious letters. The writer claimed to be a man called Darby, Captain of the Wryley Gang, and in his early letters, he named many local men and claimed many of them were members of the gang. Needless to say, they were all innocent, their names had appeared in Newspaper reports as witness'es, or offering opinions on the case. The Police had to take the early information seriously, for to be honest, they hadn't got a clue who had slashed several horses. This early success for the letter writer, prompted a further spate of letters, to anyone whose name appeared in the newspapers connected with a murder or a scandal. Some of them began to express obscene acts, alledgedly committed by the recipients, by the victims, or by witness'es. Many letters contained death threats, by several methods, and received by Judges, Solicitors, Doctors, in fact, almost anyone with an interest in the case being written about. Much to everyones relief, the flow of these vile letters stopped in 1916, the Police, (rightly ) assuming that it was man, concluded he had gone off to War. He had. The War ended, and no more letters were received, so a further assumption, that he had perished in the conflict was a natural reaction. He hadn't. In 1930, he came back, targeting those whose names appeared in print, with even more vile and obscene content, and more explicit death threats. It was mostly postcards this time, ( it was cheaper to send a card ) sometimes several a week, and sent around the country, each one bearing the name of the Wryley Gang. It became a real thorn in the side of the local Staffordshire Police Force, but how to find the man, that was the problem. In 1934, a Police Officer who had spent his early years on the beat in Wednesbury, having risen in the ranks, and having an interest in the case, arrived back in the Town. He had an idea, which was soon to prove very effective. Taking copies of the latest Poison Pen Letter, he then had them pinned up in every Post Office sorting room, so that the clerks could check anything that passed by them on the way to be delivered. Within a few days, the system produced results. A postcard, addressed to someone in Droitwich, Worcestershire, was identified as being written by the same hand, and had been sent from Enoch and Lizzie. Sadly, before it could be properly examined, a young sorter put it back in the stream, and off it went to an unknown address in Droitwich. Every case deserves a bit of luck, and the sorter who had spotted the card, remembered that the writer had said they had just aquired a Council House in Darlaston. It didn't take long to track down Enoch and Lissie.


He, was Enoch Albert Knowles, aged 57, of Park Street, Darlaston, and she was the former Elizabeth  Pugh, also 57,who originally came from Droitwich. Knowles was born on the Darlaston/Walsall border in 1877, and they were correct, he had been drafted into the Army in 1916. He was mobilised later that year, but transfered, in early 1917, to the Labour Corps, and served the rest of the time in England. In September 1919, the pair got married, and he ceased writing the letters. What prompted him to restart his nasty hobby, 11 years later isn't known, perhaps he missed the gloating over other folks misery, when they read his postcards. He was caught, red handed you might say, after depositing a card in his local post box, and admitted what he had been doing. On the 27th October,1934, he was sentenced to 3 years Penal Servitude. I think, under the circumstances, he may have got off quite lightly, but then again, he hadn't actually attacked or murdered anyone. Enoch Albert Knowles died in Wednesbury, in March,1945, and his wife died 15 years later.


Post Script. One of the reasons he remained undetected, was that he proffessed to his workmates and friends, that he couldn't read or write, having to sign everything with a cross. He may have been a bit of a monster, but he certainly wasn't totally stupid.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 16, 2015 at 4:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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