FULL TEXT: An unprecedented amount of excitement and consternation has been produced in the neighbourhood of Bridgewater, by the recent discovery of a series of murders, committed under circumstances of so heartless and cold-blooded a character, and apparently induced by motives so contemptible, as completely to throw the murder of their aged father by the two sisters, Mary and Faith Sealy, into the shade.
The woman now in custody upon the charge of being the perpetrator of these enormities is named Sarah Freeman. She is the daughter of poor parents residing at the hamlet of Shapwick, about eight or nine miles on this side of Bridgewater. She is twenty-eight years of age and is the widow of Henry Freeman, a native of the latter place, who during his lifetime, worked as a day labourer. From a somewhat early age she is represented as having been addicted to loose habits, and before her marriage she had three illegitimate children The tint of these was the fruit of an improper intimacy with a clergyman of the Church of England. This circumstance is said to have led to frequent differences between her and her husband, who married her at the instance of the reverend gentleman, who gave a sum of money as an inducement.
The first death which the accused is suspected of having caused is that of her husband, who died somewhere about Christmas, 1813. would seem that he was in what is called a life-and-death club, which meet at a public-house in Bridgewater, and it is supposed that the pecuniary amount receivable upon his decease (upwards of £20) formed a main inducement to the commission of the crime. In the March following her little girl (the offspring of the illicit intercourse before referred to), then about seven years old, was taken suddenly ill and died within a very short period. We are told that she was at her Sunday-school apparently in very good health on the afternoon of the Sabbath-day, and on the following morning was a corpse. It is said that the symptoms of her illness resembled those which would follow the administration of poison—great pain and violent cramps. Some time after this the prisoner went away from the neighbourhood (it is believed to London), and nothing was seen of her till about December last, when she returned to Bridgewater, and sent a letter to her friends requesting to be allowed to return home, in reply to this a refusal was sent by her deceased brother Charles; and on the 9th of that month she applied at the shop of Mr. Varder, a chemist in Bridgewater, for three-penny-worth of arsenic. The person in the shop at first very properly refused to supply her with it, when she said she was the sister of a carrier well known in the town, and that she required it for the purpose of killing rats and mice. Upon this representation it was supplied to her, care being taken to caution her as to its character, and to label the package with the word “poison.” This was on the 9th of Dec.; and on the 12th the mother, seventy-two years of age, but hale for her years, was suddenly taken ill, being seized with pains in the stomach, accompanied with violent retchings. She lingered till the 14th, when she died, and was buried the Sunday before Christmas-day.
After this, the deceased brother, Charles, positively objected to her remaining at home, and said, if she did not leave, be would, as he would not lose his work on her account, and his master said he would not keep him to work for her. Considerable disputes followed this, and the prisoner was heard to say that her brother wanted to have his “glee” over her, and to bring borne his Johnny (alluding to his intention to get married), but something would turn up for him. On the day after Christmas-day, the brother was in his usual health, and came borne to his dinner (which had been prepared by her). Shortly after be was suddenly se zed with violent sickness and pains in his bowels, so that be could not go on with his work, and took to his bed. He remained ill till the Monday following, during the night of which be died. During his illness be occasionally got better, but after taking the gruel which was prepared for him by the prisoner, be grew worse and died. In consequence of the suspicious nature of the symptoms, Mr. Phillips, of Chilton-super-Polden, who was called in prior to his death, took out the viscera and carried it to Mr. Hcrapath, the eminent analytical chymist, of Bristol, who subjected the contents to various tests, and succeeded in discovering arsenic in the intestines and liver.
A coroner’s inquest was held on Wednesday, at Shapwick, on the body of Charles Dimond, the brother, before Mr Caioes, coroner for the county, which ended in a verdict of Wilful Murder against Sarah Freeman.
Prior to this an investigation took place by Edward Sealey, O. H. Strangway, and G. Warry, Esqss., county justices, residing in the neighbourhood, which led to the exhumation of the mother. This took place in the presence of the two first named magistrates, Mr. Herapath, and others. The viscera of this body were also banded over to Mr. Herapath, who succeeded in finding arsenic in the stomach.
The prisoner was then charged with the wilful murder of her mother, Mary Dimond; but the necessary witnesses not being in attendance the inquiry was adjourned to Saturday, when the jury returned a verdict, —”That the deceased, Mary Dimond, died of poison, by arsenic administered to her, bait by whom administered was to the jurors unknown.”
The prisoner (who is short in stature, somewhat square built, and of a rather mild expression of countenance) did not appear to manifest any anxiety. She sat unconcernedly eating some raisins which were given to her by Mr. Bussel, the gaoler; and the only time at which she seemed at all moved was when her father was called as a witness.
On Wednesday last the prisoner was charged with poisoning her brother, and at the conclusion of the inquiry the jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder.
The prisoner said, I am not guilty of it – my brother ought to be committed as well as me.
The prisoner was then committed on the charge of wilful murder.
The bodies of the father and child have been exhumed, and the contents of the stomach handed over to Mr. Herapath. That gentleman, we understand, has detected arsenic in the child, and has very little doubt but that it exists the father.
[“Murder By A Woman Of Her Husband, Children Mother, And Brother.” The Age and Argus (London, England), The Jan. 18, 1845, p. 2]
Henry Freeman, husband
Charles Dimond, brother
James, illegitimate son
Mary, her mother
Portrait of Sarah Freeman from “Life And Execution Of The Diabolical Murderess, Sarah Freeman.” The Taunton Courier And Western Advertiser (England), Apr. 23, 1845, p. 7