FULL TEXT: Foolish women have used poisons designed merely to make their husbands ill, but any of them could be fatal.
We doubt husbands have their defects, but they are not to be remedied by giving them doses of disinfectant, was the judicial warning given wives in Britain recently by Sir Gerald Dodson, Recorder, of London.
He was being quite serious. During the 15 years he has sat as a judge at London’s famous Old Bailey courthouse, he has learnt that there are plenty of women who imagine that they can buy a cure for marital troubles at drug-stores.
Far too many worried wives tend to reach for the poison bottle when they think about their husbands’ misdemeanors. One who did so was the 49-year-old English housewife, from respectable suburban Harrow, who stood nervously before Sir Gerald. She had admitted at the previous session that, after being “driven beyond endurance” by her husband’s conduct, she had put linament in his tea “to give him a sharp lesson.”
It was not a very long lesson. Her husband spat out the first mouthful, and took a sample of the liquid to the police station.
The police know that women who perpetrate this stupid act are not potential murderesses; although, in the eyes of the law, if their victim dies it is possible for them to be adjudged guilty of murder. These foolish wives do not want to kill their husbands.
Our law regards dosing one’s spouse’s food as being intended to injure, aggrieve or annoy him. Yet a woman who does so often wants only to stop her husband from aggrieving or annoying her.
A 30-year-old waitress, who was sent to jail for 18 months last year for pouring powder from a “home perm” set into her husband’s tea, had no desire to cause him real harm. All she hoped was that the poison would make him feel sufficiently off-color to stay indoors, so that she might go out with another man and enjoy herself.
Even if they do not want to go out for the day on their own, some of these women seem to look upon a “dosed” husband as being as good as a holiday.
“I only wanted to get a spell from his nagging,” was the explanation Antonina Mastropacqua offered a West Australian court at Perth a few years ago, when she was accused of “unlawfully annoying” her spouse. She admitted giving him an overdose of sleeping tablets!
In most cases, exasperation makes these women overlook the risk of giving a fatal dose.
Mrs. Yvonne Fletcher — her two husbands died from thallium poisoning.
“Rat poison doesn’t kill rats—it just makes them sick!” a Pennsylvanian housewife, Margaret Kearns, confidently assured a judge at Pittsburgh in 1951. With this belief, she had spiced her husband’s gravy with rat poison after he had returned home with lipstick smeared on his shirt front.
Fortunately for husbands, bottles of poison do not state the dose needed to reform erring spouses and consequently the dosage their wives select may be harmless. When Jeanne Lacquier was accused by her husband at Nancy in France of putting washing-soda in his coffee three years ago, he claimed that the first dose was so weak that he did not even taste it.
A famous English Judge, Mr. Justice Croom-Johnson, stopped counsel at the, Ipswich Assizes from giving details of how one poison could be administered to husbands be cause he thought it “very undesirable” that women should “get this mad idea into their heads”. But in at least one country dissatisfied wives can obtain expert advice on “dosing” husbands into a better frame of mind.
Known as the Yilede, a women’s organisation in the Sudan, it supplies wives with poisons designed to quell the most troublesome husbands.
The most popular drug, administered in gravy, causes the man’s stomach to swell and drives him nearly mad with thirst Another, mixed with millet flour, produces prolonged sickness.
To avoid arousing suspicion, none of these poisons are fast-acting. But any of them could be fatal.
The wife, however, is told the antidote so that she can restore her man to health once he has yielded to her demands. That is, if she isn’t tempted to try life as a widow!
There was the famous case in Sydney last year of Mrs. Yvonne Gladys Fletcher, who was charged with the murder of two men to whom she had been married, and, after a spectacular trial, sentenced to death for the murder of her first husband, Desmond George Butler, by administering thallium poison,
If a dose of thallium is not fatal, the effects are usually insanity, blindness and muscular wasting of the limbs. Death from this metallic poison is very slow and agonising, usually taking several weeks, or, in some cases, months. Of 45 proven thallium poisonings in Australia, only few fully recovered, and many are still in mental institutions!
When Mrs. Fletcher’s second husband was admitted to hospital, a doctor who examined him advised hospital authorities of the possibility of poisoning. Later, detectives exhumed the body of her first husband, who had died three years earlier in a mental institution, and it was found he had died from thallium poisoning. This discovery led to Mrs. Fletcher’s arrest. Her second husband suffered the same symptoms as the first man.
Mrs. Fletcher denied any knowledge of thallium, but the facts were too strong against her.
[Brenda Dawson, “Some Wives Have Used A Deadly Cure for Erring Husbands.” World’s News (Sydney, MSW, Australia), Jun. 27, 1953, p. 3]