|Merry widow of Windy Nook
|1955 - 1957
|The Old Bailey
|Mr Justice Byles
|Montagu Williams, Q.C.
Mary Elizabeth Wilson had been married to John knowles for 43 years when she poisoned him with phosphorous.
Mary worked in service for the Knowles family, striking up a friendship and eventually a relationship with the laborer son. They married, but the greedy Mary soon had a lover, John Russell a man that lodged with the family at Windy Nook. In 1957 both her husband and lover suddenly died, both from "Natural causes"? Both left their worldly fortunes to Mary, the handsome sum of £42.
June 1957 Mary, now 64, had married wealthy retired estate agent, Oliver Leonard. Within 12 days of the registry office marriage in Jarrow, Leonard was taken ill. Wilson called in a neighbour, who verified that he was indeed not well. By the morning he was dead. An examination by a local doctor confirmed that 75 year old Oliver Leonard had died from heart failure. Mrs. Leaonard inherited the princely sum of £50!
Very soon after, Mary moved into the run down council bungalow belonging to Ernest Wilson. She had learned that Wilson not only had £100 in the Co-Op but also had a fully paid up life insurance. Almost straight away Wilson was taken ill, and died of what the doctor called "Cardiac Muscular Failure".
Mary's fate was always inevitable. At the reception after her marriage to Wilson, she had joked "better keep some cakes, we can use them at the funeral". She also joked with the undertaker at the funeral, asking for a trade discount due to the fact that she had sent so much business his way.
The police became suspicious of Mary, victims Leonard and Wilson were both exhumed, the pathologist confirming that both had died from phosphorous poisoning.
At the trial Mary did not give evidence, but instead the defence used the fact the there was little know about phosphorous poisoning. It was suggested that the two men had been taking sexual stimulation pills, which were known to contain phosphorous. The jury did not believe this,
Mary was found guilty of the two murders and sentenced to death. Due to her advancing years she was given clemency, and sent to Holoway Women's prison. She served four and a half years before dying at the age of seventy.
Not surprisingly, when the bodies of George Russell and John Knowles were exhumed, they to were found to contain high level of phosphorus.