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Times (London)
7 June 1889

THE AIGBURTH POISONING CASE

Yesterday Mr. Brighouse, County Coroner, resumed the inquest on the body of Mr. James Maybrick, cotton merchant, Liverpool, whose death is attributed to poison. The inquiry was again held in the Garston Reading Room, near Aigburth, where the deceased resided at Battlecrease house. There did not appear to be the same public interest in the case as on the previous, when Mrs. Maybrick was present. Mr. Pickford again appeared for Mrs. Maybrick, Mr. Mulholland for Mr. Brierley, and Mr. A.G. Steel for the deceased's relatives.

Mr. Edwin Maybrick, one of the deceased's brothers, was the first witness called. He said that he came to Liverpool from the America on the 23rd of April, and saw the deceased at his office the next morning. He saw him again on the 27th and 28th, dining at his house on the latter date. The deceased, who was lying on the sofa in the morning room, complained of being very unwell and suffering from an attack of numbness in his legs, but was recovering. About 9 at night he had another attack of numbness, and at his request witness rubbed his legs, after which he recovered their use. Witness saw deceased at his office on May 1 in the forenoon, and he appeared to be unwell. Witness also saw him after luncheon, and he then seemed worse than before. The deceased had a luncheon, which was brought down from home; it was some kind of farinaceous food. He kept medicine in his office, and had some on the mantelpiece. On the morning of May 1 witness took down from Battlecrease to his brother's office a parcel tied in brown paper, and given to him by Mrs. Maybrick, who said, "This is your brother's dinner; will you take it to the office?" At the office his brother opened the parcel, which contained a small brown mug exactly similar to the one produced. Witness saw the deceased warm the contents in a saucepan and then pour them into the basin produced. He then partook of the food. Witness was at Battlecrease on Sunday, the 5th. He went out by the 9 o'clock train, and found his brother ill in bed and unable to retain anything at all on his stomach. Mrs. Maybrick was attending on him. Witness gave him some brandy and soda at his request in the afternoon, and the brandy and soda remained in him until Mrs. Maybrick gave him some medicine, when he vomited. On the Tuesday he was still in bed and much the same. Dr. Carter was called in that night to consult with Dr. Humphreys. Next day witness found his brother worse, and in the evening Nurse Yapp gave him the letter produced last week, and addressed to Mr. A. Brierley. He gave the letter to his brother Michael, who arrived that evening. Nurse Gore was engaged that day, and witness handed to her an unopened bottle of Valentine's meat extract similar to the one produced. Nurse Callery was called in to assist Nurse Gore. On Friday the deceased was rather better, and from something which was told to witness Nurse Callery was changed and Nurse Wilson was brought in her place.

Superintendent Bryning - All this time where was Mrs. Maybrick?

Witness - She was either in my brother's room or in the dressing room adjoining his room.

The Coroner - What do you mean by all this time? What period? - From the Sunday previous to his death.

Superintendent Bryning - On Saturday, the 11th of May, was Mr. Maybrick still worse? - Yes.

Was Mrs. Maybrick apparently in distress about his condition? - Yes. Did she say anything about it? - About 3 o'clock she called me and said, "Isn't this sad?" I said, "What?" She said, "That Jim suffers so, and that I should not be able to relieve him."

Did you remain about your brother's room until evening? - No; I went to town for about two hours, and returned about 1 o'clock. Then I remained there until he died, about half past 8 o'clock.

In reply to further questions the witness said that on May 12 he and his brother Michael and Mrs. Briggs searched the room off deceased's bedroom and found two hat boxes in a corner. In the upper box was a slouch hat with the lining downwards, and under the hat were two or three bottles, one of them, a Valentine's meat bottle, partly full. In the box underneath there was a tall silk hat placed in the ordinary way, and lying across the bottom of the hat was a small hat brush, such as is generally used by hatters to rub hats, and between that and the side of the hat was a glass. On the day after the death Nurse Yapp came down to breakfast about 12 o'clock and gave his brother a small box.

Is this the box? - Yes, or one very similar to it. There was a handkerchief with the box, but I cannot identify it. The nurse gave the box and its contents to my brother Michael, who, on the advice of Mr. Steel, who was present, sealed it up.

Do you know where the box, after being sealed, was put? - My brother locked it up in the wine cellar. (The articles were here produced and identified.) There was also a piece of linen soaked in the liquid in the glass. The things were put back as found and subsequently handed to Inspector Baxendale, with whom witness entered the room, which had been kept locked, the key being left in witness's possession. He also gave the inspector a bottle which he had found wrapped in a handkerchief in a small cupboard in the room. It was in consequence of what was said to him on the 8th that his suspicions were aroused.

Mr. Pickford - After Wednesday, the 8th, I think the charge of Mr. Maybrick was taken out of Mrs. Maybrick's hands and placed in the hands of nurses? - Yes.

And your instructions were that she was not to give him any medicine after that? - My instructions were that the nurses would attend to him in every way.

On the morning of the Wednesday she telegraphed to you to send out your doctor? - On the Tuesday she telegraphed suggesting that Dr. M'Shane, who is a personal friend of mine, should be sent.

Had you suggested getting another doctor before that? - I suggested to my brother that as Dr. M'Shane was a friend of mine, I should ask his opinion. I did not propose to bring him there in a professional way. Dr. M'Shane could not come, and I sent Dr. Carter.

Did you know Mrs. Maybrick had telegraphed for a nurse on the Wednesday morning? - I did not.

Had you suggested she should send for a nurse before that? - No.

You have told us you found a number of things, bottles, &c.; none of them were locked up, were they? - No, none of them.

A juror - On Sunday, April 28, when you dined at your brother's house, did you partake of the same kind of food? - My brother was ill and not able to take solid food. I dined in the dining room, and he was in the breakfast room all day. He only took what little food the doctor ordered him.

Dr. Humphreys was recalled, and stated that at the request of the police he took certain sediments of liquid from the lavatory and other private rooms in Battlecrease house, the drains being opened for the purpose. He placed the sediment in bottles and jars, which he gave to the analyst.

Frederick Tozer, chemist and druggist, in the employ of Messrs. Clay and Abraham, Liverpool, stated that he hade up prescriptions for Mr. Maybrick and described their nature. There was no arsenic.

Inspector Baxendale, in charge of the county police at Garston, said that about 8 o'clock on the night of Sunday, May 12, he received information of Mr. Maybrick's death, and went to Battlecrease house to make inquiries. Witness asked to see the deceased's body, and was taken to the room by Mr. Edwin Maybrick. He took possession of the bottles, glass of liquid, and other articles which had been described. He also attended the post mortem examination, and handed over the viscera to the analyst, Mr. Davies, of Liverpool. On searching Battlecrease on May 18 witness found in the lavatory a bottle bearing the label of Messrs. Clay and Abraham, and containing a dark mixture. On the same day he found at the deceased's office in Liverpool another bottle with a similar label. Both were delivered to the analyst. Witness also attended at the exhumation of the body at Anfield Cemetery on the 28th of May, and handed over for analysis the vital organs which were then taken. He likewise procured for analysis fly papers of the same description as those proved to have been purchased by Mrs. Maybrick from different chemists.

Police sergeant Davenport testified to finding on May 17, in the linen room at Battlecrease, an unlabelled bottle containing a light coloured liquid, and in a dressing case in a closet in the same room some white powder and pills.

Mr. Isaac Bryning, superintendent of the county police for the West Derby Division, said that under his instructions the pipes and drains were opened and the sediment and liquid from them taken as stated by Dr. Humphreys. This was on May 13. On the following day he saw Mrs. Maybrick, who was in bed, and said to her, "Mrs. Maybrick, I am superintendent of police, and I am about to say something to you, and after I have said what I intend to say, if you reply, be careful how you do reply, because what you say may be given in evidence against you." Witness then said, "Mrs. Maybrick, you are in custody on suspicion of causing the death of your husband, Mr. James Maybrick, on the 11th of this month." She made no reply. On the 27th of May witness saw her in Her Majesty's Prison at Walton, and cautioned her in similar terms to those used on the 14th ult. He said, "You are now charged with murdering your husband, Mr. James Maybrick, at Garston on the 11th of May." She made no reply.

By a juror - On the last occasion a solicitor was present, but not on the first.

Mr. Edward Davies, analytical chemist, Fellow of the Chemical Society of London, Fellow of the Institution of Chemistry, and for 11 years public analyst for the Isle of Man, said he had a laboratory in the Royal Institution Buildings, Liverpool. Questioned as to the Valentine's meat extract he received from Dr. Carter on May 11, he said - I tested it with the Reinsih test. I took 10 drops of it, and I obtained a strong deposit of arsenic upon a slip of copper. I then heated that slip of copper in a tube, and obtained crystals of what is commonly known as white arsenic. I also took some more and put it in Marsh's apparatus, and obtained spots of arsenic from it. Those are some of the spots (produced) from Marsh's apparatus. I passed the gas into nitrate of silver and got a precipitate of silver.

The Coroner - What does that mean? - That shows the presence of arseniuretted hydrogen - arsenic. I adopted another test with the result that I got a distinct precipitate of sulphide of arsenic, soluble in ammonia. I have since made a quantitative analysis. I weighed the arsenic as sulphide of arsenic, and for this purpose I took 100 grains, with the result that I got 12 per cent of white arsenic. On the contents of the bottle that would be as nearly as possible half a grain. By the Coroner - There were 375 grains when I had taken 35 minims out, so that we may say there were 411 grains in the bottle when I got it.

It seems there is no doubt in your mind that there was arsenic in the Valentine's meat extract as given to you by Dr. Carter? - Oh, I am absolutely certain.

In reply to other questions the witness said he analysed another bottle of Valentine's meat juice found in a box in Mrs. Maybrick's room at Battlecrease. That did not contain arsenic, and on comparing it with the contents of the first bottle he found that it had higher specific gravity, from which he inferred that the contents of the first bottle had been diluted, and that the arsenic must have been added when in solution. There was a trace of arsenic in two of the bottles containing sediment from the lavatories and drains. The bottle found in the dressing table in Mrs. Maybrick's room did not contain arsenic, but the handkerchief round it had a dirty red stain, part of which he cut out. From this he obtained distinct crystals of arsenic. A bottle found in the chocolate box in Mrs. Maybrick's trunk room contained a dark liquid, which was the same as the arsenic contained in the package marked "Arsenic - poison," but with water added. The bottle which was now produced contained 10 or 12 drops, and the solution was strong enough to poison two or three persons. A second bottle in the same box contained a saturated solution of arsenic, with solid arsenic at the bottom, and a third several drops of arsenic in solution strong enough for several drops to prove fatal.

The Coroner - You are not talking about the chronic use of arsenic? - No, a single dose. To put it on the safe side, we will say there is a grain in the bottle. Would that quantity produce unpleasant solutions, without causing death? - I do not know. I suppose it would depend upon a person's idiosyncrasies. I cannot take much of a dose myself. (Laughter.) I have had it ordered for me, but it did not suit me. (Renewed laughter.)

Witness went on to say, in reply to other questions, that a fourth bottle in the box contained 15 to 20 grains of arsenic. The glass containing white liquid found in the hat box in Mrs. Maybrick's room had just about 400 grains of fluid, in which was 3 per cent of arsenic altogether. The tumbler and a handkerchief in it contained 20 grains of the poison.

The Coroner - Twenty grains? - Yes, I should say so.

There is a fatal dose in the glass? - Oh, yes. The stuff in the glass seems to be same as the black mixture in No 8.

Can you tell us what the black is? - It is a powdered charcoal.

The foreman - Is charcoal used for any domestic purpose? - No, but it is mixed with arsenic in the poison for cats.

The Coroner - There is nothing in 13, 14, 15, and 16? - There was nothing in the bedding? - No, I cannot get a distinct analysis.

Now go to 17. Did you receive in a box a sealed packet marked "Arsenic for cats?" - Yes, it is arsenic mixed with powdered charcoal. I believe that, under the Arsenic Act, it must be mixed with one sixteenth of its weight of soot or indigo. That in this bottle is about 92 per cent of arsenic and eight of charcoal. Continuing his evidence, Mr. Davies said that in the bottle found by Inspector Baxendale in the lavatory at Battlecrease there was such a distinct presence of arsenic that, after mixing distilled water with the few drops of liquid that remained in the bottom, he found that he was able to obtain arsenic crystals from so small a quantity as 20 grains. In the medicine bottle from the defendant's office there was a distinct trace of arsenic in only a few grains of the medicine. When he found arsenic in the latter bottle, which bore the label of Messrs. Clay and Abraham, witness went over to the firm's shop and took samples from the store and dispensing bottles from which deceased's prescription had been made up. On being tested separately the samples were found free from arsenic. He next examined the brown bag in which the luncheon which deceased used to take to his office was placed by Mrs. Maybrick. At the bottom of it were one or two small pieces of a farinaceous substance. These he removed by means of hot distilled water, reduced the liquid to a small bulk by evaporation, and tested it by Reinsch's test for arsenic. He obtained distinct crystals of arsenic, and a second slip of copper which he boiled in the liquid was decidedly stained also. The deceased, he had been informed, cooked his luncheon in an enamelled pan. To be certain that arsenic did not come from the enamel witness bought a new pan of the same description, and after boiling distilled water in it for an hour he found it free from any trace of arsenic. Other bottles containing arsenic were tested, among others a bottle of Rice's patent glycerine. A second bottle of the same substance which witness had bought was free from arsenic. On testing the fly papers submitted to him by Inspector Baxendale he found in each two grains and a half of arsenic. Replying to the foreman of the jury, witness said that in cold water the arsenic with the papers dissolved slowly, but he considered that in 24 hours there could be obtained from several of the papers by soaking them in cold water a solution sufficient to poison any ordinary person. The witness was next examined as to his analysis of the viscera. He stated that he took one ounce from different parts of the intestines and obtained distinct crystals of arsenic, but in very minute quantity. He doubted whether he could obtain a weighable quantity from any manageable portion of the intestines. From the coats of the stomach he failed to obtain evidence of arsenic, and also failed to find it in the contents of the stomach. Arsenic, however, was distinctly present in the liver, there being in six ounces 2.02 grains of the poison. It was distinctly present also in the kidneys, but not in a weighable quantity. Analysing portions of the heart and lungs he obtained faint indications of crystals, but whether or not they were arsenic he could not swear. He described the steps he had taken to be certain that the materials he used were pure.

Cross examined by Mr. Pickford - When he spoke of not being able to get a weighable quantity he meant that he could not find up to the hundredth part of a grain.

The Coroner - Is it absolutely necessary to find a fatal dose in the body in order to arrive at the conclusion that death was due to arsenical poisoning? - No.

In replying to further questions from Mr. Pickford, witness said that in this case he had found in the liver less than half the quantity of arsenic which he had found in previous fatal cases if arsenical poisoning with which he had had to deal. He made analyses in the Flannagan and Higgins's case in Liverpool, about two years ago, which was a fly paper case.

The Coroner drew attention to a letter which had been referred to in the course of the day, and which had been held in abeyance.

Superintendent Bryning - I will put the letter before you, Mr. Coroner.

Mr. Pickford - I understand, Sir, that a communication was made to you at the first sitting by the gentleman who was sworn foreman of the jury. I should like to know whether it is proposed to call him.

The Coroner - No.

Mr. Pickford - Of course I have no official knowledge of what he communicated to you, but I understand it was something in relation to the case that he deemed so important that he ought not to act as foreman of the jury. You know what it is, and you know whether it is relevant or irrelevant.

The Coroner - I feel perfectly certain that it is not relevant. The foreman went himself to view the body. He made a statement to me when I arrived at the place of the inquest. I communicated that statement to Mr. Steel, who was then representing the Maybrick family, and Mr. Superintendent Bryning, and I said, "If you think that this statement is useful, if either of you think it is evidence, and you think that the foreman of the jury ought to appear as a witness, then I will discharge him." They both thought that would be the better course, and I did so.

Mrs. Constance Louisa Hughes deposed that she was at Battlecrease on Sunday, the 12th, the day after the deceased's death, and was alone in the bedroom - in the room where Mr. Maybrick died. While searching for keys she found the letter (produced) in the middle drawer, by Mrs. Maybrick's dressing table.

The Coroner then read the letter, which was as follows:-

"My dear Florrie,

I suppose now you have gone I am safe in writing to you. I do not quite understand what you mean in your last letter about explaining my line of action. You know I could not write, and was willing to meet you, although it would have been dangerous. Most certainly your telegram yesterday was a staggerer, and it looks as if the result was certain; but as yet I cannot find an advertisement in any London paper. I should like to see you, but at present dare not move, and we had better, perhaps, not meet until late in the autumn. I am going to try and get away in about a fortnight, and I think I shall take a round trip to the Mediterranean, which will take six or seven weeks, unless" (and the next five words are underlined) "you wish me to stay in England." (The Coroner - You will recollect in her letter she says "In any case, do not leave England till I have seen you again.") "Supposing the rooms are found, I think both you and I would be better away, as the man's memory would be doubted after three months. I will write and tell you when I go. I cannot trust myself at present to write to you my feelings on this unhappy business, but I do hope that some time I shall be able to show you that I do not quite deserve the strictures contained in your two last letters. I went to the D. and D., and of course heard some tales, but myself knew nothing about anything. And now, dear, good bye, hoping we shall meet in the autumn. I will write to you about sending letters just before I go.

A.B."

A juror - Is there any date to the letter?

The Coroner - No, nut I think you will find, by expressions in his letter, taken together with the letter of Wednesday, which Nurse Yapp intercepted, that this is the letter she refers to. I think it is absolutely certain some expressions of her letter are used in it. In this letter he says, "supposed the rooms are found," she answering, "I know he is perfectly ignorant even of the name of the street." I think it is very evident that her letter of Wednesday was a reply to this.

This being all the evidence, the Coroner summed up and said - The case is now before you, and on the evidence you have to find how and by what means Mr. James Maybrick came by his death. You must put on one side any matter you may have read in the papers, or anything you may have heard outside this room, and on the evidence, and the evidence alone, find the verdict you are about to give. You know very well a good many comments have appeared in the Press on this case, and I feel it is my duty to urge that matter strongly upon you - that you have to give your verdict on the evidence, and the evidence only. Now, although the object of your inquiry is to find out how and by what means Mr. Maybrick came by his death, the practical part of the inquiry is as to the connexion of Mrs. Maybrick with the death of the deceased, and as to whether on the evidence you can say she is criminally responsible for the death of her husband. The law presumes that every person is innocent until the contrary is proved; and we must take it that before the commencement of these proceedings, so far as you are concerned, Mrs. Maybrick was an innocent woman. In conclusion, he asked them three questions:- Did they believe that death resulted from the administration of an irritant poison; if so, by whom was the irritant poison administered; and if it was administered by Mrs. Maybrick, was it administered by her with an intent to take away life.

The jury retire to consider their verdict, and in 35 minutes returned into court.

The foreman, in reply to the Coroner, said that they were unanimously of opinion that death had resulted from an irritant poison, and 12 of the 13 were of opinion that the irritant poison had been administered to Mr. Maybrick with intent to take his life.

The Coroner - That means a verdict of "wilful murder" against Mrs. Maybrick. (To the police.) Bring in Mrs. Maybrick.

Mrs. Maybrick, who during the afternoon had been detained at the Garston Police station, was then brought into court, and addressed by the Coroner as follows:- Florence Elizabeth Maybrick, the jury have inquired into the circumstances attending the death of your husband, and they have come to the conclusion that he has been wilfully murdered by you. I therefore commit you to the next Assizes to be held at Liverpool, there to take your trial upon that charge.

The accused, who seemed to be dazed, made no reply, and was at once removed. She was dressed in deep mourning. She is to be brought up on remand before the magistrates on Wednesday next.


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] - 6 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