Thursday, September 22, 2011

Frances "Fanny" Billing & Catherine Frary, English Serial Killers - 1835


Frances “Fanny” Billing and Catherine Frary were known as “The Burnham Poisoners.”

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FULL TEXT: The town of Burnham Market, in Norfolk, and the vicinity for some miles around have for the last week been in the most dreadful state of excitement caused by the discovery of three diabolical murders, which have already been committed, and a plan laid for taking away the lives of several other people.

The circumstance that led to the discovery was as follows; — A woman named Mary Taylor, the wife of Deter Taylor, a journeyman shoemaker, was taken with a violent retching after dinner on Thursday, the 12th instant, and though medical assistance was procured, she died at five o’clock the same afternoon. Mr. Cremer, the surgeon, as soon as he saw her, pronounced her to have been poisoned. An inquest was held on the body on the following Saturday, when the jury after sitting till eleven at night, adjourned the inquest till Monday, and then having no evidence as to how the deceased came by the arsenic which had been found in the stomach, returned a verdict to the effect that she died by taking arsenic, but that it was unknown by what means it was administered.

There were certain rumours that the husband of the deceased had been connected with a married woman named Fanny Billing, who lived next door, and this connexion seemed to have been a great cause of uneasiness between Taylor and his wife, and a week or two before the deceased had, it seems, taxed Billing with it, and they had had a quarrel. It was also discovered that Billing had a short time before bought three-pennyworth of arsenic of a druggist. Some flour that was in Taylor house was also found to contain a quantity of arsenic, and from this the deceased had made dumplings on the day she died. These facts coming out, the magistrates thought proper to hold a special meeting on the Wednesday for the further investigation of the matter, and Taylor and Billing were brought before them, examined, and remanded for further examination. As Billing, however, was going away, a woman living next door, named Mary, who was frequently in and out of Mrs. Taylor’s, was heard to say to her, “Maw, hold your own, and they can’t hurt us.” This led to further suspicion, and Frary was apprehended. It was then recollected that Frary’s husband, and a child they kept, died about a fortnight before very suddenly. Orders were then given to have them disinterred; their stomachs were sent to Norwich to be analysed, and they also were found to contain arsenic.

On Tuesday Billing was fully committed to take her trial for the murder at the forthcoming assizes. She is nearly 60 years old, has had 14 children, and nine are now alive. She has confessed the whole, but says that Frary gave the poison to Mrs. Taylor. She has also confessed to other acts of the same kind with Frary, and that there were several other persons they had marked out for their victims.

She had made an attempt to poison her husband about the same time, but he did not take a sufficient quantity, and recovered. Taylor is still remanded, and Frary has been taken speechless since Tuesday, and cannot be recovered. The wife of her brother, who lived at Burnham Overy, died about the same time suddenly, but has not yet been taken up. Taylor says he was taken sick on the Thursday with his wife, but that he threw up and got better. Mrs. [Catherine] Frary was sent for to attend on Mrs. Taylor, and a witness by the name of Rowley says, when he was in at Taylor’s to be shaved, be saw Frary, in making her some gruel, put something into it from a paper on the point of a knife, white, almost like flour, so that in all probability, to make assurance doubly sure, she poisoned also her gruel. It was, too, the merest wonder in the world that the poisoned flour (for it had not then been found to be poisoned) was not taken to provide for the funeral – indeed this seems to have been anticipated by the wretches, and then the whole family would have been their victims; but the management was fortunately taken out of Frary’s hands, and the flour providentially unused. Taylor has borne a good character for many years until he got connected with this woman. His wife was a very industrious person, and although they had no family they lived very comfortably together. She was 47 years of age, and he is about the same.

[“Murder By Poisoning” (abridged from Norwich Mercury), Baldwin’s London Weekly Journal (London, England), Apr. 4, 1835]

Executed Aug. 10, 1835

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VICTIMS
Died:  Mrs. Taylor; Robert Frary; a child kept by the Frarys; the sister of Mrs. Frary’s husband.
Survived: Mr. Billing; several other persons marked as victims

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EXCERPT: The following executions have taken place in this city during the last twenty-two years: —  Frances Billing and Catherine Frary, of Burnham Westgate, tor poisoning their husbands, on April 10th, 1835; Peter Taylor, also of the same place, was tried as an accomplice, but was discharged – he was, however, subsequently retaken, and executed on the 23rd of April, 1836;

[History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk, and the City and County of the ..., Sheffield, England, 1835, White, Francis, & Co, p. 83]

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FULL TEXT: October 17, 1835 – This day the sentence of the law was carried into execution upon the two women, Frances Billing and Catherine Frarey, who were found guilty of having poisoned Mary Taylor and Robert Frarey. Billing ascended the scaffold with the greatest firmness, but Frarey was obliged to be supported from the jail to the platform, and the two miserable wretches, the one 48, and the other 46 years of age, were launched into eternity amidst an immense concourse of spectators, (20,000 or 30,000), above one-half of whom were women. [Nowich. (Eng.) paper.]

[H  Niles, ed., Niles’ Weekly Register, From March, 1835, to September, 1835, Vol. XLVIII. Or, Volume XII. Fourth Series. Baltimore, 1835, p. 100]

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A full account of the case can be found in the following books:

Maurice Morson, Norfolk Mayhem and Murder: Classic Cases Revisited, Chapter 3, “The Burnham Poisoners,” (pp. 38-55), Barnsley, 2008, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, South Yorkshire

Neil Storey, Norfolk Murders, 2006, The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire

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