However, Mr Herdman believes traces of the soft-soap arsenic could have flaked off in hot weather or come from a wallpaper known to contain large amounts of arsenic. Indeed, Cotton's defence team claimed that the boy had inhaled the lethal dose accidentally, a theory backed up by a report from the medical journal The Lancet. But Cotton's solicitors were either ignorant of, or chose to ignore, The Lancet report, and no forensic expert was produced to disprove the prosecution's theory. "Today such findings from a world-renowned academic publication would undoubtedly be used as a defence argument," said Mr Herdman. Other irregularities found by the author include evidence going missing, contaminated specimens and dubious witness statements. "Immediately after the death of Charles Cotton a routine autopsy took place. No bruising, marks or cuts were found on his body by the doctors," said Mr Herdman. "But at her trial, the prosecution claimed Mary Ann Cotton had beaten Charles Cotton in a “most savage and dreadful manner” four days before his death. This evidence was accepted and used against her." Although suspected of many deaths, Cotton who gave birth to another child while in Durham Jail was only tried for the murder of Charles. It took the jury just 90 minutes to convict her. The 40-year-old was hanged on March 24, 1873. "At no time was Cotton seen to purchase arsenic, no traces were ever found within her home, or on any item analysed by forensic examiners," said Mr Herdman. "I am not seeking to eliminate the guilty verdict, or indeed state that she was innocent, I simply want to open up a debate into the evidence available at her trial." Copyright all Text and Research. 2000-2023
DIFFERING THEORIES ON THE CASE
Mary Ann Cotton has been painted as a chillingly evil mass murderer by many crime historians over the decades.
However, Sunderland-born Arthur Appleton, who published a book on Cotton in 1973, believed there was "considerable doubt" she committed all the murders attributed to her.
Mail Online 30th October 2016, Historian Ian Smyth Herdman, who has spent over 30 years researching the case, does not think the case is as clear-cut as some might think! The authorities took shortcuts, and used hearsay to get a conviction. The full article can be read as indicated above “Mail Online 30th Oct 2016.”