FULL TEXT: At the assises at Liverpool, on Tuesday, Betty Eccles was indicted for the wilful murder of William Eccles, at Bolton, by administering to him arsenic –.Mr. Armstrong stated the case. The deceased, it appeared, was a lad of about thirteen years of age, in the employment of Messrs. Eden and Thwaites, at Bolton. The prisoner was his stepmother; and the family consisted of the prisoner, the deceased, his brother, Richard and Mary Eccles, the two latter also step-children. The husband, Henry Eccles, was employed at Manchester, spending only the Sunday with his family.
Several witnesses were examined, but the most material evidence was the following:
A witness stated that on the 26th of September last the deceased left his work to go to dinner about half-past eleven o’clock. This was a little earlier than usual, as he had to go some errands, which also detained him until about two o’clock, when be came back to his work. He then seemed very sick, and was finally obliged to leave off work about three o’clock, when he went away for the purpose of going home, and he soon after died.
Richard Eccles, the younger brother of the deceased, said, that on the day in question, in coming home for his dinner, he met the deceased coming out of the house, having, apparently, been eating. On witness going in, he found the plates washed up and put away. He, himself, dined off potato hash, which was in the oven. No one else then ate of it; but the prisoner said she had dined off it too. Some time before the prisoner was drunk, and the deceased said he would tell his father. She replied, “If thou dost, I’ll soon be shut of thee.” She beat him sometimes. The house was not infested by rats or mice. Never heard the prisoner complain of them. Alice Haslam died a fortnight before the deceased.
On the Sunday night after, witness asked her to go and see Alice’s grave. She said, “No, I’ve trouble enough on my mind. We’ll have another dead out of our house before long.”
Elizabeth Fell, a neighbour to the prisoner, stated that on the night William Eccles died she went into the prisoner’s house. She asked if it was Richard who was dead, and the prisoner said it was William. Witness asked the cause of his death, and was told it was inflammation. She expressed her surprise at his dying so suddenly, and said she thought he should be examined by a medical man, but the prisoner seemed very angry at this suggestion, and said she had trouble enough on her mind without having any more.
John Turner, bookkeeper at the works of Messrs. Eden and Thwaites, said that the workpeople have a burial club among them for the people employed there. The deceased was a member of it. About the 10th of September the prisoner called on the witness, and asked for burial money for her daughter, by a former husband, Alice Haslam, who had just died. It was then explained to her that she was not entitled to such burial money, as her husband was not employed in the works, and the deceased Alice was not in the employment of Messrs. Eden and Thwaites.
She came again on Tuesday, the 27th of September, for the burial money of William Eccles. Its amount was 50s. The witness desired her to call again the next day, as he wished to make some inquiry about the matter, having seen the deceased apparently quite well the day before, and being struck by the fact of the second application for burial money coming so soon after the first. The prisoner was taken into custody in the afternoon of Thursday, the 29th.
Mr. Watson stated that he analysed the contents of the stomach. The white powder adhering to the coats was oxide of arsenic.
Mr. Brown addressed the jury for the prisoner.
His Lordship summed up, and the jury, after retiring for some time, brought in a verdict of “guilty.”
His Lordship passed sentence of death upon the prisoner, holding out to her no hope of mercy. The prisoner was very passive until the sentence was passed, when; on the gaoler proceeding to remove her from the bar, she clasped her hands together, and moaned out “ Oh, mercy, my Lord and gentlemen! Have mercy on me for this time!
There were two other indictments against the prisoner for the wilful murder of Alice Haslam and Nancy Haslam, her own children. Alice died on the 10th of September, as already mentioned, about a fortnight before William Eccles, and Hannah some time before. On being disinterred, arsenic a large quantities was found in their stomachs. These indictments, however, were not tried.
[“A Woman Convicted of Murder.” The Atlas (London, England), Apr. 8, 1843, p. 214 (p. 6 of issue)]