Chapter 1 Arsenic Sally ; Or the Curious Case of the Eastwood Poisoner


Hello again readers,

I have posted the first chapter of my second and latest book in  this blog. Please feel free to read if yo wish and make any comments. The book is another deeply researched true crime novel set in 1851.  At the end of this blog is a link to the book on Amazon where you can read for FREE much more including Introduction and Prologue which set the story up plus a few more chapters………

Chapter 1 The Eastwood Inquest Begins

Robert Ingram walked into the room with some nonchalance and threw himself into a chair by the fire. He then drew a large coarse napkin from his pocket and exclaimed with some affectation,

“I suppose it is expected that I should weep and I have therefore come prepared to wipe away the falling tears.”

He then proceeded to mop his eyes repeatedly as if they were producing a fountain. This conduct caused concern and disgust in the room. Christopher Swann rose to his feet and stared angrily at Ingram. He reminded the witness that this was a coroner’s inquest into the sudden death of a local man and not some performance at the Theatre Royal! This sharp reminder produced a request for forgiveness from the witness and an apology for his unseemly behaviour. Having been sworn in the deposition of Robert Ingram 19, a butcher of Langley Mill, was read out by the jury foreman.

“I am no relation to the deceased or his wife. I have been attending upon the deceased for about six weeks during his illness. He was also attended by Mr. Smith, surgeon, and I understood his complaint was rheumatism. His wife was very attentive to him during the whole of his illness, and she and I were in the habit of giving him his medicine.”

The deposition explained how on Sunday the previous week, the witness had travelled to Bulwell with the deceased to visit Mr Bowker, a surgeon. The purpose was a consultation about the deceased having the venereal disease and Mr Bowker gave him two bottles of medicine. They then drove home.

The deceased took one bottle of Mr. Bowker’s medicine, and also Mr. Smith’s medicine. He said he would not take any more of Mr. Bowker’s medicine as it made him vomit. He took it on last Monday, and was sick all Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until seven hours before he died. I told the deceased’s wife that her husband had got the venereal disease.”

Another juror continued reading the deposition and explained the deceased had been taking a third lot of medicine,

“The deceased also took some medicine he had in the stable and he told me it was sweet nitre and balsam of copaiba but did not take any of the last named after Tuesday last. He took the surgeon’s medicines alternately about every four hours. He has been taking the sweet nitre and balsam every day by two teaspoonful at a dose for nearly five weeks, and he frequently vomited after taking it.”

The deposition continued and explained how the witness had fetched two pots of preserves on Wednesday last from Miss Godber’s and he gave some to the deceased the same night. Mrs Barber was also seen giving her husband some preserves.

“On the night the deceased died I heard him say to Thomas Kelk that never a man in this world was waited upon like him in his illness, and he also kissed his wife and said “Good night Sally” and he added “Never a woman on earth has behaved so well as my wife has.”

The deposition was passed to another juror who began reading out more details, explaining how the deceased’s wife had sent him out a week last Thursday night to fetch a pennyworth of arsenic to poison mice with.

“I fetched it and gave it to her. There was the word Poison on the paper. That was the only time I ever fetched arsenic. She did not use it, but as it lay on the table she said to me, “Robert, I’ve taken a fresh thought – we’ll not have any arsenic about now my husband is so ill” and she threw it into the fire.”

The deposition further explained how George Riley, the wife’s brother had also fetched a pennyworth of arsenic for her last Tuesday or Wednesday night to kill mice with. She said he gave her the arsenic and 5d in copper as she was walking home from church. As she attempted to put the items in her pocket she let them slip between her petticoats and lost the arsenic and pence on the road.

“I have never since heard that they had been found. Upon my oath I believe the deceased has died a natural death by the will of God, and not otherwise”

The witness having then left the room parish constable Oldknow approached the coroner and whispered a message in his ear. A look of disappointment spread across the coroner’s face. He had just received a message from the surgeon commissioned to carry out a medical examination of the deceased. It informed him the report would not be ready until the evening as the surgeon had been called out on urgent business.  The inquest had started at 11.00 am sharp. It was over almost as soon as it had begun and with only two witnesses examined. Monday 24th March had been an almost entirely wasted day. Christopher Swann realised it was pointless to proceed without the medical report and therefore announced an adjournment of the inquest until Thursday March 27th at half past ten o’clock at the Sun Inn.

The coroner left the Inn and walked the short distance to the home of Joseph Barber the deceased man. He was already aware of rumours in the district that the man had been poisoned and allegedly the poison had been administered by his wife. He knocked on the door and it was answered not by Mrs Barber but by Mr Mather, assistant to Mr Smith the Eastwood surgeon. The Coroner had called to see the body of the deceased and noted there were no marks of violence whatsoever. The inquest could not continue until a full examination had been made and this would mean opening the body and observing the internal organs. The contents of the stomach would have to be carefully examined and chemical tests conducted. The Coroner explained to Mr Mather that he was responsible for the safe-keeping of the body until Mr Smith returned. The constable had told the coroner there was to be a church service and burial in the local churchyard later that day.  On no account could the body be released until after a post-mortem had taken place. Mr Mather nodded his assent and the coroner left the house and returned to his carriage for the journey home. He instructed the driver to take him back to High Pavement in Nottingham. On the eight mile journey from Eastwood, he ran through the events of the inquest in his mind. It had begun well enough. The jury was composed of local men and the first witness was quickly called into the largest room at the Sun Inn in Eastwood. As was the tradition, the jury took turns in reading out the depositions, most especially when the witness could neither read or write. The first witness was Elisha Pollard a shoemaker of Eastwood. The jury foreman had read out her deposition.

 “Last Thursday night, the 20th instant, I heard the deceased was very ill, and I went into his house to see him about ten o’clock. Thomas Kelk, Emmanuel Wild, William Flintoff and Robert Ingram were in the room at the time. The deceased asked Thomas Kelk if he would pray, and Kelk said he would, and he did pray. The deceased man also prayed. He said “I have been a swearing man, and a drinking man, and I hope the Lord will have mercy on me.”

The deposition was passed onto the next juror who continued reading…

“Mr Flintoff went downstairs to pray and when he had finished prayers the deceased said “My wife had been a good wife during my illness, and I’ve left her about 12 shillings a week to live on,” Kelk then read a portion of scripture to him and whilst he was reading, the deceased called out “Bob” which meant he wanted Robert Ingram, who was waiting upon him, to come upstairs. Ingram came and the deceased told him that he wanted to get out of bed. We lifted him out, when he fell into Ingram’s arms, and he died in about five minutes. It was then about twelve o’clock.”

The deposition was completed by another juror who informed all present that the witness deposed that the deceased was a horse dealer and coal haggler. The witness did not believe the report about the deceased being poisoned. She reported that the deceased’s wife had left her husband during his illness and was away one night. The final comment was a claim by the witness that she knew by report that her husband had beaten her several times.

The Coroner then recalled the very odd behaviour of the second witness Ingram. Christopher Swann had been County Coroner for South Nottinghamshire since 1828 and had conducted many inquests. He had learned to trust his instincts and now something just did not seem right. What good reason was there for the behaviour of the man? Swann could not think of one. He looked again and again at Ingram’s deposition with a number of references to purchases of arsenic and noted that Barber was taking all kinds of medicine. Was Ingram involved in this business? Something else was disturbing the Coroner. Only a few days earlier he had completed an inquest on the body of single man Robert Saxon, 22 a Framework knitter. He was last seen alive intoxicated and staggering around the village of Eastwood on the late evening of Saturday 15th March. He met a man called Briddon and told him he had been drinking in a public house there and had been poisoned. He was found dead in his bed on Wednesday 19th March. The Coroner checked his diary and found the death of Joseph Barber had taken place on Thursday 20th March.  What on earth was going on in Eastwood? Two separate deaths blamed on poison in so short a space of time in one small Nottinghamshire village?  A surgeon had carried out a post mortem on Saxon but he could find no traces of poison. He was of the opinion death was caused by congestion of the lungs. The Coroner knew well enough that an inquest jury would usually accept the medical testimony and conclusions of a surgeon. The surgeon in charge at the Three Tons inquest was Mr Smith. This was the same Mr Smith who had been commissioned for the Sun Inn inquest and who would be examining the deceased. Was a poisoner really at work in Eastwood or was this to be another natural death? The answer would hopefully be revealed at the resumed inquest scheduled a few days hence.

By the time the coroner had returned to High Pavement in Nottingham, the post mortem on Joseph Barber was finally taking place.  Mr Smith returned to Barber’s house in Eastwood with containers and towels and his surgeon’s bag. Soon after his arrival Robert Gosset Brown arrived with his brother .The former was also a surgeon in  Eastwood and explained he had been contracted by the brother of the deceased to carry out an examination of the deceased’s stomach. An argument ensured with Mr Smith protesting he was appointed by the coroner and would not allow it. Eventually a compromise was achieved. Mr Scott and Mr Mather would carry out the post-mortem and the Messrs Brown could watch. They would be given some parts of organs and fluid to take away and test. The post mortem then proceeded, the body was opened up, observations taken and noted down. All of Barber’s stomach, a portion of the oesophagus, duodenum and most of the intestines were carefully removed, being careful to retain any liquid inside. The organs were put into towels and these were taken out to Mr Smith’s gig. Part of Barber’s stomach and oesophagus were given to Mr Brown along with some fluid. The body of Joseph Barber was quickly sown up then left to Barber’s family for preparation for his burial. Mr Smith and Mr Mather returned to Mr Smith’s house and both gig and organs were locked up for the night in the gig house. The Messrs Brown departed to carry out some chemical tests at their own separate premises.  Back at the Barber’s house, the body of the deceased was placed into a coffin which was quickly nailed down and carried out of the house. The single bell was already tolling at the church of Saint Mary as the coffin was carried across the churchyard. The service was taken by the Reverend Plumptre and afterwards the coffin was carried into the churchyard for interment. The burial took place amidst a large concourse of spectators. A tall red-haired woman wearing black was seen to be making the loudest lamentations. All present said their final goodbyes to Joseph Barber. The tall woman was the most distressed and the last to leave the churchyard.

To read more simply click on the link  below which  will take you off to Amazon, once  there look  for a link called LOOK INSIDE and  then you can read much  more for free…………..

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Arsenic-Sally-Curious-Eastwood-Poisoner-ebook/dp/B00VKUSIDK

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About bakersfieldlad

July 2015...... I published my first book on Amazon - "Savilles Spinnney". On April 1st 2015 I published my second book - "Arsenic Sally". Christmas Day 2015 I published my third book " Murder Mystery and Mayhem on the Railways 1830-1899. That's 3 books in roughly 18 months. I enjoy researching and see no reason to stop writing. There will be many many more books and while I would love to be taken in by a publisher I am content to make my books available via Amazon. Keep checking my blogs for updates about my upcoming projects......
This entry was posted in arsenic, arsenic murder, Arsenic Sally, assizes court, Coroner's Court, Coroner's Inquest, Crime in Nottingham in the 1800s, crime writer, Crime Writing, Eastwood, Nottingham, Victorian Crime in Nottingham and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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