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Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > William Palmer, Rugeley,1856.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

A lot of people think William Palmer was hanged for mulitiple murders, he wasn't. He was only executed for the one that was proved, and even this could be discribed as a bit dodgy. I am not defending the man by any means, he was an undoubted rogue, but there are doubts about him being a mass murderer. For example, he married Ann Brookes in 1847, and fathered 5 children before she died of Cholera in 1854. He had taken out a £13,000 insurance policy on her life a few years before, the action you may think of a prudent man. During the period, he had also fathered a further 14 children, all by different women, only 4 of whom were still alive when he took his last fatal walk. ( Death among the young was a very common thing. ) He was alledged to have used a deadly poison, Strychnine, on his many ' victims', but when the bodies of his wife and brother were dug up, no trace of any of this was found. As well as notably having the trial moved, he also has the distinction of being in Court for a full 12 days, unprecendented at the time, and an indication that it was not as clear cut as some would have us believe. It was after all, the Insurance companies that notified the police, not the good folk of Rugeley, for Palmer was described as a charming man, and generous to a fault when he had money. ( which of course, due to his gambling wasn't all that often )  Shocked by all the advarse publicity, the great and the good of the town partitioned to have the name changed, but when the current Prime Minister offered his own, they baulked at calling the place Palmerston. They Hanged William Palmer, on Saturday 14th June,1856, in front of a crowd of over 30,000 people, outside Stafford Prison. Just for the one murder mind, the rest are pure speculation.

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

November 19, 2012 at 3:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's a sad fact, that even before William Palmer was convicted, he had already been condemned in the National Press. Foremost amongst them was the Times, who ran several articles that today would have seen them up before a Judge for Contempt of Court. Others though, were not so sure, and many, after hearing some of the evidence, called the sentence little short of Judicial Murder. Doctor Alfred Swaine Taylor, to whom the stomach contents of the unfortunate John Parson Cook were sent, dispatched a letter to the Coroner, that clearly indicated he had found no trace of the Strychine that was allegedly used. The Inquest had been totally botched in the first place, Palmer being allowed to attend, and the stomach sample later going missing. There were rumours that it had been switched, but by whom, no one knew.


The scene in Rugeley when he was arrested.


William Palmer had many friends in Rugeley, one of whom was the local Postmaster, Samuel Cheshire, who opened the letter to the Coroner, made a copy, and sent it to Palmer in Stafford Gaol. ( He would later be imprisoned for 2 years for interferring with the Mail. ) At no stage, would either Palmer, or his defence team, have ever known about this, until disclosure at his trial; a far cry from today. Believed to be the first trial, that this poison was supposed to have been used, and details of it's actions on a human body were a bit scarce. Dr Taylor's statement though, that all of it had been absorbed by the body, and was undectable, was speculative to say the least, and was contested. The truth is, that it was detectable, except in this case, it wasn't there, and was not the cause of Cooks death. Even digging up the body of Palmers wife, failed to prove the use of this Poison, but did disclose the presence of Antimony, another deadly drug. This though, was not the reason William Palmer was on trial, and the unproven assumption that he had caused his wifes death, should not have influenced the Court. But it did. The closing speech of the Attorney General, Alexandra Cockburn, left many disturbed, but the summing up of the Lord Chief Justice, John Campbell, was classed as disgraceful, and not fitting in an English Court of Law. William Palmer may well have murdered others before, but on the flimsy circumstancial evidence presented in this case, he should have been aquitted. When asked to admit his guilt on the day he was executed, he denied poisoning Cook with Strychine. There is a suspicion, that he actually used a large dose of Opium, but this was not what he was charged with. After he was hanged, his body was buried near to the Chapel, inside Stafford Gaol, so anyone who tells that he is buried in the Local Churchyard at Rugeley is telling porkies. ( see also; George Smith, the Rowley Hangman, on the Executioners page. )

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

November 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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