Thursday, September 22, 2011

Martha Needle, Australian Serial Killer - 1894

FULL TEXT: Melbourne, September 28. – At the trial of Mrs. Needle on the charge of poisoning her children, counsel pat in a plea that if she committed the crime of poisoning Juncken and her own children the most have been insane. The judge, in his summing np, said that there was no evidence of insanity. The jury returned a verdict of “Guilty.” Mrs Needle protested her innocence, and received the death sentence with calmness.

Martha Needle was arrested on a charge of attempting to poison Hermann Juncken, brother of Louis. Louis, a man of 30 years went from South Australia to Melbourne to visit his brother Otto. He stayed with Mrs. Needle, who was passionately attached to Otto, and with whom he was boarding at 137 Bridge road, Richmond. Shortly afterwards Louis was taken ill -and died. The family of Junekens reside at Lyndoch, in South Australia, and the body wma buried there. After the funeral Hermann returned to Melbourne to settle his late brother’s affairs, and he also stayed at Mrs. Needle’s. While there he was taken ill, and on going to the doctor he was warned that poison had been used. Through a clever ruse some meat and a cup of tea which had been prepared for him were secured by the detectives. In this traces of arsenic were found. The body of Louis was disinterred, and the result of the analysis of the contents was a charge of murder. Otto Juncken received several letters from Mrs. Needle. One written on May 22 last, concluded as follows: — “I could be thrown aside; but remember this on the day you cast me off for your mother. You will soon be motherless, for I shall kill her” (the word kill is underlined), “if I have to walk every step to Lyndoch. I have vowed to my God to do this.” Mrs. Needle (née Charles) “was married in 1882 in Adelaide, at the age of 19, to Henry Needle. The marriage was not happy. Mr Needle died, under suspicious circumstances. His body and the bodies of two of their children. who died later were exhumed and poison found. Henry Needle died on October 4, 1889. Dr Hodgson, who attended him, certified that the cause of death was sub-acute hepatitis, persistent vomiting, enteric fever, and exhaustion due to obstinacy in refusing to take food. The daughter Elsie, aged six, died on December 9, 1890, after an illness of three weeks. Dr. Hodgson certified the cause of death to be gangrenous stomatitis and exhaustion. The daughter May, aged four years and eleven months, died on August 22, 1891, and the cause of death was certified by Dr. Haynt as tubercular meningitis. Henry Needle insured his life for £200 in the Australian Widows’ Fund on June 22, 1889. He died intestate, whereupon Mrs. Needle drew one-third of the money as her share, and received the other two-thirds when her children died.

[“A Female Poisoner.” Syndicated (Press Association), Otago Witness (Australia), Oct. 4, 1894, p. 36]

Martha Needle was known for poisoning her husband, 3 children and future brother-in-law, and was hanged on 22 October 1894 at the age of 30. Martha was convicted for the murder of Louis Juncken, brother of her fiance Otto Juncken, on 15 May 1894. Although Martha collected substantial sums of insurance money this was not the motive for her own family which was never determined. [Wikipedia]


For more cases of this type, see Serial Baby-Killer Moms.


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