LIVERPOOL MERCURY, January 18th, 1913


When the quivering mortal whose fate is in the balance happens to be a winsome young woman, who has been a wife and mother.

There can be few who do not sink a sense of justice and retribution in a flood of pity and sympathy. This view is born out by the case of Florence Elizabeth MAYBRICK, 26 year old wife of a Liverpool Merchant, who on, Wednesday July 31st 1889, was placed in the dock at Liverpool Assizes and charged with , having at Garston, on May 11th, feloniously, wilfully and of her malice of aforethought, killed and murdered her husband, James MAYBRICK.

James MAYBRICK, Cotton Broker, died at his residence, Battlecrease House, Aigburth, on Saturday, 11th May 1889, under mysterious circumstances. Suspicion had arisen in those attending him during his illness, that his wife had been attempting to poison him.

She was convicted and sentenced to death on the, 7th August 1889. On the 22nd of August this sentence was committed by the Home Secretary to one of, penal servitude for life. She served 15 yrs and was released on the , 25th January 1904.

Two questions were raised by the study of the facts, did James MAYBRICK die from arsenic poisoning. If he did, was this administered by his wife, with the intent to murder him.

It was of no advantage to Mrs MAYBRICK that her defence had been entrusted to Sir Charles RUSSELL, in the opinion of many, the foremost advocate of his day, though not in Criminal Courts his signal-triumphs had been won. Attorney General in GLADSTONE’S, short lived administration in 1886, the first Roman Catholic since the reformation. In the April preceding Mrs MAYBRICK’S trial, he had concluded his speech before the Parnell Commission in the defence of the Irish Party, the greatest achievement of his forensic career.

Sir Henry LUCY, who met RUSSELL in Liverpool on the morning of Mrs MAYBRICK’S trial, spoke of RUSSELL’S confidence of his client’s aquital. As junior RUSSELL had the assistance of Mr [now Mr Justice] PICKFORD.

The jury was a Lancashire, not a Liverpool jury and according to Mr BINGHAM’S Q. C. Clerk, the precautions for secluding the jury was scandalously neglected. They spent their time in the billiard room of a local hotel, mixing freely with the ordinary frequenters.

RUSSELL called three witnesses from America who deposed to MAYBRICK’S habits of taking arsenic, while in the Country, that of a Chemist, Edwin Garnett HEATON, Exchange St, East, who identified MAYBRICK as a gentleman who he frequently supplied with a pick-me-up containing arsenic, for 18 mths previous to 1888. Increasing the dose from, 4-7 drops and 2-5 times a day. Equivalent to a third of a grain of white arsenic a day.

The police found a bottle in MAYBRICK’S office bearing the chemist’s name and address, described as, Spirits of Sol Volatile, a white liquid.

A Hairdresser was called as to the use of arsenic as a cosmetic and a Chemist as to the use of fly papers, by ladies, at times when no flies were present

Sir James POOLE, stated that MAYBRICK had told him in conversation that he was in the habit of taking, “poisonous medicines” to which Sir James replied, “How horrible, the more you take the more you require, you will go on till they carry you off”

RUSSEL dwelt with great force on the contrariety of the medical evidence and the failure to be certain of the cause of death.

Mr ADDISON for the prosecution, dealt with the medical evidence briefly, devoting most of his attention to the evidence that could point to Mrs MAYBRICK administering the poison. If however RUSSELL was right and the cause of death was in doubt, Mrs MAYBRICK was entitled to a verdict of aquital on a charge of wilful murder.

The summing up of Mr Justice STEPHENS lasted two days, after an absence of nearly three quarters of an hour the jury found Mrs MAYBRICK guilty of murder. The Judge sentenced her to death.

As he left St George’s Hall, Mr Justice STEPHENS was the object of hostile demonstrations from the large crowds gathered.

The TIMES the following day:-

Public not convinced of the prisoners guilt, Doctors differed beyond all hope of agreement on cause of death.

Petitions of reprieve poured in from all corners of the kingdom, half a million from the Liverpool Exchange alone. Petitions from Medical Practitioners who based their actions on the grounds that symptoms of arsenic poisoning during life and after death were insufficient.

Only discovery of arsenic in the viscera suggested such a cause of death. The amount found was less than any other previous case of arsenic poisoning.

A most sensible communication came from, Mr Auberon HERBERT, who asked wether it was necessary to inquire what irritant in the way of food caused the Gastro Enteritis in MAYBRICK, when his stomach had been used as, “a druggist’s waste pipe”, for such drugs as, strychnine, arsenic, jaborandi, cascara, henbane, morphia, prussic acid, papaine, iridin and others, administered during MAYBRICK’S illness.

Mr Fletcher MOULTON. Q. C. wrote, evidence for the prosecution had failed to negative the explanation that MAYBRICK’S death had been due to natural causes. Operating on a system that years of arsenic taking had developed a predisposition to gastro- enteritis.

Meetings in favour of Mrs MAYBRICK were held in Liverpool and London.

Members of Parliament signed petitions and other petitions were handed to the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Justice STEPHENS had a long interview with the Home Secretary, Mr Henry MATHEWS. Q. C, M. P.

On his return to Liverpool attending another conference lasting four hours in the presence of the Lord Chancellor, Lord HALSBURY.

Among other witnesses Dr TIDY was summoned

In the Lancet on the 17th August, an article was highly unfavourable to Mrs MAYBRICK, Professors from various parts of the country were asked for their opinions on the justice of the conviction, four supported and three dissented the verdict.

Further conferences were held by Mr Justice STEPHENS and the Home Secretary. Sir Charles RUSSELL after the trial had sent a memorandum to the Home Secretary, pointing out that, though the means of poisoning were in reach by Mrs MAYBRICK, there was no evidence of her administering the poison and that the symptoms of MAYBRICK’S illness were that of gastro enteritis.

The gallows had already been erected in Walton Jail, within hearing distance of Florence MAYBRICK when on the 22nd of August the Home Secretary’s decision was announced. To respite the capital sentence and to commute the punishment of penal servitude for life.

In 1892 when Mr ASGUITH succeeded Mr MATHEWS as Home Secretary, determined attempts were made to procure the release of Mrs MAYBRICK.

In 1891 a fresh body of evidence was submitted to Mr ASQUITH, three affidavits from Mrs MAYBRICK’S Mother, Baroness-de-Roques, her servant, and a Solicitors Clerk in Paris described the findings of Dr BAY’S of New York, prescription for a face wash and its making up by a Parisian Chemist 1878.

An interesting affidavit was that of Valentine BLAKE the son of an Irish Baronet, explaining the large quantities of arsenic, some black, [mixed with charcoal], some white, found in the MAYBRICK’S house, procured by MAYBRICK to use as a drug, by Mrs MAYBRICK to use as a face wash. There was no evidence Mrs MAYBRICK had procured such considerable quantities. If Mrs MAYBRICK had known of the presence of the large amounts of arsenic in the house, why? did she find it necessary to purchase fly paper.

Nether Mr ASQUITH nor his successor, Sir Mathew White RIDLEY’S efforts were successful in Florence MAYBRICK’S release. One man continued his efforts unremittingly, that of Sir Charles RUSSELL.

In 1895 he wrote to Florence MAYBRICK saying he had not relaxed his efforts to gain her release. In 1904 having served 15 years in Woking and Aylesbury Prisons, Mrs MAYBRICK was released from the latter in January 1904, shortly afterwards leaving England for America.


Funeral of James MAYBRICK 1889

Baroness de ROQUES claims protection from Freemasons throughout the world 1889

Snippets on the Maybricks 1889

Death of Michael MAYBRICK 1913

Copyright 2002 / To date