Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Betty Rowland, Executed Husband-Killer, Suspected of Two Other Husband-Killings – England, 1836

Betty Rowland was prosecuted for the murder of her husband, William Rowland (50). At her trial is was disclosed that she had been long been suspected of murdering two previous husbands by poisoning.


FULL TEXT: WILFUL MURDER. – Betty Rowland, 46, was charged with the willful murder of her husband, William Rowland, at Manchester, on the 19th of November last.

Mr. Brandt conducted the case for the prosecution; the prisoner was undefended.

The prisoner, when placed at the bar, presented a most wretched and decrepid appearance; her age appeared nearer 60 than that started in the indictment.

Jeremiah Crawley – Knew the deceased for many years. The prisoner and deceased were both Irish. Witness saw the deceased on the Sunday before his death, when he was in perfect health. Went into prisoner’s house on the next Sunday Saw prisoner and another woman there. The prisoner and the other woman offered him some drink, which he refused. Saw a coffin, and asked prisoner what she had done with this man. Told her it was suspected she had poisoned him, as she had done with two previous husbands. Witness then went out, and prisoner followed him to say something to him, when he said, " No, you wretch, nothing you can say will prevent me from giving notice to the public authorities.'' Witness then acquainted a police officer. Witness went on the Saturday following (the 28th) to the burying-ground in Every-street, and recognised the body of the deceased, when it was disinterred.

Ann Heaton — Lived in November last near the house of the prisoner. Was called up at a quarter before four o'clock on Thursday, the 19th of November, by the prisoner, who asked witness to get up, for that her (prisoner's) husband was just dead. Witness got up, and prisoner said, " Nanny, it will be very awful for you, for he is sitting in the chair with my cloak round him." Prisoner opened the door, and then stepped behind witness. Witness went into the house and saw deceased sitting in a chair with a cloak round him. Prisoner showed witness a gin jug, and said, "This is the mug out of which my poor husband drank last." She said she had given him some ale and rum. She had given him some gin and garlic also. Prisoner showed witness the mug again, and said, See, he has drunk the whole of it." Prisoner never left the jug out of her own hand all that time.

Alice Benker — I went with the prisoner to Mr. Goodman's, a druggist, to buy some pobon for rats. Dr. Goodman sold the prisoner something from the left-hand part of the shop. It was like flour. Prisoner afterwards told witness that the poison was for rats in the cellar.

Thomas Goodman — Is a druggist at Manchester, "The last witness was in the habit of purchasing articles at his shop Does not know the prisoner. In November last the arsenic kept in his shop was on the left-hand side; generally gives nux vomica for poisoning rats, unless arsenic be asked for. Arsenic is white, like flour, and might deceive an inexperienced person. Never gave arsenic without a caution as to its use, and always wrote " Poison" on the paper in which it is wrapped.

James Sawley — Is a police officer at Manchester. Went on the 22d of November to the house of the prisoner, in consequence of information which he had received. Saw at the prisoner's house from fifteen to twenty people. The corpse of the deceased also lay there, and the people in the house were drinking. Witness said the deceased should not be interred until he (witness) had reported the circumstance to the coroner. Several persons in the house said it should be interred at once, and witness replied, " Then I must take this woman into my custody," which was also resisted; but after a while they consented that she should go, and some followed them on the way, the prisoner exclaiming several times, "Oh, dear me! I never gave him anything." After a consultation with the coroner the prisoner was liberated, and directions given that the interment of the deceased should not be interrupted, but that the place of burial should be watched. Mr. Thomas, superintendent of police at Manchester, proved that the prisoner confessed, whilst in custody, having put the arsenic into some gruel she had made for her husband, saying it was by mistake for sugar.

Mr. Olliver — Is a surgeon, made an examination of deceased s body on the ä7th November. The examination took place in the burying ground where the corpse had been interred. Analysed the contents of the stomach and found it to be white arsenic. "There was a great deal of it, as much as would have poisoned any man in the course of twenty-four hours. The arsenic was the cause of death.

Mr. Goodman recalled by the Judge — The quantity of arsenic sold for a penny is sufficient to poison half-a-dozen persons. It would be impossible to mistake arsenic for sugar.

The Learned Judge, in summing up the evidence, commented thereon at much length.

The jury retired, and, after a short deliberation, found the Prisoner Guilty, and his Lordship sentenced the prisoner to be hung on Saturday (this day).

[“Wilful Murder.” The Morning Post (London, England), Apr. 9, 1836, p. 4]


FULL TEXT: The unfortunate female, Betty Rowland, convicted on Thursday last of the willful murder of her husband, Wm. Rowland, at Manchester, on the 31 st March last, suffered the extreme penalty of the law on Saturday, in front of the County House of Correction, Kirkdale.  It having been announced in the newspapers, by mistake, that the execution would take place early in the morning, an immense number of persons assembled in the fields and roads adjacent to the goal by five o’clock, and notwithstanding a notice issued by Mr. Amos, the respected governor of the prison, to the effect that the fatal ceremony would not take place until three o’clock in the afternoon, they most tenaciously determined to disbelieve it, and from that period up to the stated time they continued on the spot. They conducted themselves in a most discraceful manner, pelting each other, and finally committing depredations in the most open manner. They made an attack upon the females (of whom we regret to say there was a large sprinkling), tearing away their tippets [a scarf-like narrow piece of clothing, worn over the shoulders], shawls, bonnets, and other articles of dress, convenient to carry away. Many of the females took refuge from the villains in the goal, and were let out through the Court-house at the other end of the building. The wretched creature who called forth the curiosity of the multitude, for a fortnight previous to her conviction, and immediately after her condemnation, and immediately after her condemnation, appeared fully sensible of the awful situation in which she was placed, paying the most devoted attention to the religious consolation afforded to her, when she was again pressed to make confession of her crime and acknowledged the justice of her sentence. She again stated that her intention was not to murder her husband; for although they sometimes had had quarrels, at times they lived happily, and were very fond of each other.

The religious ceremonies having been concluded, the under-sheriff", Mr. Birchell, accompanied by Mr. Amos, proceeded to the chapel, where the latter delivered up his charge to the under-sheriff, saying, " Betty Rowland, this is the under-sheriff, I deliver you up to him to undergo the awful sentence of the law which has been awarded." She was then accommodated with a chair, until the clock tolled the hour of three, when she was led to the fatal scaffold, the funeral service was read, and in a few minutes she ceased to exist.

The unfortunate woman, who was described as 46 ye:ir8 of age in the calendar, appeared to be nearly 60. She was dressed in one of the Lancashire bedgowns, a linsey-wolsey petticoat, and a frilled cap. She supported herself with fortitude during the whole of the awful ceremony. John Berry, of Prestwich, the other unfortunate malefactor, was respited at nine o’clock on Friday night, in consequence of a representation from the jury, to the effect, if they had considered their verdict would have hanged him they would have returned a verdict of manslaughter. The respite for fourteen days.

[“Execution of Betty Rowland, And Disgraceful Riot.” The Morning Post (London, England), Apr. 12, 1836, p.  4]



Dec. 18, 1835 – William Rowland (50), becomes ill.
Dec. 19, 1835 – William Rowland (50), dies.
Dec. 22, 1835 – funeral scheduled.
Dec. 25 ca., 1835 – Body exhumed and examined. arsenic found.
Dec. 30, 1835 – Betty Rowland (46); defendant at coroner’s inquest.
Mar. 30, 1836 – She was found guilty at the trial on 30 March and sentenced to death. 
Apr. 19, 1836 – Betty Rowland (46) executed; hanged in front of the House of Correction at Kirkdale, Liverpool; riot.


SEE: Naomi Clifford , “Three women hanged for poisoning their husbands in 1836: Betty Rowland,” Nov. 11, 2016,


For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed


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