FULL TEXT: Fremantle, October 6. – Four petitions to the Executive and a strong appeal to the Assembly for a commutation of her sentence having failed, Martha Rendell was executed to-day for poisoning the Morris children. Death was instantaneous.
PERTH, October 7. – The woman Rendell died protesting her innocence.
The trial of Martha Rendell and Thomas Nicholls Morris, who were accused of having poisoned with spirits of salt Arthur Morris, the male prisoner’s son, was concluded at Perth on September 14.
Morris and Rendell had been living together two or three years, Morris being separated from his wife, whose children remained with the father, Rendell calling herself their mother. Three children died successively from a disease which the medical men could not identify, though they gave death certificates. One symptom was a peculiar membrane appearing in parts of the throat. Nearly a year after the death of Arthur Morris, his brother George ran away from his father to his mother, and when found by the police said, “I would not stay to be poisoned like the rest.” The bodies of the three children were exhumed, but no sign of spirits of salt could be detected, though appearances were compatible with death from an irritant. Spirits of salt were frequently purchased by Rendell. The boy George swore that he saw Rendell pour spirits of salt, and take it into Arthur’s room. He heard the latter screaming soon after, but no direct evidence was given that the spirit had been applied to his throat.
Mr. Justice MacMillan (acting Chief Justice) said it would not be denied that there was a strong suspicion, but the jury should be morally certain, and not strongly suspicious. It was the first case in which spirits of salt had been alleged to be used for murder. He never had bad a case which had caused him so much difficulty.
The jury, after four hours’ retirement, found Mrs. Rendell guilty of murder, and Morris not guilty.
The death sentence was passed on Rendell, and Morris was discharged.
At the coroner’s inquest previously the jury held that Rendell was guilty of murder, and Morris an accomplice.
[“A Woman Executed - Sequel To Poisoning Case.” Otago Witness (Dunedin, New Zealand), Oct. 13, 1909, p. 25]