Thursday, September 22, 2011

Catherine Wilson, English Serial Killer - 1862

FULL TEXT: Several days were occupied at the Central Criminal Court last week in the trial of Catherine Wilson for the murder, by poison, of Mrs. Sonnies six years ago. She was found guilty, and sentenced to death. Her case is interesting as exhibiting the depth of wickedness, of cunning, and of criminal audacity to which woman’s nature may sink. Eight years ago Catherine Wilson was living as housekeeper or servant with a gentleman who made his will in her favour, and very shortly afterwards died. Whether he died by fair means, or whether his death was accelerated by the object of his bounty, will never be known.

There appears no positive evidence of his having died of poison, and charity – if charity is worth bestowing upon such an object – would willingly acquit her of such a crime. The gentleman was accustomed to take doses of colohioum, so that his housekeeper knew perfectly well the mode of its operation – and the seems to have been no idle or thoughtless pupil. Left in moderately comfortable circumstances by the will in her favour, she seems to have devoted her life since that period to improving the fortune and practising the lessons she had obtained from her deceased benefactor by a system of he most wholesale poisoning. Mrs. Soames, the woman of whose murder this female Palmer has just been convicted, kept a lodging-house n London. To this home Mrs. Wilson came as lodger, together with a young man of the name of Dixon. They had not been there long before Dixon was taken seriously and suddenly ill. All the symptoms were those of poisoning by colohioum, and in a short time he died. His mistreat represented that he had died of consumption, but his lungs were found perfectly healthy. A abort time afterwards Mrs. Soames herself came home one evening with a loan of £9 in her pocket. It was dangerous to carry money in one’s pocket when in company with Catherine Wilson. The landlady was well and in good spirits in the evening. Catherine Wilson wanted to see her in her room. She went there, and stayed some time. Next morning she was violently ill — again with the symptoms that would have resulted from the use of colohioum.

Medical assistance was called in; Catherine Wilson was indefatigable in her attentions. She gave her medicine, she gave her food; but the most soothing medicines and the most suitable food only seemed to aggravate the symptoms, and Mrs. Soames died. The £9 she had borrowed was not to be found, while an I O U showed that she was indebted £10 to Catherine Wilson. That she should have borrowed £10 of Catherine Wilson, or that Catherine Wilson should have had £10 to lend her, were equally remarkable. But this was found. The affectionate friend hinted that Mrs. Soames had taken poison – indeed her head seemed to be very full of poison. The doctor suspected poison too, but had not skill enough to prove it. Catherine Wilson, however, knew a cause why she should have taken poison. There was a man who wanted to marry her and had jilted her. Nobody else knew the man, and he has never been produced. There was, however, a letter from him dated just before Mrs. Soames’s death. That letter was proved to be in the handwriting of Catherine Wilson. Such facts as these, with other circumstances ably summed up by the Judge, left not a shadow of doubt that Catherine Wilson had both committed the murder, stolen the money, forged the I O U for money lent, and fabricated the evidence by which she hoped to remove the guilt from her own shoulders.

Three years later, in 1859, we find this interesting creature with a Mrs. Jackson, at Boston. Mrs. Jackson had drawn £120. out of the bank, and Catherine Wilson knew that she had drawn it. Mrs. Jackson was taken ill, with the same symptoms as her former victims, and died. The £120 could not be discovered, and a promissory note which was found for the same, signed by two pretended borrowers, was proved to be a forgery. This sum seems to have set her up, for next year we find her receiving lodgers, and one of these lodgers was a Mrs. Atkinson, of Kirby Lonsdale, who in a short time exhibited the same symptoms as Mrs. Soames and the rest, and in a few days died. The evidence of murder in this case appears to have been very strong, for the prisoner was indicted upon it, and had she been acquitted of the murder of Mrs. Soames would have been tried upon this charge. The Judge, in passing sentence, expressed his firm assurance of her guilt.

An attempt at murder was the only exploit of the next year; and an attempt at murder during the early part of this year, for which she was tried and acquitted, is her only known subsequent achievement.

[“Conviction of a Wholesale Poisoner.” The Nonconformist (London, England), Oct. 1, 1862, p. 843, p. 19? of issue]


EXCERPTS: The longer she nursed [her victims], the sicker they got. ‘Drink it up dear; it will do you good,’ she was reported to have insisted as one friend resisted a glass of sulphuric acid.

The image she consistently maintained was of a concerned friend.  ‘I would not have her cut up, poor thing,’ she advised the credulous husband of another victim, thereby heading off an autopsy.

[Judith Knelman, Twisting in the Wind: The Murderess and the English Press, University of Toronto Press, p. 72;  (n 74) annual register [1862], part 2. 455.]



1854? – Peter Mawer, employer (of CW as servant), died.
James Dixon, common-law husband, died.
Mrs. Jackson, died.
Ann Atkinson, robbed, died.
Taylor, common-law husband, died.
1862 – Sarah Cornell, friend, survived.
Sep. 27, 1862 – Maria Soames, landlady, died.




For more cases, see Sicko Nurses


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed


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