An hour after the execution William Boyd the prison Surgeon examined Mary Ann Cotton and stated that she was dead and had died instantly! And that her corpse was now to be conveyed in her coffin to the prison Chapel in preparation for the official Coroners inquest. William Boyd’s statement that she died instantly is quite obviously incorrect, as over twenty witnesses (newspaper reporters, and officials) all agreed that Mary Ann had struggled for nearly three minutes, and that she died by strangulation. Calcraft himself had found it necessary to hold Mary Ann down by her shoulders to speed up her death. It is my suggestion that Boyd in all probability, had one question in law to answer “was she hanged by execution”? He could only answer yes instantly! However after his examination he wrote a statement to the Home Secretary, and did not mention that she had died instantly. He would later that afternoon change his mind when he dwelled on the thoughts of Calcraft continuing as the “Finisher of The Law.” Boyd personally expressed his disdain for Calcraft after the execution, and thought him to be personally unpleasant and a bungler. Below is a copy of Boyd’s First letter to the Home Secretary:
I William Boyd the Surgeon of Durham Jail hereby certify that I this day examined the body of Mary Ann Cotton on whom judgement of death was this day executed in the Durham Jail: And that on examination I found that the said Mary Ann Cotton was dead.
Dated this twenty fourth day
Of March One Thousand and
Eight Hundred and Seventy Three.
William Boyd Surgeon.