Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mary & Joseph Pimlett, English Serial Killers - 1846


FULL TEXT: Horrible Disclosure. — Runcorn, Saturday. — This town has been thrown into a state of great excitement owing to disclosures which have taken place within the last few days, consequent on the apprehension of a man and his wife on a charge of having murdered two of their own children, and attempted to poison a third by the administration of arsenic. The names of these prisoners are Joseph and Mary Pimlett, and the former is a ship carpenter.

He was member of a club, called the Weaverham New Friendly Society, which, at the death of a child, paid a small sum of money towards the funeral expenses. About seven months ago he and his family took up their residence in Runcorn, and about the same period the mother entered two of her children, now dead, as members of the Liverpool Victoria Legal Burial Society, which receives subscriptions of one penny per week for children above five years of age, and in case of death contributes £5 for funeral money, and one half penny per week for children under that age, and pays £2 10s. as funeral money.

The circumstances which led to the disclosures are as follows: — On the 6th of March. James Pimlett, an infant, ten months old, was reported to have been found dead in bed. An inquest was held on the body, and the principal witness examined was the mother, who gave such an account of the illness of the child as to induce the coroner’s jury to believe the death was the result of some of the various diseases incidental to children, and a verdict was returned of “Found dead.” On the 16th of the same month, another child, Richard Pimlett, was taken ill.

This child was taken to a medical gentleman, Mr. Edward Pye, who administered an aperient medicine. A day or two afterwards the mother called on Mr. Pye, and, in consequence of her representations, two alterative powders were given to her. These powders, however, were afterwards found in the house of the parents, never having been administered. This child died on the 21st, and was buried, the father giving orders to the sexton of the church that the body of his former child should be taken out of the »rave, the grave made deeper, and the new coffin placed under the body previously buried.

On Monday the 27th of April, the mother took the third child, named Thomas, to the surgery of Mr. Pye. This was three years and two months old, and the symptoms which he manifested produced a suspicion at the time in the mind of Mr. Pye, but he, thinking the child was labouring under indigestion, administered a purgative draught. Subsequently Mr. Pye’s suspicions were excited, and he gave information to the magistrates, and also to the coroner for the county, and, in the meantime, the child having become very sick and ill, Mr. Pye ordered the mother to preserve the ejecta; but she cunningly avoided doing so, and frustrated his purpose of obtaining possession of any portion of it.

However, being afraid for the life of the child, it was removed from its unnatural parent, and both she and her husband taken into custody. Subsequent inquiries prove that arsenic had been administered to the child. The coroner then issued his warrant for the disinterment of the bodies of James and Richard, and summoned Mr. Pye to make a post mortem examination of them. On the coffins being opened, both bodies were remarkably fresh, considering the period of time which had elapsed since death.

This led to the supposition that arsenic might have been taken by them, as it has the effect of preserving dead bodies. The viscera were removed from both and analysed, a small portion of that of the body of Richard by Mr. Pye, who found arsenic in the brain, kidneys, spleen, liver, and other parts of the body. The rest was analysed by Dr. Brett, professor of chemistry, of Liverpool, who found in 6 oz of the contents of the stomach of Richard Pimlett no less than eleven grains of white arsenic, or, as he observed, enough to kill several persons. Arsenic was also clearly detected in the viscera of the other body — namely, that of James Pimlett. A great variety of circumstantial evidence was given affecting the prisoners, particularly against the mother; but there being nothing more than suspicion against the father, he was discharged, and the jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against the mother, Mary Pimlett, in both cases. The prisoner, immediately on becoming acquainted with the decision of the jury, burst into tears, and loudly protested her innocence.

The coroner paid a marked compliment to the ability which had been displayed by Mr. Pye during the investigation, and observed that the public were deeply indebted to him for the care and attention which he had exhibited on so painful a subject. The prisoner was then fully committed to take her trial at the next Chester Assizes for the double murder. She also stands charged with the attempt to poison a third child.

[“Horrible Disclosure.” The Amateur Gardener’s Gazette (London, England), May 16, 1846, p. 305]

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