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Grizzly casebook of Suffolk poisonings

PUBLISHED: 11:32 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 06 July 2010

GRIZZLY tales of 19th century poisonings - including one from a quiet village in Waveney - feature in a new book from The History Press.

Arsenic in the Dumplings: A Casebook of Historic Poisonings in Suffolk features 10 tales of death by poison.

GRIZZLY tales of 19th century poisonings - including one from a quiet village in Waveney - feature in a new book from The History Press.

Arsenic in the Dumplings: A Casebook of Historic Poisonings in Suffolk features 10 tales of death by poison.

At the time, arsenic was readily available to the general public as it was being prescribed by doctors as a tonic to build strength and gain weight. It was also being used to kill household vermin, meaning that buying the substance from a local chemist would arouse minimal suspicion.

“The symptoms of arsenic poisoning included vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, excessive sweating, thirst and problems with swallowing,” said author Sheila Hardy.

“Since all these could also apply to the English Cholera, it became essential when death followed these symptoms to be able to discount the presence of arsenic in the body. So it was with that we witness the development of what we now know as forensic science.”

The 10 tales from Suffolk's history illustrate that while the crimes were almost certainly premeditated, innocent bystanders could easily suffer at the hands of the culprit.

Amongst the tales is that of yeoman Elizabeth Wooltorton, a widow who was suffering with debts. As her debt grew she saw an opportunity to end her problems - to send a pie and piece of veal to the man she owed in North Cove.

“It is said that poison is a woman's weapon of choice and indeed in the cases recorded here only three men were accused of using arsenic with intent to kill. This is obviously because poison can be placed in food and since it was usually women who prepared and cooked meals the opportunity was there,” said Sheila.

“During the first half of the 19th century it was noted throughout the country that the number of women whose husbands had died in suspicious circumstances had risen rapidly.”

Arsenic in the Dumplings: A Casebook of Historic Poisonings in Suffolk is available for £9.99


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