Saturday, 5 June 2010

Murder in the Family

I've just returned from an impromptu family history journey to the midlands (which I'll post about later) and found a message from my husband's aunt:

I was telling Dad about the mistress of Dr Palmer the poisoner being one of our rellies. The one that had a child by him and sent him to stay with Dr Palmer and the unfortunate child was killed by him. Do you have any information on that?

I certainly do not but I'm keen to know more!

Dr. William Palmer was born in Rugeley, Staffordshire in 1824.  He was hanged for the murder of John Parsons Cook, but is also believed to have poisoned his mother-in-law, wife and four of their five children as well as many others.  He became known as "The Rugeley Poisoner" and "The Prince of Poisoners" but there is still some doubt as to whether he was guilty of any of these crimes.

When I asked my husband if he knew anything about this, he said that his grandfather told him that his grandfather was taken by his father to see the hanging but he wasn't 100% certain.  I did some immediate checking of facts and if that story is true (about seeing the hanging), it would have been his great grandfather, Charles, who was taken by HIS father, Jonathan RICHARDS.  This Charles was born in Rugeley, February 1851 and would have been 5 years old when taken on this grisly day trip -  Dr Palmer was hanged at Stafford on the 14th June 1856.

If the 'mistress story' is true, then she may have been a sister of Jonathan or his wife Ann LEES but I don't have any other information at hand so at this stage it could refer to anybody.  The Staffordshire Past-Track website seems to acknowledge that Dr Palmer was "overly fond of the ladies" so this story has some merit.

I had come across Dr Palmer before - close followers of my blog will recognise my ties to the PALMER surname and I had previously come across 'the good doctor' in my search but found no connection.  It would be very interesting to find a family connection after all - even through the back door (so to speak).

If you would like to know more about Dr Palmer, please visit the Staffordshire Past-Track website (also the source of the above image) and WilliamPalmer.co.uk.

(image on the right of Dr Palmer's prison cell from the National Library of Medicine site).

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