15 July 1936 – Charlotte Bryant

Charlotte Bryant

Charlotte Bryant

Sex kitten Charlotte Bryant went a little too far in her lusty pursuit of lechery. She had a penchant for poisoning and she gave her husband and toxic shock so she could continue having it away with her lodger. But it wasn’t meant to be.

She was found out and her lascivious ways were exposed after a post mortem revealed a sinister poison in his system.

Nice little earner

The couple had settled on a farm in Dorchester and Bryant soon got the neighbours’ goats by all accounts – not literally, of course. They simply didn’t like her.

Her reputation was founded on a rampant sex life along with salacious information about her sleeping with soldiers, dabbling in prostitution and hardened drinking, all of which had earned her a couple of racy nicknames – Black Bess and Kilarney Kate (she’d originally hailed from Londonderry). They even question whether her deceased husband had even fathered the five children.

Apparently her husband didn’t give a toss about her reputation as a bit of a goer, because her sexpliots had afforded them a good living. However, when she finally hooked up with her lodger, it clinched her need to dispose of her husband.

From May to December

As a result, Bryant’s murderous plan apparently kicked off in May 1935 and her cooking started featuring a killer condiment – arsenic in the form of weed killer.

The symptoms of arsenic poisoning mimic gastroenteritis, so no-one suspected a thing. Bit by bit she gradually bumped him off in instalments, until three days before Christmas, he’d consumed the final deadly dose in the form of a hot drink and died.

Christmas came and went, so did New Year, until, finally, in February Bryant copped a visit from the police – and they promptly charged her with murdering her husband.

The trial was heard at Dorchester and as details of her case unfolded so the west-country wench’s seedy secrets emerged, buoyed up by incriminating arsenic all over the place, even in her coat pocket.

But while she had earned a serious reputation for putting it about a bit, Bryant sealed her fate when she lost the prudish public’s sympathy, thanks largely to details of her adultery.

Even her own children unwittingly helped stack the evidence against her, but even to the end she steadfastly refused to admit culpability. The 33-year-old was carted off to Exeter to live out her last days, before she was hanged by Thomases Pierrepoint and Phillips.

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One Response to “15 July 1936 – Charlotte Bryant”

  1. In view of the seriously flawed forensic evidence, should Charlotte have been granted a re-trial? Personally I think that on the balance of probability, she was guilty, but this piece of totally incorrect evidence surely made her conviction unsafe and unsatisfactory to use the modern term. The witness evidence and circumstantial evidence remains strong and it is probable that the right decision was reached. However, flawed evidence leads to a lack of public confidence in the justice system.

    One wonders how much Charlotte’s lowly status and acknowledged promiscuity played in the decision to neither reprieve her or grant a new trial. Sadly, Britain was very much a class ridden society in 1936 and Charlotte was virtually at the bottom of the social pile – an illiterate, immoral slut. Were people like her simply expendable and their well publicised executions considered as a good lesson to other women not to stray from the “straight and narrow” paths of morality, as perceived by a male dominated society? It is noteworthy that Edith Thompson too seems to have been hanged more for immorality than murder.

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