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Times (London)
6 June 1889

THE AIGBURTH POISONING CASE

The inquest on the body of the late Mr. James Maybrick, cotton merchant, of Liverpool, who died at his residence, Battlecrease house, Aigburth, under circumstances stated in The Times, was resumed yesterday in the Garston Reading room, before Mr. S. Brighouse, county coroner. The room, which will accommodate about 500 persons, was filled, those present including a large proportion of well dressed ladies, and there was a large crowd out side the building. Mrs. Maybrick, who was brought from gaol, was present but was kept in the library.

Superintendent Bryning and Inspector Baxendale again appeared for the police; Mr. Pickford for Mrs. Maybrick; Mr. Mulholland watched the case on behalf of Mr. Brierley (whose name has been mentioned in evidence); and Mr. E.G. Steele represented the deceased's relatives.

On the application of Mr. Pickford, made as a consequence of the recent exhumation of the deceased's body, it was agreed, after some discussion, to proceed first with medical evidence as to the cause of death, Superintendent Bryning stating that he had no objection, his only object being to have an exhaustive inquiry.

Dr. Richard Hopper, physician and surgeon, Liverpool, who had been medical adviser to Mrs. Maybrick from April last to the present, and medical adviser to the deceased from 1881 to last December, stated that during that time had had treated Mr. Maybrick for deranged digestion and nervous disorders, prescribing strychnine and nux vomica but never arsenic. He believed that the Maybricks lived happily; but on the 30th Match last Mrs. Maybrick visited witness with a black eye and said she desired a separation from her husband. Witness persuaded her to put the thought aside. The same day he visited Battlecrease house, and, having heard that on the previous night the parties had had a serious quarrel about matters which had occurred when they went to the Grand National, he endeavoured, at deceased's request, to effect a reconciliation. Witness had a conversation with Mrs. Maybrick, who expressed repugnance for her husband. On the 1st of April witness called again, by arrangement, when a conversation arose regarding Mrs. Maybrick's debts, and she stated the amount. The quarrel appeared to refer to a gentleman, whose name was not mentioned.

In cross examination, Dr. Hopper stated that he had prescribed the drugs mentioned as tonics. The deceased was in the habit of taking medicines recommended by friends, and he had told witness that he sometimes took double doses, and that when he left America, in 1882, he was acquainted with the properties of arsenic as an anti periodic. In June, 1888, Mrs. Maybrick told witness about deceased's habit of taking the poison, and desired that he might be spoken to about it. Witness left the parties reconciled on his visit to Battlecrease.

Dr. Richard Humphreys, surgeon, said that on the 29th of April he was called to Battlecrease to attend the deceased, whom he found in bed. Mrs. Maybrick was sitting in the room. Deceased expressed fear of paralysis on the stomach, and stated that the symptoms had come on after breakfast, and he attributed them to a strong cup of tea. Tea had produced the same symptoms before, and he had resolved to give it up. He also complained of headaches, which he had for nearly a year, dating from the Ascot races. This was the Sunday after the Wirral races which deceased had attended. Deceased also said that he felt a stiffness in the legs, and on dining with a friend after the races he spilt some wine owing to weakness in his arm. He added that his sight was affected, near objects appearing far off. Witness ordered soda water and milk and prescribed prussic acid. Being called again to Battlecrease in the evening, he found deceased still in bed, and he spoke of a stiffness in the lower part of the legs. The patient was comparatively well. This continued until May 3, change of diet having been ordered. About midnight on Thursday, May 3, witness again saw the deceased, who complained of great pain in the thighs, which were rubbed with turpentine, and of having been twice sick since coming from business, adding that some inferior sherry had made him as bad as ever. On visiting deceased next day he found that the pain in the stomach had disappeared, but on the following day (Saturday) deceased was again sick after taking anything; consequently witness advised him not to take anything whatever. On Sunday Mr. Maybrick was better, but complained of a nasty, filthy taste on his tongue and in his throat. Next day, May 6, witness found deceased's throat slightly red. The disagreeable taste continued and caused much irritation. Except for his throat, the patient was on the 7th of May much better. Tinctures were prescribed, but although for a little time his throat was improved it again became worse. On the 9th of May he suffered from throat and bowels, there being great irritation and pain. Mr. Maybrick was then under the care of a nurse. On the 10th he was visited three times by witness and also by Dr. Carter. Next day the illness had become dangerous and deceased could not swallow. That evening he died. Witness decided in his own mind on Friday night that the result would be fatal, but had never remarked to any one that Mr. Maybrick was sick unto death and did not remember telling Mrs. Maybrick that she alone was to attend her husband. He did not believe either that he said that, or that he told Mrs. Maybrick no one but she was to give the patient food and medicine. On Sunday or Monday he suggested to Mrs. Maybrick that another doctor should be called in, but she replied that so many medical men had seen her husband, and he had derived such small benefit from their attendance, that she did not think a second doctor necessary.

Superintendent Bryning - Can you tell me whether a small quantity of arsenic has any appreciable taste? - I should say not.

Can arsenic be taken in fatal quantities without exciting suspicion? - It has been taken in certain cases.

I want you to describe what the symptoms of a person suffering from arsenical poisoning are? - The symptoms of arsenical poisoning, as described in books, not from my own knowledge, depend entirely upon the dose. If a large dose is taken then you will have all symptoms of cholera; then if a moderate dose is taken you will have a diminished degree of this. You may not have so much diarrhoea, vomiting, or pain in the stomach, or perchance none of the symptoms will appear; but the patient or the person will be struck down as if with a large dose of narcotic. He will be comatized, he will be asleep, or he may have convulsions. Then if a small dose is taken once there will be no effect at all most probably. If a small dose is taken for a prolonged period you may have diarrhoea, pains in the stomach, vomiting, redness of the eyes, falling out of the hair, and skin eruptions of various kinds.

In reply to further questions witness said that a person might recover from the first effects of the poison and yet die from exhaustion, and, as a matter of fact, the quantity found in the stomach and organs was not a criterion for the quantity actually taken. Witness had prescribed for the deceased Fowler's solution of arsenic of potash, the dose being one fifteenth of a drop every hour. Deceased complained that the medicine hurt his throat, and after a few doses it was discontinued. The solution, however, contained only 1 per cent of arsenic and 99 per cent of water.

In reply to the superintendent, witness described the appearances presented on the post mortem examination which he had made of the deceased's body on the 13th of May, in company with Drs. Carter and Barron, and gave minute details as to the condition of the various organs of the body. On the 28th of May he further examined the body when it was exhumed.

Superintendent Bryning - Having regard to the post mortem appearances described and the symptoms you observed before death, and the symptoms described by the witnesses, what is your opinion of the cause of death? - That they are consistent with some irritant poison.

I will put that again. What is your opinion of the cause of death? - That it is consistent with an irritant poison. The actual cause of death was exhaustion set up by an irritant poison. (Sensation.)

Did you form the opinion before the death of the deceased that he suffered from the effects of some irritant poison? - Of some irritant poison, I did.

When did you first think that the deceased was suffering from some irritant poison? - When the diarrhoea came on. It was after the Wednesday, at any rate.

The Coroner - Can you say that on the Friday you thought he was suffering from some irritant poison? - You see I was under the impression that he might be, so that I cannot say exactly. I was put in a peculiar position, because it had been suggested to me. That strengthened my opinion after the suggestion.

After the suggestion was made and after you say you formed your opinion that the deceased was suffering from some irritant poison, will you tell the jury what the symptoms were that led you to that belief? - It was the diarrhoea and the straining together with a great failure of the heart that was taking place.

The Coroner - Are the jury to understand, Dr. Humphreys, that the deceased before death presented symptoms that were consistent with subsequent death from arsenical poisoning? - Certainly.

Before the suggestion was made to you, did the symptoms seem to be explainable? - Explainable when the suggestion was made as to what might probably be the cause.

Before the suggestion was made as to what might possibly be the cause? - Certainly, from what I assumed to be acute congestion of the stomach.

The Coroner - Then we come back to this - that these symptoms were consistent with acute congestion of the stomach or with the taking of an irritant poison? - Certainly.

You thought they arose from acute congestion of the stomach until the suggestion was made that they arose from the other source? - Certainly.

You are of opinion now, as Mr. Bryning put it, taking into consideration all that you saw during life, taking into consideration the result of the post mortem, that the deceased died from exhaustion consequent upon the taking of an irritant poison? - I am.

Being cross examined, Dr. Humphreys said that when he advised that a second doctor should be called in he was confident that the deceased would recover, but he was anxious about the case because he did not know much about the patient. Up to the Wednesday before Mr. Maybrick's death the symptoms did not suggest poisoning. On that day a suggestion of poisoning was made. He considered the case unsatisfactory. Deceased described the sensation in his throat as being like a hair continually annoying him. To relieve the dryness of the throat witness prescribed japonandie - a medicine introduced into this country about ten years ago from Africa or America. When taken in large doses this was a poison. Not knowing that the deceased was suffering from the effects of arsenic, he considered it in some form a proper medicine to use to alleviate the symptoms.

Mr. Pickford - In what way? - Because with arsenic I had before alleviated persons suffering in a similar manner.

Deceased was not suffering pain? - No, only discomfort.

The foreman of the jury - When you were called in on the 28th of April can you tell us what you believed to be the malady from which Mr. Maybrick suffered? - From the condition of his tongue he was evidently suffering from dyspepsia.

Why did you refuse to give a certificate of death? - Because arsenic was found.

Mr. Pickford here interposed, and witness said he refused to give the certificate for certain reason of his own.

Dr. William Carter, Liverpool, said he was called in on the 7th of May, and found deceased's throat dry, read, and glazed, and although the tongue was dirty his breath was quite sweet. After a consultation with Dr. Humphreys, who described the course of his illness and treatment, it was agreed that the deceased should take japonandie, chlorine water to wash his mouth, and small and frequent quantities of food. On May 10 deceased became worse, and a new symptom developed, his hands becoming white and bloodless, while he grew weak in spite of every effort to support him and complained greatly of sleeplessness. On Saturday he gradually lost consciousness and died. On the 9th of May Mr. Michael Maybrick handed witness a small bottle of Neave's food, and on the 10th of May a bottle two thirds full of Valentine's meat juice. These he took away with him. The bottle of Valentine's meat juice he examined the same day.

Superintendent Bryning - What result did you get from it? - I found there was a steel gray deposit upon the copper foil which I boiled with it with a little hydrochloric acid. I dried this and put it in a dry test tube till next morning, when I further examined it and found that it was arsenic.

By the Coroner - I did not attempt to make a quantity analysis. I got the deposit immediately in the copper, and I felt that there was a good deal of arsenic; it was so immediate. But I did not attempt to find the quantity.

Superintendent Bryning - On the 14th did you make a post mortem examination of the deceased? - I did, and Dr. Humphreys and Dr. Barron were present. Dr. Humphrey's statement as regards it was absolutely correct.

Did you assist at the further post mortem examination? - I did.

You have heard Dr. Humphreys describe what was done? - That is perfectly correct.

Having had the advantage of hearing the witnesses describe the symptoms exhibited by Mr. Maybrick, and having seen him yourself at various times during life, and having assisted to make the post mortem examination, what in your opinion was the cause of death? - Irritant poison.

The Coroner - Are you prepared to say what kind of irritant poison, doctor? - Most probably arsenic, Sir.

Did you form this opinion previous to death? - I did.

On which day of your visits did you form this opinion? - The presumption was raised on Thursday, the 9th; he was then suffering from the effects of some irritant poison.

Was your opinion strengthened on the Friday and Saturday? - Very much. I felt morally certain then. I was as certain as any one can be without actually demonstrating it. I was very strongly of opinion that the cause was poison.

Then did you treat the case as one of poisoning? - We did, Sir.

Will you tell the jury what were the symptoms displayed by the deceased that enabled you to come to this conclusion? - From vomiting, which was extremely obstinate, urgent, and continued; the diarrhoea which followed it, and tenesmus, unceasing thirst, the choking feeling in the throat, and gradual failure of the circulation, followed by sinking. That was a concourse of symptoms which, in the absence of any organic disease, impressed me strongly with the belief that it must be due to some irritant. Then there is the negative fact that there was no disease in the organs to account for this. Of course that was an important negative.

That was found by the post mortem examination? - No, the vital examination. The heart, lungs, and brain were all sound, and the liver also, as far as we could determine.

Mr. Pickford - Did you form this opinion before any suggestion was made to you? - No; the suggestion was made on the second day of my visit.

And you did not form any opinion that he was suffering from poison until after the suggestion was made to you and Dr. Humphreys? - No; but I thought from the account I heard of his dining at the Wirral races and the illness that followed, not knowing the gentleman, that he had been indulging somewhat freely, and had taken - I expressed this opinion to his brother - probably some irritant wine or decomposed food - as I expressed it, a very grave error of diet. I did not suspect any one, but in the first instance I said it was not a disease per se, but that it was something that was taken that had caused all these things. By poison I should comprehend decomposed tinned meat. I heard this gentleman had been at the races, and that it was a race dinner. I thought that wine might have entered into it, and as his mode of living was unknown to me entirely, I said, when pressed for an explanation, that some grave error of diet must have been committed which must have set up this irritation.

The Coroner - But from your further opportunities of observing the deceased and the post mortem you are now of opinion that the deceased had died from the effects of an irritant poison? - I am. Most probably arsenic? - Yes.

On May 7 did you say anything to Mrs. Maybrick that would lead her to say that her husband was sick unto death? - Certainly not. I never spoke to Mrs. Maybrick except on the first day, and then not knowing who she was.

If on the 8th she said, "Her husband is sick unto death," it was not from anything you had said to her? - No; quite the contrary; I thought he would recover.

Did you say anything to the effect that it would depend how long his strength would hold out? - No.

Dr. Alexander Barron, Liverpool, who was present at the post mortem and exhumation, confirmed the evidence of the other doctors, and arrived at the conclusion that death resulted from an irritant poison.

Arthur B. Flatman, who had various addresses in London, including 82 Chapel street, Cavendish square, identified some letters and a telegram as having been received by him on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of March last.

After a discussion with Mr. Pickford and Mr. Mulholland, the Coroner said - First of all the name of Mr. Mulholland's client is not mentioned in the letters in any shape or form. They go to this, that the wife of the deceased communicates with the witness now before you by telegram and letters, and asserts that her sister in law and her husband - that is to say, Mr. and Mrs. T. Maybrick - are about to come to town, and as their agent she makes the necessary arrangements for their arrival. Bear in mind that the Grand National is on March 29, and Mrs. Maybrick returned on the 28th, Thursday. On the 16th, the Saturday before the Grand National, a telegram was sent; then a letter on the 18th, one on the 19th, and then a letter of no date; but the text of the letter shows it must have followed the one of the 19th, so I think you may take it that it was sent on the 20th. The telegram and letters came to this, that Mrs. Maybrick, the wife of the deceased, said - "My brother in law and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. T. Maybrick, are coming to town. Can they stay in your house?" There is a reply, I presume, because arrangements are made for Mr. and Mrs. T. Maybrick to stay with the witness at the hotel.

Mr. Mulholland - The jury understand that this gentleman keeps an hotel, and she occupied rooms. Having read these letters, did, on March 21, a lady present herself at your hotel? - I presume she did from my books. I have no other knowledge; I produce my books. I only know that someone, purporting to be Mrs. Maybrick, came to my house, and stayed there from the 21st to the 24th. Alfred Schweasal, head waiter at the hotel, stated that he remembered a lady, whom he understood to be Mrs. Maybrick, coming to the hotel on the afternoon of the 21st of March. She had with her a portmanteau and dressing bag. Witness was sent into the library where Mrs. Maybrick was sitting and on returning into court stated that she was the person who came to the hotel. The day she arrived a young gentleman came to the house about half past six o'clock and took her out to dinner and to the theatre. Witness did not see her return to the hotel, and she said her husband was staying out late.

Superintendent Bryning - The next morning the 22nd had Mrs. Maybrick been joined by another person? - Yes, Mr. Maybrick.

What name did he give? - It was her husband, as far as I know.

They stayed at the hotel as man and wife, I understand? - Yes.

How long did they stay on those conditions? - From the Thursday to the Sunday morning, from the 21st to the 24th.

Do you mean they slept in the same bedroom? - Yes.

By the Coroner - The gentleman who called on the day of her arrival called the next morning to see Mrs. Maybrick, but she was not in, and he did not call any more.

Superintendent Bryning - And on the Friday morning you found a gentleman at the breakfast table who you believed to be the husband of the lady? - I saw him at the breakfast table. From that time up to the Sunday they lived together as man and wife.

Who is the gentleman? Have you seen him in this room?

Witness (standing) - To the best of my belief he is that gentleman there (pointing at Mr. A. Brierley).

This statement elicited some hissing, whereupon the Coroner said that if there was the slightest manifestation of feeling he would have the Court cleared.

Mr. Mulholland - Was the gentleman who called on Thursday the same gentleman you saw there afterwards? - No.

That gentleman took her out to the theatre, and you know nothing more about him except that he called to see her next morning and she was out? - Yes, he never saw her again.

When did the gentleman you have identified come? - I saw him at the breakfast table the morning after the lady arrived.

But he was not the gentleman who took her out the former evening? - No.

Thomas Lowery, a youth employed as clerk by the deceased at his office in Liverpool, and Eliza Busher, who cleaned out the office, gave evidence about the deceased lunching at the office. Mrs. Isabel Briggs, Sefton park, Liverpool, intimate friend of Mr. and Mrs. Maybrick, stated that after Mrs. Maybrick was taken into custody she, in witness's presence, wrote to Mr. Alfred Brierley a letter, which the Coroner read, as follows:-

"Battlecrease, Aigburth.
I am writing to you to give me every assistance in your power in my present fearful trouble. I am in custody without any of my family with me at present and without money. I have cabled to my solicitor in New York to come at once. In the meantime send some money for present needs. The truth is known about my visit to London, and your last letter is in the hands of the police. Appearances are terribly against me, but before God I swear I am innocent.
Florence Maybrick."

Mr. Pickford - About this letter, did you know whom she was writing it to? - Yes.

At the time she was writing? - Yes.

Did you advise as to writing to this gentleman or not? - I warned her that anything she wrote would be handed to the police.

Do you mean you cannot recollect whether or not you suggested she should write to this gentleman? - I might have said if he knew he would send her money - help.

She had told you, I suppose, she was in want of money? - Yes.

And it was then you suggested if this gentleman knew he might send her money? - Yes. If he knew she was in trouble he would help her.

And then she wrote? - yes.

Did you tell her it was your intention to hand the letter over to the police? - I did. I said she was not to write anything the police could not see.

But did you tell her before she wrote the letter that you yourself intended to hand it to the police? - Certainly. I told her to telegraph and not to write.

What difference would that have made, if I may ask?

The Coroner - Do you wish the jury to understand that although she was writing that letter she was perfectly persuaded that as soon as she had one it would be handed to the police? - Certainly.

Mr. Steele - About this letter, did you think the police would take a copy of it and send it on through the post to Mr. Brierley? - Certainly I did.

Mr. Mulholland - You suggested she should write to Mr. Brierley, but warned her you would show it to the police before it went? - Yes.

Mrs. Briggs also testified to the finding of several bottles and letters which were in Mrs. Maybrick's room.

The inquest was adjourned until today, and Mrs. Maybrick was removed to a neighbouring police station in presence of a large crowd, but order was maintained by a strong force of police.


Related pages:
  Florence Maybrick
       Dissertations: A Coroner for All Seasons: Sir Samuel Brighouse 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 1 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 14 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 16 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 2 June 1891 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 23 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 25 October 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 26 May 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 29 May 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 6 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 7 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Bluefield Daily Telegraph - 6 June 1905 
       Press Reports: Colorado Spring Gazette - 10 August 1889 
       Press Reports: Daily Northwestern - 18 March 1891 
       Press Reports: Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel - 5 November 1889 
       Press Reports: Freeborn County Standard - 15 August 1889 
       Press Reports: Freeborn County Standard - 18 August 1889 
       Press Reports: Freeborn County Standard - 24 October 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 20 May 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 28 May 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 29 May 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 7 June 1889 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 1 August 1889 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 13 August 1889 
       Ripper Media: My Fifteen Lost Years 
       Ripper Media: This Friendless Lady 
       Suspects: Florence Maybrick 
       Suspects: The Trial of Florence Maybrick 
  James Maybrick
       Authors: An Interview with David Maybrick 
       Dissertations: Bravo for Maybrick 
       Dissertations: Bristol University Surface Analysis of Maybrick Watch - 3... 
       Dissertations: Dear Diary 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Watch - Scientific Analysis 
       Dissertations: Turgoose Report on the Maybrick Watch - 23 August 1993 
       Message Boards: James Maybrick 
       Press Reports: Marion Daily Star - 7 December 1889 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - James Maybrick 
       Ripper Media: The Ripper Diary: The Inside Story 
       Suspects: Background of the Maybrick Family 
       Suspects: James Maybrick - Index 
       Suspects: Photographs of Battlecrease Mansion 
       Suspects: Photographs of the Maybrick Grave