Mary Elizabeth Wilson had been married to
John knowles for 43 years when she poisoned him with
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.
By 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
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
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,
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.