Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amelia Winters' Ambitious Plan to Murder Relatives Interrupted After 5 Successes, Deptford, England - 1889


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): London – The body of Sidney Bolton, aged eleven years, who died at Deptford in February last, was exhumed to-day, and evidences of arsenical poisoning were found in the remains. The boy had boarded with a Mrs. Winter [sic], a relative, who, upon his death, obtained £20 insurance by forging the name of the boy's mother to the insurance receipt. It is learned that since 1885 Mrs. Winter has insured twenty-seven relatives, and that five of them have died. It is believed that she poisoned the five, and that she intended to poison all the others. Mrs. Winter, whose arrest is imminent, is now ill.

[“A Thriving Business. - Mrs. Winter Goes Into Insurance to Win.” Syndicated, St. Paul Daily Globe, May 10, 1889, p. 5]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): At the Breakspear Hotel, Brockley, on July 10, Mr Wood resumed the adjourned inquests on the bodies of Sydney Bolton, aged 11 years, and Williams Sutton, aged 74 years, whose remains were recently exhumed by order by the Home Secretary. Since the adjournment a third body, that of Elizabeth Frost, aged 47 years, has also been exhumed, and the organs examined, like those of the others, by Dr. Stevenson, analyst to the Home Office.

Each of the persons whose death formed the subject of inquiry has been, together with others, insured by Mrs Winters, of 153, Church-street, Deptford.

The boy Sydney Bolton lived with Mrs Winters, for some time before his death. His sister also lived there, and was first taken ill but recovered. The boy was next seized with similar symptoms and died, Dr Stevenson finding in the body traces of arsenical poisoning. It was alleged that Mrs Winters declared the insurance policy to have lapsed, but subsequently it transpired that she had received £20 from one office and £10 from another.

Sutton appears to have been insured for £8 14s. He went out of the workhouse on December 4 last, and died at Mrs Winter’s house four days later.

Mrs Frost, whose body was the third exhumed, was insured for £5. In all, five persons whose lives were insured by Mrs Winters had died, the first on July 18, 1886, and the last (Bolton) on February 11 of this year. The coroner now swore the jury to inquire into the death of Elizabeth Frost [the elder], who died on February 7, 1888. Mr Thomas Bond, F.R.C.S. [Fellow Of The Royal College Of Surgeons], described the result of the post mortem examination of the bodies of William Button and Elizabeth Frost. In Sutton’s case the appearances were quite consistent with death from an irritant poison. In the case of Elizabeth Frost the state of preservation in which the intestines were found indicated the presence of some preservative each as arsenic. The intestines were sent to Dr Stevenson. A number of other witnesses were examined.

The jury returned a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against Amelia Winters and Elizabeth Frost, her daughter, in each of the three cases, adding that Dr Macnaughton had been reckless in the manner in which he had given the certificates, and that the facilities given by the loose system of some insurance societies is an incentive to wilful murder. The coroner made out his warrant against the two women to appear at the Central Criminal Court.

Mrs Winters’ daughter Elizabeth, who is married to one of the sons of the deceased Mrs Frost, was in court with a baby at her breast, and when the coroner’s warrant was made out she was immediately arrested and taken into an ante room. Her husband, who witnessed the arrest, one of the charges being for murdering his mother, was completely broken down with grief, and sobbed like a child.

[“Female Poisoners At Deptford. - Five Persons Poisoned. - A Mother And Her Daughter Committed For Trial,” The Colonist (Nelson, New Zealand), Sep. 2, 1889, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): On Tuesday, at the Breakspear Hotel, Brockley, Mr. Wood, deputy coroner, resumed the adjourned inquests on the bodies of Sydney Bolton, aged 11 years, and William Sutton, aged 74 years, whose remains were recently exhumed by order of the Home Secretary. Since the adjournment a third body, that of Elizabeth Frost, aged 47, has also been exhumed, like those of the others, by Dr. Stevenson, analyst to the Home Office. It will be remembered that each of the persons whose death formed the subject of the inquiry, had been, together with others, insured by Mrs. Winters, of 153, Church-street, Deptford, the boy Sydney Bolton lived with Mrs. Winters for some time before his death. His sister also lived there, and was first taken ill, but recovered. The boy was next seized with similar symptoms and died, Dr. Stevenson finding in the body traces of arsenical poisoning.

It was alleged that Mrs. Winters declared the insurance policy to have lapsed, but that subsequently it transpired that she had received £20 from one office and £10 from another. Sutton appears to have been insured for £8 14s. He went out of the workhouse on December 4 last, and died at Mrs. Winters’s house four days later. Mrs. Frost, whose body was the third exhumed, was insured for £5. On all, five persons whose lives were insured by Mrs. Winters has died, the first on July 15, 1886, and the last (Bolton) on February 11 of this year. Mr. J. Tickell again watched the case for the Liverpool Victoria Legal Friendly Society, and Mr. W. Gamble for the Prudential Assurance Company. The coroner swore the jury to inquire into the death of Elizabeth Frost who died on February 7, 1888. Inspector Phillips produced a certificate from Dr. Taylor that Mrs. Winters was still unable through illness to be present. Anthony Pengelly, sailmaker, of 16, Berthon street, Deptford, said he saw William Sutton on the 6th of December last, at Mrs. Winters’ house.

He went to him “on spiritual matters” as a Scripture reader, and found that he was convulsed. Sutton told the witness that he was all right when he left the workhouse, but that after he had something to eat and drink he was sick and felt a burning at the throat and the pit of the stomach. He said he knew he was dying but he did not know who gave him the drink. Emma Delemain, daughter of the deceased woman Frost, deposed that her mother was seized with illness in February, 1888, when she was sick, and complained of violent thirst. The previous day she had been washing for Mrs. Winters, who gave her some dinner and some brandy. Shortly after taking these the deposed became very unwell, and complained that the brandy had burned her. the witness tasted some of the beef tea brought for the decsased by Mrs. Winters, and thought it poor and nasty, with a burnt taste.

Mary Ann Bolton, sister of the deceased child Sydney Bolton, sister of the deceased child Sydney Bolton, said that Mrs. Winters and Mrs. Thomas Frost used often to take Mrs. Elizabeth Frost beef tea, prepared by one of them. Mrs. W. T. Hunt, registrar, produced the original certificate of the death of Elizabeth Frost. It was signed by Dr. Macnaughton, and was to the following effect: -- “Primary, stomastitis; secondary, bronchitis.” He also produced the certificate of death of William Sutton, which was said to have resulted from senile decay.

After some further evidence, Walter Clyde Frost, aged 17, son of the deceased woman, was called, and said he lashed Mrs. Winters if he should stay at night with his mother, and she said “No,” and that he could do no good. Mrs. August Lewis: Did you ever insure your life? The witness: No. Mr. Lewis: Is that signature Walter Frost,” on the proposal form in your writing? The witness: No, I cannot write.

Dr. Macnaughton, cautioned by the coroner, said Mrs. Winters sent for him to Mrs. Elizabeth Frost, stating that she suffered from pain in the stomach, sickness, and diarhoea. He had lost the attendance book. He found she was suffering from bronchitis, enlargement of the liver, and weak heart, and arcus senillis was beginning to be apparent in her eyes. He came to the conclusion that she was suffering from chronic alcoholism. Stomatitis was inflammation of the stomach, and would be the result of drinking. At first he gave the deceased chlorodyne and bicarbonate of soda, and afterwards ipccacuanha wine, squills, and carbonate of ammonia. She did not rally.

He did not remember having seen Mrs. Delemain until that day. The statements she had made with reference to what he was alleged to have said were not true, to the best of his recollection. He thought alcoholism was a primary cause of her death, but did not put it on the certificate because he had never done so. Mrs. Winters paid for his attendance. Saml. Hearn, a Prudential Assurance agent, and two representatives of the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, having given evidence, Mr. Thomas Bond, F.R.C.S., described the result of the postmortem examination of the bodies of William Sutton and Elizabeth Frost.

In Sutton’s case the appearances were quite consistent with death from an irritant poison. In the case of Elizabeth Frost the state of preservation in which the intestines were found indicated the presence of some such preservative, such as arsenic. The intestines were sent to Dr. Stephenson. It seemed to him that the treatment by Dr. Mcnaughton of Elizabeth Frost was such as might be given in a case of arsenical poisoning. He did not think that the presence of arsenical poisoning could be easily diagnosed by a medical man.

The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against Amelia Winters and Elizabeth Frost, her daughter, in each of the three cases, adding that Dr. Macnaughton had been reckless in the manner in which he had given the certificates, and that the facilities given by the loose system of some insurance societies is an incentive to wilful murder. The coroner made out his warrant against the two women to appear at the Central Criminal Court on the 29th July. Considerable excitement prevails in Deptford, particularly in Church-street and the adjacent roads, where most of the parties in the case reside.

From four o’clock on Tuesday morning a crowd had assembled round Mrs. Winters’s house, in the hope of seeing old Mrs. Winters’s house, in the hope of seeing old Mrs. Winters brought from the house to give evidence at the inquest, but a doctor’s certificate prevented her removal. The Coroner, in his address to the jury, said that if their verdict was adverse would have to be treated as though she was present. Mrs. Winters’s daughter Elizabeth, who is married to one of the sons of the deceased Mrs. Frost, was in court with a young baby at her breast, and when the coroner’s warrant was made out she was immediately arrested and taken into an ante-room. Her husband, who witnessed the arrest, one of the charges being for murdering his mother, was completely broken down with grief, and sobbed like a child. A great crowd waited outside the court, and when the cab was drawn out of the yard en-route to the police-station the prisoner was hissed and hooted along the road until the crowd were defeated by the speed of the vehicle. It was not then known what course would be pursued in reference to her mother, as she was almost at the point of death.

[“Deptford Poisoning Cases. – Verdict of Wilful Murder.” The Roscommon Constitutionalist (Boyle, England), Jul. 13, 1889, p. 2; paragraph breaks added to the original]

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EXCERPT: At the indictment the divisional doctor certified that ‘taking Mrs Winters into custody would endanger her life,’ so her daughter Elizabeth alone stood accused of the charges. On the day of the Old Bailey trial, Mr C. P. Gill, who appeared for the prosecution, stated ‘the matter had been carefully considered and the course proposed to be adopted was to offer no evidence at the coroner’s inquest.’ The jury were directed to return a not guilty verdict. [Neil R. Storey, Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper's London, 2007, The History Press]

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EXCERPT: When Amelia Winters and her daughter, the aptly named Elizabeth Frost, were indicted for three murders, it transpired that they had insured over twenty people, five of whom had died between June 1886 and February 1889. [Katherine D. Watson Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims, Hambledon Continuum, London, 2004, p. 51

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Victims:

July 18, 1886 – First death, name unknown at present
1886-1887? – another death, name unknown at present
February 7, 1888 – Mrs. Elizabeth Frost (the elder), 47, died.
Dec. 8, 1888 – Williams Sutton, 74, died.
Feb. 1889 – Mary Ann Bolton (Sydney’s sister) – niece, was first taken ill but recovered.
February 11, 1889 –  Sydney Bolton (11), nephew, died.
July 29, 1889. – Elizabeth Jane Frost found guilty of forgery. [651. ELIZABETH JANE FROST (30) , Feloniously forging and uttering a receipt for the payment of money, with intent to defraud.]
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NOTE: Some sources have the incorrect spelling of “Winter.”

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