Archive for Poisoner

28 July 1865 – Edward Pritchard

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on July 28 by Last Writes

Edward Pritchard

Edward Pritchard

The last public execution in Scotland enticed a healthy turnout, after a former doctor was condemned to die.

Edward William Pritchard was strung up in front of a crowd of thousands after he was found guilty of double murder.

Mid-life crisis

The 40-year-old GP had already chalked up an unsavoury past. One servant girl had died when a mysterious fire broke out in her room. Though it was all very suspicious, he still managed to pocket the insurance money.

He then got another 15-year-old servant in his employ up the duff, who he promised to marry, on the proviso that he carried out an abortion on her.

Of course, there was also the small matter of his wife – so the deaths didn’t stop there. His wife mysteriously fell ill too and her mum came to look after her, however both women succumbed to the suspicious sickness. Mary Pritchard, followed by her mum Mr Taylor died in close succession.

Doctored death certificates

Dr Pritchard conveniently provided the death certificates and they were both buried hitch-free. He would have been home and dry, had it not been for an anonymous tip-off implicating the dodgy doctor. The bodies were dutifully exhumed and sure enough, the poison antimony was revealed.

Amid the damning evidence, doctor death was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

That brings us neatly back to the public execution – a good many turned out to witness the event. Roughly 100,000 homed in on the Jail Square in Glasgow to watch Pritchard hang. And the final nail in his coffin came when the Royal Masonic Lodge eradicated the doomed doctor’s name from their hallowed honours’ list.

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31 May 1984 – Ronald Clark O’Bryan

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , , on May 31 by Last Writes

Ronald Clark O\'Bryan‘Too many sweets’ll kill ya,’ especially if your dad’s a money-grabbing maniac. Our filicidal felon of the day is Ronald C O’Bryan who made the ultimate sacrifice in search of wealth. The Texan was hell-bent on bagging a $20,000 payout, so he wilfully poisoned his own son for financial gain.

I want candy

You may know O’Bryan better as the ‘Candyman’ – the man who singlehandedly ruined Hallowe’en for the Americans. You see he doled out cyanide-steeped sweets and fed some to his son. He then handed them out to trick-or-treaters in the vain hope that it would look like a dodgy batch, aimed at covering his tracks.

Ideally he was actually after $40,000 but his daughter didn’t want a bar of it, but $20,000 was not to be sniffed at.

His son died a painful death provoking suspicion. A neighbour’s son also had a pack of the offending sweets in his hand as he slept – the doctored box having been too hard to get into. That box was to save the little child’s life and provide the necessary ammunition to put O’Bryan away.

Crime never pays

In his final speech, O’Bryan simply stated ‘What is about to transpire in a few moments is wrong.’ But then again, he did the crime knowing that the Texans take a hard line on murders and the sentence may well have been death if he got caught.

In a sinister twist, his parting speech never once acknowledged or even mentioned his eight-year-old son, who he had so keenly sacrificed for financial gain. And just as he’d used drugs to kill his son, so drugs were used on him to the same end.

He died aged 39 and yet his legacy lives on. His crimes spawned the odd sickos who pull copycat crimes in homage to Candyman by handing out poisoned sweets. He is even immortalised in a song by the same name courtesy of Siouxie and the Banshees in their album ‘Tinderbox’. His story, however, bears no relation to the slasher movie of the same name.

Also on this day

31 May 1922 – Waltheof II, Earl of Northumbria
31 May 1922 – Herbert Rowse Armstrong

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31 May 1922 – Herbert Rowse Armstrong

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on May 31 by Last Writes

Herbert Rowse ArmstrongIt’s the perfect cover. A solicitor who’s tasked with upholding the law is the last person you’d suspect to be a criminal.

Not so Herbert Rowse Armstrong who became the only known solicitor in Britain to be executed – when he wasn’t practising law, he was bumping people off for whatever reason.

His method of choice was arsenic and he first tried it out on his wife. She was the perfect candidate in his eyes – she was sickly and no-one suspected a thing. That is until he used the method again.

Armstrong was a retired army major who’d retired to practice law in the picturesque town of Hay-on-Wye. But that was part of his downfall – a small town equals no privacy. So industrial amounts of arsenic is going to make anyone suspicious, let alone in a town where everyone knows your name.

Armstrong tactics

So when a rival turned up at Armstrong’s house, invited on the pretext of resolving a dispute, little did he know that arsenic-laced cake was on the menu. But Armstrong’s plan backfired – for his victim was feisty and the toxic secret ingredient failed to do its stuff.

He was also effectively shopped by the pharmacist who got suspicious after selling him the stuff so the police were primed and ready to haul him in.

At the same time, the widower’s wife was exhumed and there it was – traces of arsenic were rife. Indeed our man was even caught with a stash of the toxic stuff in his pockets.

There was no get-out clause – Armstrong was going down. It turns out that he poisoned his wife to get out of an unhappy marriage – but as a lawyer surely he could have found a method of getting shot of that was within the law.

Armstrong was hanged at Gloucester aged 52, by executioner of the hour, John Ellis.

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