Evil Female Murderers. Part 9

Three Promenades, North Shore, Blackpool, c,1954,
Louisa May Merrifield, the so-called Blackpool Poisoner, was hanged at Machester's Strangeways Prison for killing her employer.
Louisa May Merrifield was employed by 79 year old bed ridden widow Sarah Ricketts to be her housekeeper at bungalow at 339 Devonshire Road.
The Devonshire Road bungalow.
Louisa Merrifield with her husband Alfred.
County Gaol now Tullamore Yarns Ltd.

Merrifield, Louisa

Louisa was born in 1906; her parents lived in a comparative poor position. The children were poorly nourished.

By the age of 46 years she had been married 3 times, the last one being to 71 year old Alfred Merrifield who she married in the early months of 1953.

During the war years she was arrested for a ration book fraud and sent to prison. By the time of her third marriage she had lost the custody of her 4 children through neglect and excessive drinking.

She couldn’t seem to hold onto any man or a job; she had had 20 domestic jobs in just 3 years.

On the 12th March, just a month after her third marriage she and her husband became housekeepers and live –in companions to Sarah Ann Rickets, a spinster who was almost 80 years of age. Sarah owned a bungalow at No. 339, Devonshire Road, North Shore, Blackpool. She was grouchy sort of woman and was always moaning about something or other.

The Merrifield’s indulged in ‘elder abuse’ and neglect, Sarah often complained that she was not getting sufficient to eat and was often hungry. She also complained that her ‘housekeepers’ wasted her money on buying rum, of which Sarah didn’t drink.

Meanwhile Louisa was going around and boasting that she was going to soon inherit a £3,000 house. One day someone asked who had died and she explained that the person leaving her the property wasn’t dead yet but soon would be.

Strangely Louisa’s prophecy turned out to be quite correct as Sarah passed away during the night of 14th April 1953, just a month after Louisa took the housekeeper’s job.

It was also only 3 days after she made the prediction, how accurate was that prediction – but not before she drafted a new will which happened to leave the bungalow to be shared by the Merrifields.

Mrs. Ricketts had some rather strange dietary habits. Apparently she was very fond of very sweet jams which she ate directly from the jar by the spoonful, washed down with rum or a bottle of stout. Louisa having got the will made in her favour, capitalised on these peculiar habits by adding Rodine, a phosphorus based rat poison, to the jam.          meliora.co.uk

Although it was obvious that Sarah was very ill that night, Louisa didn’t call for a doctor until the next morning. Louisa explained “as the old woman (Sarah) was clearly beyond help, she didn’t want to call the doctor out as it would have wasted his time.

On the morning of her death Louisa contacted the Salvation Army and asked them to Play ‘Abide with me’ outside the house.

This made the doctor extremely suspicious and as a result refused to sign the death Certificate in order to register the death. He also insisted that he wanted an autopsy before her signed any type of document in regards to the death.

The result of the autopsy clearly showed Sarah’s death was entirely due to being poisoned. In fact it was registered as Phosphorus poisoning, administered in the form of a rat poison called ‘Rodine.’

The police searched the premises it didn’t reveal and indication of any sort of rat poison. However, enquiries at the local pharmacy showed that Louisa had recently purchased the stuff and had also signed the poison register.


Two weeks after Sarah died the police arrested Louisa and a few days later Alfred was arrested too. They were both charged with murder.

The trial opened at Manchester Assizes in July 1953 and the evidence clearly showed that Louisa was guilty. On the 20th July 1953 the Jury recorded a ‘Guilty’ verdict. In his summing up and before pronouncing the sentence the judge said” yours was as wicked and cruel a murder as I ever heard tell of.”

However, the Jury could not come to a decision about Alfred and he was released. He inherited a half share of the bungalow. He appeared in sides shows in Blackpool for a few years. He died in 1962 at the age of 80 years.

Louisa was executed on the 18th September 1953 by Albert Pierrpoint at Strangeways Gaol.

Louisa’s ghost is said ‘to haunt’ the cell she once inhabited at Strangeways Prison.

Shield Margaret.

“If no one will shoot the scoundrel then I will do it myself” so shouted Margaret Shield when she and her brother, Lawrence were released from a short prison sentence for assaulting their ‘arch-enemy,’ Patrick Dunne, aged 30 years.

Margaret Shield was true as her word. She waylaid Dunne on his way home from the pub at Phillipstown, County Offaly She shot him with her pistol. Then not content with that, she cut his throat while he was still alive and laying on the ground, while her brother, who was with her, ignominiously fled the scene.

The Jury at Tullamore Assizes were told that the feud was triggered by a dispute over land ownership. The Shields were jointly charged and convicted of Patrick Dunne’s murder.

They were hanged on Friday 27th May 1870 at Tullamore Prison. These were the first hangings in Ireland carried out within the prison walls.

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Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.

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