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Murder in Surfleet


Elizabeth wife of Joseph Warriner, of Surfleet, was charged on suspicion of having, by administering posion, wilfully murdered John Warriner, the son of the said Joseph Warriner by a former wife.

The first witness was Mr T. Page, labourer in the employ of Mr Warriner, a farmer : witness knew him and the prisoner very well. Warriner when a widower, married the prisoner : he had one child John, by a former wife, about eleven years of age, and three by the prisoner ; one of them three, the other two the third was born since the supposed murder. On the 27th of November last, about nine in the morning, witness was in his house which is about 300 yards from Warriner’s : the prisoner came running in great agitation, and begged of him “to run was fast as he could to their house, for their lad had hung himself in the stable” he hastened immediately to the stable, and found the lad lying on the floor, insensible, and found the lad lying on the floor, insensible, and to all appearance nearly dead. A halter was hanging over him, tired to the rack : a knot was tied on it close to his head-stall, or the upper part, as it hung on the rack ; it was a fast knot, and would not draw, and the halter had no appearance of any person’s having been in it. The boy had a handkerchief round his throat, which witness took off, and unbuttoned his short collar, but found no mark or injury round his neck. He then took child into the house, where he also found prisoner: he placed the child in a chair by the fire, but he still continued insensible and “In a shivering way” after being there half an hour, the prisoner left him, and ran to fetch a young woman named Alice Styles, with whose assistance they got the lad to bed. While in the house the prisoner said that the childs milk did not agree with him that morning.

The next witness was Alice Styles of Surfleet Seas End. She said when she arrived at prisoner’s house she saw the lad in a chair with his head on Page’s knee, he appeared very bad, and lay as if almost dead. Mrs Warriner got him some brandy and water, but he would not take it, for his teeth were set fast in his head. When she had been there some time she proposed to the mother to send for a Doctor, but she replied “I will not send for a Doctor”. The prisoner told her that the lad had refused to eat his breakfast, and said that it did not taste like milk : upon she asked “what did it taste like, and whether like broth?” That soon after the boy had become very sick, and went to lay down in the stable. A great deal more was said on that subject, and in the course of the conversation the prisoner acknowledged that “she had given him some stuff in his milk, for that her husband led her such a life, and he was such a base boy” and added “for Heaven’s sake, Alice don’t say anythin, for you’ll hang me” she also said “One woman had burnt, and another had slept her chilld to death, and what was she to be hanged for any more than they?” The prisoner continued raving and swearing, and wished that the child might die. About four or five o’clock he died, having been insensible and in great pain the whole time. Witness said to her “there are no marks around his neck, how could you say that he had hanged himself?” Upon which she again repeated she had given him some stuff in his milk and that he was well enough when he got up.

After that, nobody was in the house all day apart from the witness, prisoner, the deceased and two young children, until the return of her husband at 7 o’clock : witness went out to meet him, and upon entering the home he said to his wife “Damn your eyes, you’ve done it at last!” To which she replied “O, Warriner! How can you say so” he then called for a candle, and on one being brought he threw the candlestick with violence at her head, swearing in a dreadful manner. He repeated to her “you have poisoned him!, you have poisoned him!” He then went to fetch a Doctor.

Mr T. Brocklesby, surgeon, of Gosberton, went to Warriner’s house about seven o’clock in the evening, he found the body dead, and a great deal of saliva from his mouth, particularly offensive. Witness examined his neck, and found no marks of violence about him, but did not proceed at that time to ascertain the cause of death : heard Warriner accuse his wife of having poisoned the boy : she said “what have I done it with” he replied “with the white Mercury in the desk, which you bought at Heardson’s shop” this she denied. The husband added “This is what I have always expected everytime I have returned home” witness examined the body again on the Saturday. They opened the body and examined the stomach and intestines :the stomach was much inflamed but the throat was not injured, witness was of the opinion that a rope had never been around the neck. The contents of the stomach revealed a large quantity of arsenic dissolved in it.

The prisoner being called for her defence, loudly protested her innocence, and wished that she might struck a deal on the spot, and never enter the kingdom of heaven, if she harmed the child : she would have sent for a Doctor but it was too late. Two witnesses were called E. Doubleday and Margaret Tupholme, who gave her an excellent character for humanity, she was a tender hearted woman, and kind to her neighbours.

After a most excellent and impartial charge by the learned judge, in which he laid particular emphasis on the prisoner’s repeated assertions that the child had hanged himself, after the impossibility of it had been clearly proved, the jury found a verdict of Guilty.

The judge then proceeded to pass upon her the awful sentence of the law : in doing which, he pointed out the enormity of her offence, in that she, who had bound herself by marrying the father to be the protector and second mother of his child, had acted part of a cruel and unnatural murderer. During the former part of the trial she conducted herself in the most composed and indifferent manner ; but on receiving the awful sentence to death all her fortitude forsook her ; she began to weep violently, and stamp on the ground, exclaiming “O , my God! O my God!” Her child which she had suckled during the trial, was taken from her at the same time and the wretched woman appeared

Thank to Find My Family

The Stanford Mercury reported

At the hanging the reporter told the crowd


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