MARY ANN COTTON. 1832-1873.
                Mary Ann Cotton.. The Evidence.. Execution.. Hartlepool History Team.. Illustrations. Newspaper & Public Comments.. Mary Ann Cotton.. The Evidence.. Execution.. Hartlepool History Team.. Illustrations. Newspaper & Public Comments..
Mary Ann Cotton, a study a chronology of a victim of Victorian times, or a depraved woman prone to infanticide and ruthless mass murder? A woman said to be in her day “strikingly beautiful” of a kind, caring and sensitive nature, a nurse by profession or perhaps one of the first serial killers in British history? Beneath this outward beauty, was she a disturbed and mentally unbalanced angel of death, dispatching her husbands and children to their profitable early graves? Tried and convicted for the wilful murder of her step-son, Charles Edward Cotton she was also suspected of murdering by arsenic a further fifteen members of her family. In Victorian Britain she had been labelled a beautiful intelligent monster, a cold-hearted sexual predator, poisoning at will in the belief of obtaining the “good life.” If that was her belief then she paid the ultimate price for her killings, greed and vanity, as she was executed in Durham Jail in March of 1873. The incompetent executioner William Calcraft, drew the “bolt” the trapdoors were sprung, her pinioned and hooded body dropped with a sickening thud. She writhed in agonising spasms as her body fought for every breath gained. Her neck had not been snapped, it was quite obvious to all of those present that she was only stunned and was quite alive. It took over three minutes for the executioner’s noose to wring-out her last breath. She was according to some observers “strangled like a rabid dog, with no dignity even in death.” Born Mary Ann Robson, in the third week of October 1832 at her parents Michael and Margaret nee Lonsdale’s Low Moorsley home, this article is taken from a proposed biography written and being prepared for publishing. For the sake of this article and permitted space I will cut to the chase and raise several point of law which in today's modernity would undoubtedly see the case against Mary Ann Cotton, to be either dismissed on the ground of lack of factual evidence, or a retrial on points of law. We are aware that she was suspected of poisoning up to 15 members of her family, and that subsequent exhumations were conducted, which did on several corpses discover traces of arsenic. This is not itself a provable fact of intentional murder, as the earth itself surrounding the corpses does contain elements of natural arsenic, which over a period of time can be absorbed into the organs and flesh of the decaying corpse. However as we know Mary Ann Cotton was arrested in July of 1872 at her West Auckland home on the charge of murdering by poison (arsenic) her step-son Charles Edward Cotton.This child had been ill and was under the care of two West Auckland doctors, the child was suffering from purges and chronic diarrhoea often associated with TB, medication for this condition had been prescribed in the form of liquid preparations in glass bottles. However during her arrest in July of 1872 a thorough search of her house revealed numerous empty medicine bottles which had been prescribed by Doctor’s Kilburn and Chalmers, the local West Auckland practitioners.
“The Evidence.”
Evidence Page 2