Evil Female Murderers. Part 1
These are some of the women hanged for the criminal offence of Murder.
Born in 1906 and hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Strangeways Prison, Manchester
Margaret Allen was a brutal lesbian who wore male clothes and liked to be called ‘Bill.’ She worked as a local ‘bus conductor in Manchester.
On the 28th August 1948 she battered to death a woman, Nancy Chadwick with a hammer. Mrs Chadwick was an elderly neighbour who had knocked at the door asking to borrow a cup of sugar. The neighbours had apparently never enjoyed the best of relationships, and Allen found her extremely irritating. Allen confessed to the murder saying that she was in one of her ‘funny moods.’
The Story: –
Margaret Allen was born in 1906 and was a ‘cross-dresser’ who had always considered herself to be a man. Mrs. Nancy Chadwick was considered by some to be a miser. There was no clear motive for her murder.
Margaret All was the 20th of 22 children born to her parents and from a very early age preferred the stereotypical exploits and activities of men. She always dressed as a man and performed tasks that were generally reserved for men. She had the strength and stamina to perform these tasks.
Her case continues to interest those of us who enjoy researching murders and other of the more serious crimes.
On the 29th August 1948, Nancy Chadwick, an elderly cantankerous widow was found dead in the street outside Allen’s house in Manchester. The old woman had been battered with the pointed end of a ‘coal hammer.’ Bloodstains led across the pavement into Allen’s house. She was the only suspect as far as the Police were concerned from the start.
She became very talkative at first with the numerous reporters that turned up on her doorstep. She was also the same with the local customers of Pub who wanted to listen. She also pointed out to the Police that Mrs. Chadwick’s shopping bag was seen floating in the nearby river. The Police were actually playing a ‘waiting game.’
‘Bill’ Allen, as the 42 year old lesbian preferred to be known, did not know when to keep her mouth closed and, after several pints of beer consumed in her local boasted that she was the last person to see Mrs. Chadwick alive. She also let it be known that she was wearing an underskirt with a hidden pocket sewn into it. Seen by the Police she quickly confessed saying that she had been in a ‘funny mood.’
Margaret Allen was a troubled and confused individual and in a different age she could have got help for her troubled life.
In 1943 her mother died and being very close to her she was badly affected by her death and she then became even more withdrawn from ‘normal’ social activities. Her smoking became excessive and didn’t eat properly. She allowed herself to become unkempt and went through bouts of deep depression.
For some unknown reason she invested all her life’s savings in purchasing a dilapidated building which was once Rawtenstall’s Police headquarters which was situated on the town’s main street, Bacup road. She lived alone and tried to kill herself on more than one occasion by putting her head in a gas oven.
On the 28th August Nancy Chadwick called at Allen’s house asking to borrow some sugar. She was a disagreeable woman and would sooner scrounge off of other people than spend her own money.
She was the first female to have been hanged in Britain for 12 years and only the third at Strangeways Prison.
She had always maintained that she once checked into hospital to have a very ‘delicate’ procedure performed in order to make her biologically a man. This claim has been found to be totally untrue as it was highly unlikely that in 1935 it would have been impossible to carry out such a procedure. She was very well known for doing this. The following day she was found dead on the street. At first it was believed that she had been the victim of a ‘hit and run’ driver but the Police later determined that her wounds was caused by a pointed hammer.
On the 1st September the Police noticed bloodstains on the wall just inside the house. The house was then searched and it yielded enough evidence to arrest Margaret Allen for murder. When formally charged Allen readily admitted the crime.
At her trial she said that on the day in question she was in a ‘funny mood’ and she (Nancy Chadwick) insisted in coming into Allen’s home. She said ‘I just happened to look around and saw the hammer in the kitchen. Then, on the spur of the moment I hit her with it. She gave a loud shout and that seemed to start me off more, and so I hit her a few times more, I don’t know how many.’ That is all she said at the trail which barely lasted 5 hours.
Allen was found guilty and the Judge sentenced her to death. Her friend, Mrs. Cook started a petition to have the sentence committed to life in prison. She worked hard on the petition but out of the town’s population of almost 30,000 only 162 people signed it.
While she was in the condemned cell Allen was very belligerent and argumentative right up to the end. She continually complained about the lack of creature comforts in her cell and when brought in her last meal (she had requested a plate of scrambled eggs) she kicked the tray scattering the food and saying “At least no one else will enjoy that meal.”
On the morning of the 12th January 1949, her execution day, she showed no remorse and went to the execution chamber without uttering another word.
Ansell, Mary Ann.
She was born in 1877 and worked as a house maid who poisoned her sister for a small amount of Insurance money.
Mary came from a family steeped in suffering from mental illness and was convicted of poisoning her sister Caroline Ansell, who was a patient in Leavesden Asylum. She laced a cake with phosphorus so that she could claim the £11 insurance money that would be due to her. Margaret was aged 22 at this time while her sister was 19 years of age.
In Victorian times attitudes to mental illness were very different to those of today, the policy being to confine patients diagnosed with such illness to large asylums which were being built all over England.
One such facility was Leavesden Mental Institute and was built at Abbotts Langley in Buckinghamshire. It was opened in 1870 to house ‘quiet and harmless imbeciles and very soon had over 1,500 patients, including just over 900 women, a huge number.
Caroline’s older sister, Mary Ann worked as a maid to a wealthy household in Coram Street, in the then very fashionable area of Bloomsbury. At that time she was engaged to be married to a very nice and popular young man. Neither of the couple had any money and so had to postpone their wedding. The cost of a Wedding Certificate in those days was 7s and sixpence. (37.5p in today’s money) Mary desperately wanted to get married to the young man and so devised a plot whereby she would insure her sister and then kill her so that she would obtain the insurance money. They could then get married. She paid a premium of three old pence a week (one and a half pence today) by paying this sum she would get £22 on the death of her sister.
She went to a local shop and bought some phosphorous, based on rat poison. She then obtained the ingredients for a cake mixing these ingredients and slowly adding the phosphorous into the mix. It looked very nice when it was taken from the oven. She wrapped it up and sent it to her sister, who was on ward 7 on the 9th March.
In the Asylum Caroline shared the cake with some friends. After eating the cake they all became very ill. Sadly, Caroline ate more of the cake than her friends and therefore suffered with greater pains. Meanwhile the Asylum was suffering with an outbreak of typhoid symptoms and it was quite a while before Caroline was seen by a doctor which she really needed urgently. When the doctor saw her he immediately admitted her to the infirmary but by that time it was to late to save the poor girl and she died in agony.
An autopsy was carried out on the body by Dr. Blair who declared that the cause of death was phosphorous poisoning. This was traced back to the cake which her ‘kind’ sister had sent to her.
She was then arrested by Superintendent Wood. While being interviewed she denied it had anything to do with her, in fact she said ‘I am as innocent a girl who ha ever been born.’
She appeared in court on the 30th June 1899 before Mr. Justice Matthew which lasted 2 days. The prosecution insisted the motive was money. A shop assistant ventured that Mary Ann bought the poison for the purpose of killing rats only. Evidence was put forward saying that ‘the cake’ was the cause of death and as such was premeditated murder by Mary Ann. The Jury returned after 2 hours and found her guilty. She was then sentenced to death by the Judge and returned to St. Albans Prison to wait her execution.
At 8am on Wednesday 19th July 1899 she was duly hanged. A crowd of some 2,000 people gathered outside the prison at this time, some on their knees praying for Mary Ann’s soul.
At 10am, two hours later the inquest was held within the prison by the prison surgeon, Dr. Eustace Henry Lipscombe, who as it was signed the death certificate as required by law. The chief warder told the inquest that the death was instantaneous and that her neck had been broken. Later the same day she was buried within the prison walls in an unmarked grave. Mary Ann secured her place in history as the youngest woman to be hanged in private; and the last woman hanged in the 19th Century.
Up until Mary Ann was hanged, there had not been a hanging at St. Albans sine 1880 when Thomas Wheeler was hanged. They didn’t have any gallows then and had to go out and borrow some to do the execution.
She was hanged at St. Albans on the 19th July 1899 by James Billington.
Barry, Mary Ann.
Mary Ann Barry was hanged at Gloucester Prison by Robert Anderson (Evans.) on Monday, 12th January 1874. She was aged 31 years and was executed alongside her partner in crime, 32 year old Edwin Bailey, for poisoning Edwin Bailey’s one year old daughter, Sarah.
With them on the gallows, set up in the quadrangle of Gloucester Gaol, was Edward Butt who had shot his girl friend. Mary became the last woman in England to suffer the ‘short drop’ hanging and it was reported that she struggled for 3 minutes at the end of the rope and had to be forced down into the pit by Anderson, the hangman. However, both men became still almost immediately.
Edwin Bailey was 32 years old and worked as a manager in a shoe shop and had a history of philandering, alcoholism and stealing petty cash. As a result his wife left him in 1872. One of his many ‘conquests’ was an 18 year old servant Mary Susan Jenkins who lived with her mother in Stapleton and, in October 1872, Mary gave birth to Bailey’s daughter Sarah.
Seventeen year old Mary Susan Jenkins (Known as Susan.) worked as a servant in Clifton, Bristol and had accused Edwin of sexually assaulting her in his shop, although she did not report the facts to the police. Strangely, she continued to visit his shop after this incident and built up some sort of relationship with him and as a result she became pregnant. The baby, Sarah was born on 23rd October 1872.
Bailey refused to accept the child’s paternity and Mary then found it necessary to appeal to the courts for maintenance. This was granted and bailey was required to pay five shillings a week for the maintenance of his daughter.
Mary Ann Barry (or Berry) was 31 years old and went to work for Bailey in his shop at Clifton, Bristol. It wasn’t very long before she became his common-la-wife after her husband had been sent to prison.
Shortly after Christmas in 1872, Mary Ann paid a visit to the Jenkins family. The visits became quite a regular occurrence over the next six months. It was obvious that the Jenkins family were extremely poor and Mary Anne told Mary’s mother that she should expect to hear from the Dorcus Society, a charitable organisation that she had contacted.
In August 1873, a package arrived, purportedly from the charity, containing a few stamps and some teething powders for the baby. On the 17th August, Mrs Jenkins gave the baby one of the powders and the child promptly died in Mary’s arms. When the other two powders were analysed they were found to contain strychnine.
During the visits to the Jenkins household by Mary Ann, the baby started teething and she recommended Steedman’s Soothing powders. These were not something the Jenkins family could afford however. On the 13th August 1873 Susan Jenkins received a letter apparently from the Cotham Dorcus Society, signed by Jane Isabella Smith and containing three packets labelled Steedman’s Soothing Powders. She gave one of these powders to her baby on the 17th August who quickly went into convulsions and died; her little body rigid and arched. A doctor was summoned who immediately was suspicious and called the police. Constable Critchley arrived and took charge of the other two packets. The policeman knew Edwin Bailey as he had dealing with him over the maintenance payments… He noticed that the handwriting on the letter and envelope were just like Edwin’s.
A post mortem was carried on the little baby that concluded that she had been poisoned by the contents of the packet. The packets were genuine but had had the original contents removed and the poison put in taking its place. This had been confirmed by the County analyst.
The Police had been making inquiries about a woman called ‘Ann’ who had been visiting the Jenkins family. They traced Mary Ann Barry to her lodgings in Bristol on the 14th September. Mary Ann was really Anne Salmond but had taken her common law husband’s name of Bailey. She was arrested and she told the police that Edwin sent her on errands for him and that included visiting the Jenkins family home. Nothing she said incriminated Edwin or actually helped herself. Edwin had gone to London to visit his wife, having already made arrangements to leave the country immediately afterwards, but she persuaded him to stay and they returned to Bristol where he was arrested at his shop.
They were both tried together before Mr. Justice Archibald at Gloucester Assizes on Tuesday 23rd December 1873, the day before Edward Butt. Mr. Justice Archibald told the Jury that Edwin Bailey and Mary Ann Barry are accused of causing the death of Sarah Jenkins by poison, or rather I ought to tell you that the prisoner Bailey has been committed as principal in the offence and Mary Ann Barry as an accessory before the fact.
The Jury, after listening to all the evidence found the couple guilty and the Judge sentenced them to death. The execution date being fixed for the 12th January 1874.
William Chalcraft, hangman was not available for this hanging due to his ill health and the job was offered to Robert Anderson (Evans) from Carmarthen, Wales by the under sheriff of Gloucestershire. Anderson suggested that the platform of the gallows be mounted over a pit to make it level with the prison yard and this modification was carried out. The platform was then enclosed by a four foot high black calico screen.
The hangings took place at 8am on the morning of and after the prisoners had been pinioned while still in their cells, they were led out in procession and headed by the chaplain. Accompanying Bailey and Barry was Edward Butt. The two men dressed in sits while Mary Ann wore a print dress.
The three prisoners knelt on the gallows reciting the Lords Prayer with the chaplain before the final preparations were carried out. Mary Ann was placed between the two men over the trap. Their legs were tied and the white hoods placed over their heads followed by the noose. The hangman and the chaplain shook hands with the three prisoners and then Anderson withdrew the bolt causing them to drop below the level of the calico screen. The two men died almost without a struggle but Mary Ann suffered longer and Anderson had to press down upon her shoulders to quicken her death.
The black flag was hoisted over the prison indicating the sentence had been carried out according to law. After the formal inquest their bodies were buried wearing their clothes they were hanged in, they were then buried in unmarked graves within the confines of the prison and quick lime was thrown into the coffins.
Mary Ann Barry became the last woman to suffer death by the ‘short hanging’ method of hanging in Britain and also the very last woman to be executed at Gloucester Gaol.
Short killed 20 year old Amelia Selina Phipps out of jealousy because she would not have a long term relationship with him. They were near neighbours on adjoining farms at Arlingham. Amelia was friendly towards Edward but simply did not want him, a fact that he seemed unable to accept. They had at least two violent quarrels and in the end he blasted her with a shotgun. He was duly arrested and charged with murder. His trial was at Gloucester Assizes on Christmas Eve 1873. The jury rejected his contention that the shooting had been an accident.
This woman has the odd distinctions of being the first woman to be hanged at Walton Prison in Liverpool and also by the man with the same surname.
She was executed by James Berry in 1887. Even more strangely they had previously met and danced together at a Police ball in August 1885. James Berry had married his wife, Sarah in 1874 and it is assumed he attended the Police Ball on his own. It was doubtful, whether Sarah would have approved him dancing with a very attractive woman just 2 years younger than himself. They obviously made an impression on each other as they both remembered that event 18 months before when they next met in Walton Gaol.
Elizabeth was just 31 years old, a widow who worked as a nurse in Oldham Workhouse for £25 per annum. Out of this sum she paid £12 a year to her sister who was looking after Elizabeth’s 11 year old daughter, Edith Annie.
One assumes that this put a big burden on Elizabeth’s finances and was probably the motive for murdering her daughter.
During the preceding five years Elizabeth had lost her husband, son and mother and there was a strong suspicion that she had poisoned these three people… These deaths were not further investigated due mainly to the time lapse.
Edith was invited to spend a few days with her mother at the Oldham Workhouse. She arrived on Wednesday 29th December together with a friend. They were both lively and fit children, enjoying going around the different wards. However, by Saturday, which was New Year’s day 1887, Edith had begun to feel unwell and had severe vomiting. Elizabeth was observed giving the child some sort of milky liquid from a glass. She took Edith to see the workhouse doctor, Doctor Patterson who after an examination prescribed some suitable medicine. After that she started to feel a little better and was seen the following day again by the same doctor. Elizabeth showed the doctor a towel with blood and vomit stains on it and while examining it the doctor noted an acidic smell coming from the towel.
On the Sunday morning Edith’s condition worsened and Doctor Patterson called in another doctor and both doctors concluded that Edith had taken some sort of corrosive poison. As there were red marks around her mouth. Her condition worsened rapidly on the Monday and she passed away early on the Tuesday morning. Doctor Patterson refused to sign the death certificate and requested a post mortem. As was expected the post mortem showed that Edith had been poisoned. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Elizabeth for the murder of her 11 year old daughter.
She appeared at the Liverpool assizes in the famous St. George’s Hall on the 21st February 1887, before Mr. Justice Hawkins. The trial lasted 4 days and during the trial expert medical evidence was presented as to the cause of death. The Jury were also told about two Insurance Policies. One of these was for £10 on Edith’s life with a burial Society. The other policy was a joint life policy which paid out £100 to either Elizabeth or Edith on the death of the other. In view of the overwhelming medical evidence and a strong motive, Elizabeth was found guilty for the wilful murder of her young daughter. She was taken back to Walton Gaol to await her execution.
At the time the two Liverpool prisons, namely Kirkdale and Walton shared a gallows which had to be transported from one Gaol to the other. This meant there was an awful lot of noise while they were erecting it. The gallows were being erected in the prison van shed which was close to the cell in which Elizabeth was in and she was then moved away whereby she couldn’t hear all the noise.
The execution was arranged to take place on Monday morning 14th March 1887. She had tried for a reprieve but that had been refused. On the Sunday afternoon, James Berry, the executioner arrived and went to Elizabeth’s cell and while on his way accompanied by the Prison Governor, he said to Berry, ‘I didn’t know you were going to hang an old flame, James?’ James was aware of her name but he didn’t recognise who it actually was. James spent time assessing Elizabeth’s height and weight and decided a drop of 6’ 6’’ would be enough.
Just before 8am on the Monday morning the procession set off from the cell to the gallows. Initially Elizabeth was able to walk quite well between the two warders but when she turned the corner and saw the noose that was waiting for her she also fainted with fear.
She recovered somewhat and then said’ Oh God forbid, God forbid.’ She had her wrists pinioned in front of her with a leather strap; another leather strap was fastened around the bottom of her skirt so that it didn’t blow up when she dropped. The free piece of rope hung down her back.
At a given signal the lever was pushed and she disappeared from view.
Outside the prison at this time there were gathered an estimated 800 people, while a few prayed others were talking with each other. On her death the black flag was hoisted over the prison indicating the sentence had been carried out.
Her body was cut down and after a formal inquest James Berry took a small lock of hair from her head to keep as a souvenir.
Her face was at peace and the expression on her face did not give the impression that she had suffered a violent death.
Her body was buried in an unmarked grave within the confines of the prison.
She was hanged at 9am on Monday 28th December 1868 at Lincoln by Thomas Askern for poisoning her husband with arsenic.
The death of Richard Biggadyke was so sudden and unexpected that an autopsy was immediately carried out, a very unusual thing to do. A murder was detected. Richard was a Lincolnshire well – sinker and as such made a very good living. They also took in lodgers which boosted their income.
Richard had to start work early and so when he left the house his wife would still be in bed. After a while he began to suspect that after he left she would be joined by one of the lodgers, John Proctor.
On the 30th September, Richard came home from work as usual in the evening and after eating his tea settled down in front of the fire. He had had a particular hard day at work when several things went wrong. He wanted a quiet evening for a good rest.
He was soon writhing in agony and was dead by the following morning. He had suffered an agonising and terrible death. The doctor when he called decided that he wanted the contents of Richard’s stomach tested. It was found to contain quantities of arsenic.
When challenged Mrs. Biggadyke said that she had seen John Proctor put some powder in her husbands drink. It is hard to imagine that if she had actually seen this happen she had not mentioned it before or questioned Proctor as to what he was doing. Proctor was duly arrested but later released. The police carried on with their inquires and it wasn’t long before they again came to the house where they arrested and charged Mrs. Biggadyke with her husband’s murder.
The Biggadyke home was very crowded for a 2-bedroomed hovel in the small village of Stickney in Lincolnshire. There lived 35 year old Richard Biggadyke, his 29 year old wife, Priscilla, their three children and two lodgers, a total of seven people. The two lodgers were 21 year old fisherman, George Ironmonger and 30 year old Thomas Proctor.
Proctor was described as ‘very repugnant’ but this did not prevent Priscilla having an affair with him and he may even have been responsible for her youngest child. Richard and Priscilla argued constantly, a situation that had been going on for a long, long time.
On the afternoon of Wednesday 30th September, 1868 Priscilla, Thomas and George sat down to a tea of tea and cakes, which Priscilla had just baked. A cake was saved for Richard and this he ate when he returned home about 6pm. Within minutes Richard was sick and the doctor was called. He could do nothing to alleviate his symptoms and Richard died about 6am the following morning.
Since the post mortem, Priscilla had been lodged at Spilsby House of Correction and the governor, John Phillips told the court that Priscilla made a statement saying that she had seen Thomas Proctor putting some white powder into her husband’s tea. She continued that she had also seen him put more white powder into the medicine the doctor had left for him.
At the conclusion of the Inquest Thomas and Priscilla were remanded in custody for trial on a charge of murder.
In December of 1868 the both appeared before the Winter Assizes at Lincoln. The Judge, Mr. Justice Byles, told the Jury that they could discharge Proctor. This was done and Priscilla faced the murder trial alone. The Jury took but just a few minutes to return a guilty verdict and she was sentenced to death. She protested her innocence still maintaining that Thomas Proctor was the guilty one. She continued this right until she was hanged.
She was hanged art the side of the Crown Court, Lincoln Castle, on Monday 28th December by Thomas Askern.
The day before the execution Priscilla ate heartily and attended a divine service at the chapel in the prison. She slept very well that night and was visited at 7am by the Rev. H. W. Richter, the chaplain, who again implored her, without avail, to confess her guilt.
At 8.45am she was pinioned by Askerne, the executioner and although she fainted under the operation, she immediately recovered. Five minutes later the sad procession left the castle cell and proceeded to the gallows. This was a walk of some 200 yards. The unhappy woman who was supported by two warders, moaned piteously, and appeared to take little heed of the chaplain while he was reading the service for the dying.
While on the way to the gallows she said to the warders’ I hope my troubles are ended, she then asked shall we be much longer?’
The service was brought to an end at the foot of the gallows. She was assisted up the steps of the gallows and placed on the trap door. When the noose had been affixed she stood firmly and without any assistance. The cap was placed over her face. The Cathedral bell tolled 9am and at that instant the bolt was drawn and she struggled for about three minutes until she was still, hanging in eternally.
A large crowd of people had gathered to watch the hanging but started to drift away when the black flag was raised on the keep tower indicating Priscilla had been executed now.
The Jury then proceeded to view the body, which was lying in a cell near the place of execution. The face and hands were quite white, the features well set, and there appeared to be no distortion whatsoever.
Mr. Broadbent, the surgeon at the castle, was then examined. The execution, in his opinion, was carried out with decency, humanity and the average amount of skill. The rope was adjusted in a different manner to what he had hitherto seen it. The rope was placed around the neck, with the knot under the chin, so that the deceased breathed for some minutes before death. The executioner had told him that by the body hanging in that way the head was thrown backwards on to the spine at the back, so that all sensation was destroyed, but art all events it did not prevent the deceased from breathing. She was about three and a half minutes in dying, from the fall of the drop.
From what the executioner had told him, it might be that moment she fell, her head being thrown back, all sensation might be destroyed.
The Jury returned a verdict to the effect that they were satisfied as to identity, and that the execution was carried out according to the sentence, properly and with humanity.
A report was circulated in the city to the effect that the ‘poor creature’ struggled at least for twenty minutes, and that her shrieks were heart rendering in the extreme. This, as will be seen from our report, was totally devoid of the truth, and is regretted that its author should have endeavoured, by disseminating it, to create a painful impression in the mind of the general public.
Fourteen years later Thomas Proctor confessed to the murder on his deathbed.