CHRISTIANA EDMUNDS: THE CHOCOLATE CREAM KILLER

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SYNOPSIS

In 1871, the seaside town of Brighton, England saw one of the more bizarre cases of the Victorian age play out when a lady of the town, Miss Christiana Edmunds, found her romantic feelings for a local doctor knocked back. As the pain of the unrequited love affair became too much, Christiana attempted and failed to commit murder and then in a perverse effort to clear her name, decided to carry out a mass poisoning campaign.

Wohl, Anthony S. (1983) Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain. Cambridge: Harvard UP

Jones, Kaye (2016) The Case of The Chocolate Cream Killer: The Poisonous Passion of Christiana Edmunds. Pen & Sword History, Barnsley, UK

Brighton Gazette (1871) Borough of Brighton, £20 Reward. 17 Aug, 1871. p.4.

Brighton Gazette (1871) Alleged Wilful Poisoning. 24 Aug, 1871. p.6.

Brighton Gazette (1871) The Alleged Poisoning By Sweets. 29 June, 1871. p.7.

Brighton Gazette (1871) Mysterious Death Of A Child – Suspected Poisoning. 15 June, 1871. p.5.

(1871) Poisonous Sweets. Clerkenwell News, 24 June, 1871. p.3

(1871) Summary Of This Mornings News. Pall Mall Gazette, 23 June, 1871. p.4.

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Christiana Edmunds: The Chocolate Cream Killer

 

Intro

 

In 1871, the seaside town of Brighton, England saw one of the more bizarre cases of the Victorian age play out when a lady of the town, Miss Christiana Edmunds, found her romantic feelings for a local doctor knocked back. As the pain of the unrequited love affair became too much, Christiana attempted and failed to commit murder and then in a perverse effor tto clear her name, decided to carry out a mass posioning campaign. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.

 

Spring Gardens, Brighton, England, 1871

 

In the latter half of the 19th Century, Brighton, a small seaside town situated directly beneath London on the South-East coast of England, was a town pitched in the centre of a boom in population, culture and economy. Previously buoyed in the mid-18th Century after Richard Russell published his book championing the curative properties of bathing in seawater and closely followed by the arrival of the Prince Regent in 1783, the town found itself very much in the national spotlight. Of all the weekend getaways situated on the coast of England, few could keep up with the reputation of the fashionable town, whose new royal links and gaggle of dignitaries catapulted the resort as the place to be. New streets crammed with housing popped up overnight throughout the 1780’s, as theatres and markets were built in the streets surrounding the newly erected Royal Pavilion summer house and gardens. 

 

As the 19th Century dawned, tourism intensified and new hotels continued to spring up along Brightons busy seafront month by month, year by year. The promenades saw crowds of people whiling away the days in leisure, whilst the lucky few with the means bought beachside changing huts and took to the sea via their “dipping machines” pulled into the water by horse and carts. As the town grew ever more opulent and extravagant, so too did the buildings, a practice that was firmly reflected with the rebuilding of the Royal Pavilion in 1815 that saw the Princes Summer home reimagined and rebuilt as a vast, utterly eccentric,  oriental palace, complete with Indian style architecture and Chinese style decor. With leisure as a central attraction and money being thrown around with abandon, the town saw further grand building projects such as the first purpose built pleasure pier in the British Isles become a reality along with grand theatre halls and beachside bandstands. In 1841, the railways secured the town’s tremendous growth, which by now had seen it turn from a small fishing village with a population of 2,000, to a sprawling town of over 40,000 in less than a century, a figure that would eventually double over the next half century. Aside from the residents, the new trainline bought tourists directly from London to the tune of over 250,000 visitors per year. The town was nothing short of a magnet for those looking to start a new life, its trendy allure and promise of a life shaped by whichever pleasures you might wish for drew people in from around the country, a trait that the city has never lost. Writing in 2005, Woodrow Phoenix wrote of the city and it’s residents,

 

“Behind London’s back (or maybe, I don’t know, over its shoulder) Brighton gets on with its business. The business of magnetism. The rootless, the curious, the feckless, the loveless. The wanderers, the day-trippers, the lovers and the haters, the crazies and the weirdos and the oddballs and the outlaws. The bucket and spade brigade. They take the train as far as it goes to see what’s at the end of the line. Some people take a look and go back. Some people stay and rattle around like peas in a tin. If you tipped England up, everything loose would roll down here.”

 

Though written in modern times, this commentary was equally as true in Victorian Britain. The Prince Regent may have been the towns earliest and most high profile “outsider”, who had fled to Brighton as an escape from court life in london in the late 18th Century, but it had set a trend that many more have since followed. One such member of Brightonian society who had rolled into town during the spring of 1867 was Christiana Edmund. A positively loveless oddball, accompanied by her mother, Ann. The pair had moved to Brighton after a family tragedy and were seeking to start afresh and like so many, had chosen Brihgton as the place for them to be.

 

On a cool morning in late March, 1871, four years after her arrival in Brighton, Christiana Edmunds walked into Spring Gardens, and bought a paper from Benjamin Coultrop, a young boy who had bought the papers from one of the town’s central newsagents to resell around town. Christiana made small talk with the boy and then offered him a bag of chocolates bought from a popular confectioner named Maynards, based in West Street and well known throughout the town where it had operated for over 18 years. Unable to believe his luck, Benjamin quickly scoffed them down, saving only one for his friend, Henry Diggins, though Henry was a little less enamoured after he threw the chocolate cream into his mouth and then quickly spat it out once he had tasted a vile bitter note. If Benjamin was annoyed witty his friend for wasting a perfectly good chocolate, it was a feeling that wouldn’t have lasted too long, as within the hour he began feeling very ill indeed. He noticed at first a strong burning sensation in his throat which quickly developed into severe nausea, cramps and a tight stiffening of his limbs. Collapsing at home, his mother took him to hospital two days later after he had shown no signs of recovery. Unsure of what could have been wrong with the boy, doctors treated him as an outpatient and after a week of rest, Benjamin was well on the path to recovery. This was great news for the Coultrop family, but a real problem for Christiana Edmunds, for she had poisoned the chocolates intentionally and Benjamin’s recovery was not quite what she had planned.

 

The Tragedy of the Family Edmunds

 

William Edmunds was born in 1801 in the seaside town of Margate on the tip of England’s South Eastern coast. Just like Brighton, Margate had boomed in the mid-18th Century with the boom in popularity of seaside bathing. Unlike Brighton, it had not enjoyed the presence of a Royal Summer house and as such, had not had quite the same astronomic rise. Still, it was far and away from being a slum and had seen many of the same bubbles as Brighton, if to a smaller and shorter-lived extent. William’s father, Thomas, had been a carpenter and had profited well from the building boom and the family lived in Hawley Square, one of the towns more fashionable and desirable, middle-class areas. Now living comfortably, Thomas sought to invest much of his fortunes into other, more sustainable areas once the building boom had started to wane and took over management of the White Hart hotel, a popular and well kept establishment on the Marine Parade, overlooking the sea. The hotel passed into Williams hands in 1823 after the death of Thomas, but William had much more of his father in him than perhaps even he realised and he soon found himself tiring of hospitality and hankering to follow in his late father’s footsteps. The building industry called to him and in 1825, he took the first opportunity he could see, when a local competition to redesign the Holy Trinity Church was opened up to all entrants, with or without professional experience. Thomas was clearly a natural and though it was his first ever design, he found himself beating out 23 other designs for the winning spot. For someone with no experience and who was seeking a career change into architecture, it was a golden opportunity and as the foundation stone of the church was laid in September of 1825, William found himself rubbing shoulders with all the local bigwigs and ballers, the men who gave the contracts and dished out the money. The completion of the church wound up to be only the first in a line of high profile buildings designed by William, whose fame rose with great rapidity. He took on projects to design the Margate Lighthouse in 1828, along with the offices for the pier and harbour company along the beachfront and the grand entrance to Levy’s Bazaar, the town’s largest and most central shopping district. It was a fantastic rise to fame for the self taught architect, whose local reputation had jumped from strength to strength with each passing year and each completed project. 

 

On New Year’s Day, 1828, William married Ann Christiana Burn, the daughter of a marines Major, and thanks to William’s new status as a successful architect, the new couple were able to buy their own house in Hawley Square, directly next door to the Theatre Royal. Keen to start a family, September that year saw the arrival of their first daughter, Christiana, and one year later, in September 1829, their first son followed, who they named William. The family prospered and soon William began seeing requests for his work from further and further afield. He kept himself busy and over the next few years, the family welcomed two new daughters, Mary, born in April 1832 and Louisa in Jan 1833. By 1833, however, William had begun working far more often away from Margate, at times for weeks at a time. He completed various contracts throughout the South East of England, and still had time to crank out a few more babies whenever he returned home. In April of 1833, their 5th child was born, a son named Frederick Thomas, but Just as things appeared to be going so well, however, Frederick Thomas’ birth signalled the beginning of what was to be deep seated problems for the Edmund family. 16 months after his birth, their new son passed away in August of 1834 and one year later, what would have been their 6th child, a daughter named Ellen, sadly only survived for 3 months, before she expired in December of 1835. It was the beginning of the end of the couple’s dream honeymoon period,and by 1840, William had seen work contracts slowly dry up and his salary slashed due to building reforms. Whilst far from destitute, they still maintained three servants, the family were now finding themselves having to be considerably more careful with money and though they owned two properties, it failed to help them in any way as the second stood empty, as they were unable to secure any tenants to rent from them. 

 

Whilst William did his best to take on a s much work as he could find, Ann busied herself with the day to day task of educating and raising their children. The two eldest, Christiana and William had already been sent away to boarding school, whilst Ann taught the younger children in their home.  Christiana boarded at Mount Albion House in Ramsgate, five miles South of Margate, whilst William stayed slightly further afield, 17 miles to the South West in Kings, Cantuerbury. Kings was a respected school, founded in the 16th Century with tenuous links to a lineage that dated it as far back as the 6th Century, it was a school that would supply a Victorian pupil with an education fit to propel him into a successful University education and all but guarantee a career in the upper echelons. Conversely, Christiana, as a young lady, boarded at a school that sought only to prepare her for a life of marriage and instead taught its students lessons in English and French Grammar, dancing, music, singing, good posture and religion, all the hallmarks of a fine young lady that would make a suitable wife for someone befitting her class. After she graduated in 1842, Christiana returned to the family home, where she met her new youngest brother, Arthur, who had been born in October 1841. It was most certainly not all sunshine and rainbows in the Edmunds family home, however. During her absence, Christiana noticed her father’s apparent change in demeanour. He had become prone to violent outbursts and fits of rage and despite the family struggling financially, even finding themselves having to sell their second house, which they had been unable to actually do, he still stomped about the house exclaiming at the top of his lungs that he owned “Millions of money.” Whether it was the stresses of a new child or from the struggles of work, Christiana was not sure, but she definitely knew her father was unwell and his mental stability appeared to be declining rapidly. In fact, it was something much darker and far more dangerous than Christiana would have ever guessed. William Endumnds was showing early symptoms of an illness termed General Paralysis of the Insane in Victorian England, more commonly known today as Syphilis. Syphilis in the 19th Century was a painfully common disease amongst men in their 30s and 40s. The symptoms were varied, with patients usually displaying one or more of the most common, being that of grandiose delusions, a staggering gait, disturbed reflexes, asymmetrical pupils, tremulous voice, and muscular weakness. It was a bleak diagnosis and one that signalled a pretty unwelcome path towards eventual demise, usually after a prolonged stay in an asylum for the insane.

 

Without having to delve too far into the realm of speculation, it seems fair to assume that with the his work taking him far away from home from around 1832 onwards, the death of two successive children in 1833 and the long absence of any further births until 1841 explained by the statistic that a woman suffering from syphilis is 12 times more likely to suffer a miscarriage, that William had picked the disease up whilst dabbling outside the marital bed sometime in 1832-33 and it had now began to take its toll. Within a year, Ann found herself signing off on the Lunacy Order required to ensure her husband could be taken into care at the Southall Park Asylum, a private institution on the outskirts of London.

 

Whilst Southall Park was a step up from many of the state and county ran asylums, it was still no picnic for anyone of Williams standing and a severe fall from grace. Fortunately, the asylum was run by a husband and wife duo who practiced therapeutic treatment and pioneered a type of care that was only now beginning to be seen across the better funded and more pioneering hospitals in England. William was escorted by two attendants to the Asylum in August of 1843 and upon his arrival deemed as a “dangerous Lunatic” by the asylum’s resident physician, however after just one year, he was released home and back with his family. This was much more likely to be due to costs rather than any improvement in his condition and just 8 months later, he was once again taken into care, this time to Peckham House, South London, in March of 1845.

 

Peckham House was an old Mansion house, surrounded by large gardens and though the patients were of a more mixed background than those of Southall Park, this time catering to paupers and criminals as well as the middle and upper classes, it was run by another pioneering doctor named Dr James Hill, a solid proponent of progressive care, who believed in the freedom of the patients and had long cast aside the notions of chaining patients to walls or of keeping them in restraints. This care was generally referred to as “Moral Treatment” and consisted of taking care of a patient’s general needs, dietary physical and mental as well as training them to work on the asylums in house farms and trades for men, or in needlework and laundry for women. Although the treatment was deemed progressive in the manner of care, the actual treatment of General Paralysis was anything but progressive when viewed through a modern lens. Bloodletting of the temples and behind the ears via leeches was common to cool down a patient’s head and prevent them from overheating, whilst warm baths were used to treat a patients overexcitement. Outside Of fthis, there was little more that could be done for a patient suffering from General Paralysis and more often than not, it was a steady decline in mental faculties as well as physical ability until death approached. For William this came on the 15th March, 1847, two years after his admission. 

 

For Ann Edmunds, it was a pretty horrific blow. She now found herself a widow with a large family to look after and a husband who had suffered a catastrophic fall from grace both financially and socially. Mental health was very much a taboo subject in Victorian England and with the concept of insanity running in families as popular as it was, a father dying in an asylum was a considerable stigma to place on the Edmund children and none would have felt this harder than Christiana, whose fathers death ran parallel to her own coming of age. After schooling and preparing for a life of marriage within a cushy social class, she now found any such prospects pulled out from underneath her. It was clear that the family would need to make a clean break and so, within the year, Ann had sold up in Margate and moved the children to Canterbury. 

 

In the mid 19th Century, Canterburury was a mid-sized town of a little over 10,000 people. It’s large cathedral ensured a healthy tourist trade and afforded the town a strong economy that otherwise focused on brewing. Ann had moved into a small house above a brush, hat and basket shop at 21 St Georges Street, owned by the tradesman and shopkeep James Nash, who lived downstairs with his young family. The makeup of the Edmund family had changed significantly by the time of their move, as the eldest son William had taken off to London to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons, before moving to South Africa in 1854. Louisa was also in London, living as a Governess in a household in Camberwell. Christiana and Mary both lived at home with Ann, though things remained difficult even after their move, which was no doubt made in hopes of getting a fresh start. Shortly after their move, Christiana began suffering from panic attacks, frequently bursting into her mothers room at night complaining about being unable to breathe. She was promptly diagnosed with Hysteria, another typically Victorian catch all condition which encompassed a wide variety of medical issues, from epilepsy to PTSD. It was so wide ranging, in fact, that it afflicted a significant portion of women at some point throughout their lives. The diagnosis was actually considerably older, dating as far back as the ancient Greeks, who blamed it on a woman’s “wandering uterus”, that would move throughout the body, causing mayhem with whichever part of the body it ended up in at the time. With the arrival of the enlightenment, the wandering womb theory slowly began to fade away, but poor understanding of mental health persisted for a considerable period after, and though strides were made in anatomy, much was still poorly understood and often completely misunderstood. Theories on the origin of Hysteria were variously floated, but largely remained anchored in a woman’s inability to cope in situations that were, at times, only marginally outside the norm, such as mental over excitement, the menstrual cycle or sesxual frustration. With such a wide range of stimuli and symptoms, equally wide ranging cures were practiced, including galvanism, a primitive form of electroconvulsive therapy. As Christiana struggled with her new diagnosis, realistically, a problem that was much more likely to have been a mental health issue following her father’s death and the stresses of coming of age, her youngest brother Arthur too began to suffer from Epilepsy. Once again, Epilepsy in Victorian England was another medical condition that was poorly understood. Often believed to be caused by excessive masterbation, it was, in fact, far more likely that Arthur was probably suffering from convulsions brought on through congenital syphilis, passed onto him through his mother’s womb by his now late father, William.

 

Still, in keeping with the times, Arthurs condition did nothing to alleviate the pressures on the Edmunds, who now had a second member officially diagnosed with a disorder of the insane with Arthur and the real potential of a third in Christiana. It was a heavy stigma to bear and so, in 1860, Ann hospitalised Arthur in the Royal Earlswood Asylum “hospital for idiots”, in Reigate, Surrey. With Mary marrying soon after, Christiana and Ann were the only members of the family left still living together. The pair moved to a smaller apartment, this time above a confectioner in Canterbury. In 1866 the troubles continued, when Arthur died in the asylum and one year later in 1867, Louisa died, aged only 36 years old. It was, perhaps, time to try the fresh start approach once more and so, in late 1867, Ann and Christiana packed up and moved once more, this time further South West, to the booming town of Brighton. If nothing else, Ann surmised that the sea air and proximity to the beach might at least have some curative, relaxing effect on her daughter. She was soon to be proven very, very wrong indeed.

 

Brighton & Dr Beard

 

When they arrived in Brighton, Ann and Christiana moved into a small rented house on Marlborough Place, one of the main streets that carved North through the city, a stones throw from both the seafront and the Royal Pavilion. Whether it was the sea air, or the dipping that had any effect, it does appear that the move to Brighton initially did effect Christiana positively, as there is little mention of Hysteria in any record of their life in Brighton, though she did start to suffer from Neuralgia and as a consequence, signed up with a local doctor named Doctor Charles Beard in 1869, a respected physician who owned a private practice on Grand Parade, opposite the Edmunds Marlborough Place residence. Alongside his own practice, Dr Beard worked  at the Sussex County Hospital and for the government as an inspector of vaccinations. His reputation locally was impeccable and as a charismatic, successful doctor, 42 year old, eternally single Christiana found herself falling deeply into a romantic obsession, writing letters to the doctor daily and often, several times per day. For Ann, this was a problem for several reasons, but primarily, it was because Dr Beard was happily married with three children. Ann, who had watched her daughter struggle in recent memory and just now begin to find her feet, was concerned that her daughter would not be able to handle the struggles of an unrequited love affair at such a crucial stage in her life, both because of the impending menopause, a period of a womans life in Victorian England where women were thought to be prone to insanity and because with every year on her life, Christiana crept ever closer to an impending future of potential mental instability inherited from her father. Whatever the relationship between Dr Beard and Christiana is somewhat a mystery, Dr Beard himself always maintained that it was purely plutonic on his part and that the love affair was always one sided, however, at the very least he maintained a reasonably intense line of communication through letters with Christiana for at least a year. During this time, Christiana would often visit his home opposite and also wound up as close friends with the Doctor’s wife, Emily. 

 

One night in September 1870, when Dr Beard was away from Brighton on work, Christiana visited the Beards home to see Emily and brought with her a box of Chocolate Creams from local confectioner, Maynards. She handed them over to Emily, stating that they were a gift for the children, but took one out and actually fed it to Emily. Taken aback, both y the sudden intrusion of being force fed a chocolate and of the strange, metallic taste of the cream itself, Emily quickly spat it out, but let the situation slide. At least, she let it slide for a few hours whilst she still remained well, as later that night she was struck with a violent bout of Diarrhea and stomach cramps. When Dr Beard returned from work, Emily explained what had happened and he instantly fell suspicious of Christiana, warning his wife not to get any more involved with her and the very next day, arranged to meet her, a meeting which can’t have been too comfortable for either person, as the doctor accused Christiana outright of attempting to poison his wife. Christiana strongly refuted the accusation and told him of how she too had fallen ill after eating the same chocolates, but for the Doctor, he had had quite enough of the situation and decided to cut ties with Christiana there and then.

 

In fairness to Christiana at this point, the Doctor here may easily have been judged for being overly harsh. During the 19th Century, food and especially confectionery, was often laced with all manner of chemicals and poisons which would never find their way into modern edibles. Ingredients such as bisulphate of lead, venetian mercury, zinc and arsenic based food colours were disturbingly common. Sulphate of Copper was used frequently in wines, preserves and fruit based foods, whilst dangerous poisons like Strychnine were used alongside bugs and other biological horrors in all manner of food and all of these are long before the concept of accidental adulteration is even considered. It wasn’t until the passing of the Adulteration of Food and Drinks Act in 1860 that any efforts were even made to restrict the usage of such ingredients and even this act only worked as a suggestion rather than a compulsory law of compliance.

 

Nevertheless, Doctor Beard was wholly unimpressed and he followed up his initial accusation with a second in January of 1871, it wasn’t until Ann visited him with Christiana in tow and threatened him with legal action if he did not recant the accusation that he offered her any benefit of doubt. For Christiana, the Doctors treatment was a harsh blow. She had fostered a one way love affair that had appeared to cross over the border into an obsession and now, with what she perceived as her love thrown back in her face, she knew she had to do something. Over the next few months, she devised a plan that she felt sure would smooth the matter over and bring her back into the Doctors good books. 

 

The Chocolate Cream Killer

 

On 28th March 1871, Christiana popped into Isaac Garretts chemist on Queens Road. She knew Isaac Garrett only in passing, as this was the chemist that supplied her with her Neuralgia medicine previously. Introducing herself as Mrs Wood, she asked Garrett to buy a quantity of Strychnia which she told him was to poison some local stray cats that had been causing her grief, leaving her “much annoyed”. Garret’s first reaction was to deny the request, Strychnia was far too potent a poison just to eradicate a few cats, but after she assured him that she had no children in the house and only she and her husband woul handle it, he gave in and agreed to sell her the dangerous powder. By 1871, the buying and selling of such poisons had become slightly more convoluted. The Pharmacy Act of 1868 had restricted the sale of the most dangerous poisoning by making them only purchasable from a chemist who was already familiar with the buyer, or who was introduced to the chemist via a third party who was known to both buyer and seller. After the sale was made, the poison had to be correctly labelled, clearly marked as a poison and detailed with the sellers name and address and finally, as a last stage of protection, details of the transaction had to be logged into a poison book and signed by both chemist and buyer. To this end, Isaac Garrett suggested to Christiana, or as he now knew her, Mrs Wood, that she ask Caroline Stone to witness the transaction, a milliner who lived and worked in a shop just three doors down that both he and Christiana both knew. Christiana was not overly keen on the idea, but agreed to it and went into the hat shop. After awkwardly casting small talk around and buying a veil, she plucked up the courage to ask Mrs Stone if she would witness the transaction, telling her that both her and her husband were naturalists and that she needed the strychnia for stuffing a bird. It was not an altogether usual request, but all the same, Mrs Stone agreed to do it and back in the chemists the sale was made and logged into Garretts Poison Book.

 

“March 28, 1871 – Mrs Wood, Hillside, Kingstown’ Strychnia, 10 grains; destroying cats.”

 

Despite the lack of any mention of stuffing a bird, Mrs Wood signed off on the sale and Christiana left the chemist with a lethal amount of poison in her possession. She had carried out the first stage in her warped plan to win back the friendship of Doctor Beard and now she was ready to proceed with the next steps.

 

Benjamin Coultrop was perhaps Christianas first victim of poisoning. The young paper seller that she had crossed paths with in Late March in Spring Gardens who had taken her chocolates and later come down with a violent illness that had lasted for over a week. At the time, his mother had taken him to the hospital, but despite all the symptoms being present, no suspicion had fallen on Strychnine poisoning and despite the immediacy of the onset of symptoms so soon after eating the chocolate that Christiana had handed to him, somehow the transaction had slipped completely out of the picture. 

 

In Victorian England, Strychnine, despite its toxicity, was a reasonably common poison. In 1871, it was used for the most part as a form of pest control, but also it was used less commonly for medicinal purposes. Though it had no intrinsic medicinal properties itself, it’s convulsive effects were seen to be of use in some treatments and as such, it was administered as part of medical treatment in small, non-lethal doses. As far as poisons go, however, it was intensely destructive, causing symptoms of burning throat, difficulty swallowing, anxiety and restlessness that would soon progress to the malfunctioning of the central nervous system as it worked to disrupt signals from the brain, causing violent muscle contractions that gradually increased in intensity, finally causing muscles to essentially give up as the lungs failed and asphyxiation ended a victims life, potentially as quickly as within 1-2 hours after ingestion, in a state of some agony. The victim would often be twisted backwards, their head, neck and spine arching in a sickly concave arch. Strychnine was a pungent substance too, with only half a mg being enough to kill a dog and between 30-60 mg enough to kill a human. Although it had such a lethal action, it was rarely used in poisoning cases, accounting for only 10% of all recorded cases of poisoning between 1750 and 1914 and taking a backseat to the far more popular Arsenic as a weapon of choice due to its sharp, metallic, bitter taste.

 

For whatever reason, perhaps due to its simplicity of purchase, Strychnine had become Christianas favoured vehicle to carry out her plan and the poisoning of Benjamin Coultrop was just the beginning. To put it simply, her plan was truly perverse. After Doctor Beard had accused her of the attempt on his wife’s life, she reasoned that if she could frame Maynards, the confectioner, this would lift the suspicion of guilt from her own shoulders and thus, her relationship with Dr Beard would be restored. In this respect, the poisoning of Benjamin Coultrop had failed in Christianas eyes. No poison was discovered and as such, the boys sickness had passed silently. If she was to ever be exonerated, she would need to cause a far greater fuss and she endeavoured to do so.

 

Christianas next victim was the result of another targeted effort. Once again at the end of May, she returned to Spring Gardens and met with 9 year old Emily Baker out playing in the street. She asked the young girl her name and then offered her a bag of Maynards Chocolate Creams and then ducked out. Once more, however, it appeared Christiana had failed. After several days of silence, she walked back to Spring Gardens and actually knocked on the door of the young girl’s house. Speaking to her mother, she introduced herself as a District Visitor for the Church and asked if anyone in the local area had fallen ill recently. Emily’s mother, Harriet, having no reason to suspect Christianas story explained that her daughter had been vomiting for three days after eating some chocolates, but had now recovered. After she expressed a desire to track down the woman who had given her daughter the bag of chocolates, Christiana promptly wrapped up the conversation and left the scene, returning home now armed with the knowledge that her plan had once again failed to rouse enough suspicion or drama to make any waves.

 

After repeated failed attempts, Christiana realised that her plan needed a desperate rethink. After she spent a period milling over how sdhe could better cause the stir she needed, Christiana concluded that she needed to scale the entire operation up. To this end, she began paying young boys she would meet on the street to go into Maynards and buy Chocolate Creams for her, when the boy returned with the sweets, she would then switch them with a bag of Chocolate creams from her pocket that she had previously poisoned and tell the boy that he had bought the wrong ones, asking him to return them for her. The boy would take them back to the store and the confectioner would replace them on the shelf for sale to the next unsuspecting customer. This plan Christiana decided, would be able to be rinsed and repeated as much as she liked, effectively securing a constant stream of distribution across the town of poisoned chocolates. This situation, she felt, could not go unnoticed. After several efforts to poion the supply in thi sway, Christiana then took it upon herself to enter maynards herself and lodge a complaint, she told the confectioner that she had bought chocolates for her and her friend and they had both fallen unwell after eating them. A second time, she told him, she had bought chocolates from the store which had burnt her throat. 

 

As luck would have it, Maynard took chocolates very seriously and was proud of his reputation in the town, he had been a confectioner in Brighton for over 18 years and so, whilst he doubted Christianas story, he was quite sure that he had never even used dangerous chemicals in any of his chocolates before, never had a complaint and didn’t even hold poisons in his shop, instead leaving the issue of pest control to his cat, he agreed to allow Christiana to carry out an independent chemical analysis on a selection of his sweets and suggested Julius Schweitzer, a chemist who owned a shop just round the corner on the seafront street, Kings Road. Schweitzer heard Christiana’s story and was initially very sceptical. He later said of her as seeming “nervous and fanciful” but after he tasted one of the creams she handed over to him, he quickly changed his tone, having recognised the familiar, characteristic metallic zing of Strychnine. Her job done as best as she could do for now, Christiana left the chocolates with Schweitzer and took to the routine of poisoning the chocolate supply of Maynards, one bag at a time. 

 

On the 15th April, 1871, Christiana went back into Garretts chemist and purchased a second packet of Strychnine, this time explaining that she needed the poison to destroy an elderly dog she owned. She and her husband were packing up shop and moving to Devon, she explained, but the dog was far too sickly and old for the journey. Once again, with the help of the milliner Mrs Stone as witness, she left the chemist with a lethal batch of fresh powder. 

 

At this point, it’s reasonably safe to say that Christianas mental condition had rapidly deteriorated. Her obsession for Doctor Beards attention along with her scattergun, uncaring approach to poisoning anyone who could potentially further this goal was unnerving enough, but on 27th May, there is a story involving Christiana that highlights just how far she had become unhinged. One of the servants in her household had seen Christiana playing with the landlord’s dog in the hallway and had also noted that Christiana had dabbled with powders that often bore no labels. Thirty minutes after the servant had taken notice of Christiana playing with the dog, it turned up dead, its spine twisted backwards. Later that day the dog was taken to a taxidermist, who immediately took one look at the deceased animal and concluded it had died through poison. Despite all the evidence, not even the servant suspected Christiana, who for the most part, was protected by her class. Despite all of her suspicious behaviour until now, most assumed that a woman of such status was simply not a poisoner. It was a poor judgement of character, shrouded by social stereotypes, but one that worked perfectly into Christianas favour and one that was about to prove fatal. 

 

On 12th June, Charles Miller, stepped off the train from London in Brighton station and made his way down towards the seafront, stopping into Maynards along the way to pick up a bag of chocolates for his family. The Miller family were recent arrivals in Brighton, having moved down from Clapham, London on account of the mother’s poor health. When Charles arrived home, he handed out the Creams, giving one to his 4 year old nephew Sidney, his brother Ernest and then ate some for himself. He noticed after biting into the chocolates, that they had a “tart, tarry taste, like the taste of a penny” but thought little of it until very soon after, when he fell ill and was so sick that the maid was quickly sent to fetch the local surgeon, James Tuke. Upon his arrival, Tuke questioned Miller, who mentioned eating the chocolate, but when the doctor tasted them for himself, he declared them perfectly ordinary chocolates and safe to eat, all suspicion of poison cast aside. Unsure of what to do next, the Surgeon made Miller comfortable, diagnosed a bout of “nervousness” and left, but almost as soon as he had, Sidney, Miller’s four year old nephew too began to fall sick, crying endlessly. Once more a doctor was sent for and this time, physician Richard Rugg attended the unwell child. Recognising the unusual rigid stiffness in the child’s limbs as a form of poisoning instantly, he sent for an emetic in an effort to purge his stomach, but sadly within five minutes of Ruggs arrival, Sidney passed away before anything could be done. It fell to Rugg to inform the police of the boys death, and he promptly did so, contacting both the Brighton police and the district coroner. Upon the arrival of police Inspector William Gibbs, Rugg handed over the bag of chocolates and informed him that he felt quite sure they had been the source of the poison that had made both Charles miller sick and killed young Sidney. 

 

The following day, Rugg carried out a post mortem on Sidney, he noted that the body was, in general terms, very healthy, though he had become unusually rigid. He also noted that Sidney’s brain had a small amount of damage in the form of being “slightly congested”, but in all other inspections, perfectly well, specifically noting that the lining of the stomach showed no signs of irritation. The cause of death, he concluded, was nothing immediately obvious, though he still suspected poison, but could not be sure by which one and how it was administered. Before wrapping up, Rugg drained a quantity of fluid from the child’s stomach and preserved it in a jar, which he thought may be needed for later examination. 

 

On Tuesday 13th June, an inquest was held into the death of Sidney Miller at the Carpenters Arms pub on West Street. The evidence given came mostly from Sidneys immediate family and focused around the types of chocolates the family ate and, crucially, for Christianas plan, the manufacturer and place of purchase was mentioned several times. This, of course, was later printed in the local paper, the Brighton Gazette. Finally, Christianas plan was gaining traction. With the publication of the paper the following Thursday that detailed the inquest, news of Maynards poison chocolates spread rapidly. As for the inquest itself, it had been adjourned awaiting the results of an examination of Sidney’s stomach and fluids by Dr Henry Letheby, a chemical analyst and public health official from London. Inspector Gibbs had taken the grim parcel to Letheby himself on the 16th June on advice from the coroner. Whilst almost all officials at the inquest seemed to consider the death a result of poison, it fell to Letheby to provide some form of evidence. Meanwhile, people began to talk of Maynards and Christiana jumped on the opportunity to cement the confectioners troubles by passing around town, dropping bags of Maynards creams, doctored of course, by her poison, in various shops, leaving them on counters and slinking off quietly, as if she had simply misplaced them. Until now, one of the biggest setbacks to her plan, was that many of her victims were drifting by silently, either due to recovery without the need for hospitalisation, or due to any lack of suspicion on the chocolates. With the publication of the story on Sidneys inquest, Maynards was now bridging that gap in the plan, and the chocolates were finally able to cause the suspicion that Christiana so desperately needed of them.  

 

Just as the inquest of Sidney Miller was about to resume, Christiana got an unexpected letter in the post. It appeared that her earlier complaint to Maynards about poisoned chocolates had not gone as unnoticed as she had believed and the letter was from the Brighton police, inviting her to attend the inquest as a witness. Her heart leaping from her chest, Christiana immediately took the letter to Doctor Beards house in order to show him. It was, she hoped, the first step towards her redemption. Unfortunately for Christiana, on this occasion, Dr Beard was too busy to see her and dejected, she returned home and prepared herself to give testimony against Maynards. 

 

The next day, the inquest resumed and among the primary witnesses to give testimony was Dr Letheby. In summary he stated that he had found a quarter of a grain of Strychnia in the stomach contents of Sidfney Miller, plenty enough to kill him, along with a heavy dose of Strychnia inside some of the chocolates also handed to him by Inspector Gibbs. The evidence left him “no doubt” he said, “that the child died from Strychnine poisoning.” It was then the turn of Christiana to give her testimony,

 

“I have bought chocolate creams at Mr Maynards twice – once in September, which I thought made me ill. The young lady here present served me with them. Those I had in September had no nasty taste with them, but afterwards they made me ill. I had violent internal pains, and burning in the throat. Those symptoms came on about an hour afterwards, and I took some brandy which made me worse, and then I took some castor oil. The pain and burning continued for about twenty minutes. On the 6th of March I bought some more on purpose to try them. I ate a portion of one and gave some to a friend, and they made her ill within ten minutes. They had a nasty taste – I never tasted anything like it, – it took away my taste all day. After I tasted it, I had burning in my throat, the saliva kept coming into my mouth, and I looked livid. I felt burning hot, and had a tightness around my throat. My sight was not affected, but my eyes looked very strange. I again took some brandy, and it made me worse.”

 

The analysis by Schweitzer was then read out in full, along with testimony from Mr George Robert Ware, Maynards London supplier for French Creams, who explained the process of making the chocolates and adamantly stressed that no additives were used in their making, though he did admit that poison had been used on their premises to kill vermin, and he could not be sure what poison had been used. 

 

At the conclusion of the inquest, much to Christianas despair, the jury saw fit to vote in accordance with the coroner that Mr Maynard should be exonerated from any blame in the death of Sidney Miller. This was not according to script. Whilst the story once again made the local paper on the following Thursday, it came with the softener that Maynard had gotten away, free from blame with Christianas attempt to frame him.

 

Hoping it would be enough, Christiana wrote a letter to Dr Beard, explaining her experience at the inquest,

 

“Caro Mio, I have been so miserable since my last letter to you. I can’t go on without ever speaking to you… I didn’t enter into the poisoning case on the street, but I called and told her that I was obliged to appear at the inquest in a few days, and I hoped she would send you a paper and let you know; but she said “no, she did not wish to unsettle you.” However, dear, I mean you to know about this dreadful poisoning case, especially as I had to give evidence; and I know how interested you would be in it, as you told me you would give anything to know what La Sposa swallowed… You fancy my feelings, standing therefore before the public, looking very rosy and frightened as I was. When I saw the reporters pens going and taking down all I uttered… My dear boy, do esteem me now. I am sure you must. What a trial it was to go through that inquest! La Madre was angry I ever had the analysis; but you know why I had it – to clear myself in my dear friends eyes. She always says nothing was meant by you. No, darling; you wanted an excuse for my being so slighted. I never think of it; it was all a mistake. I called on La Sposa and told her how I got on. She said my evidence was very nice. She didn’t ask me to come; but perhaps she mustn’t. Now there is no reason. La madre says if you were at home she is sure you would ask me just the same as ever. Come and see us darling; you have time now. La Madre and I have been looking forward to your holiday to see you. She wants to know how you got on and how you like the North. Don’t be biased by any relatives; act as your kind heart tells you, and make a poor little thing happy, and fancy a long long, bacio, from DOROTHEA.”

 

Quite why she signed off the letter as Dorothea, or why she slipped small snippets of Spanish into the letter is anyone’s guess, but it is painfully apparent that by this point, Christiana had completely lost touch of all reality concerning her relationship with Dr Beard. For his part Dr Beard chose to ignore the letter completely and eventually visited her, but only to tell her to cease writing letters to him. It was a further insult and as such, it was clear to Christiana that the only option was to further step up her game against Maynard. Over a period of three days towards the end of July, she wrote three letters to Arthur Miller, the father of the dead child, each one penned under a different pseudonym, imploring him to speak out against Maynard and pursue his conviction for his part in the death of his son. Miller, however, found the letters disturbing and instead took them to the police.

 

After writing the letters, Christiana then devised a new way to get her hands on a greater quantity of poison. She could no longer use Isaac Garretts shop, after she had told him she was moving out of town, and so instead, she forged a letter pretending to be another local chemist and paid a young boy named Adam May to deliver it. The letter posed as a request from a chemist, asking for a loan of Arsenic, until their own stocks could later be refilled, a practice which was quite common throughout the trade. Fortunately, Garrett denied the request. The following day, she wrote a second letter, this time posing as the local coroner asking for the loan of Garrett’s poison book. This time her ruse was successful, and upon receiving it, she tore out pages either side of the pages that detailed her purchases where she had used the name Mrs Wood. Once she had done this peculiar action, she returned the book to the boy and asked him to take it back to garrett. It was a further strange ruse, why had she not removed the pages that detailed her own purchases? Had she intended to tear out the pages surrounding it in order to create a red herring? Either way, it was all very strange behaviour. Recognising Garretts as a dead end for procuring poisons, she then instead turned towards a new chemist, discovering Samuel Bradbury. Bradbury was closing shop and leaving Brighton soon and so she wrote to him requesting to buy his entire remaining stock of three ounces of Arsenic, which he happily sold her. 

 

Christianas next step was to take a trip to Margate. She told her mother that she wanted to visit her friends and childhood home, but in reality she had an altogether different reason to take a break from Brighton. During her day trip, she posted parcels from Margate back to brighton containing various poisoned sweets, cakes and fruits to Emily Beard, Doctor Beards wife, Jacob Boys, a well known solicitor, William Curtis, the editor of the Brighton gazette, Isaac garrett, the chemist, George Tatham, a surgeon and Brighton borough magistrate and lastly, one to herself, complete with an incorrect spelling of her name. It seemed like a further scattergun approach, but there was some semblance of method behind her madness. All of the people she had targeted with poisoned parcels were from high profile families and it was almost impossible to poison a single one of them without making waves. 

 

Upon receipt of the parcels several members of each household fell sick, though in many cases it was the servants and maids who bore the brunt of the poison. Christiana actually ate her own poisoned produce and made herself sick, reporting to the doctor, who then went on to report the incident to the police.

 

All the while she was acting out her bizarre scheme, Christiana had been blissfully unaware, or at least, blissfully ignorant of just how suspicious she had been acting but her behaviour had not gone completely unnoticed. Inspector Gibbs had been tracking witnesses involved in all the many reports involving Maynards around the town for some time and one constant amongst all the reports was the presence of a mysterious woman at the scene and always they matched Christianas description. Completely unbeknownst to her, Inspector Gibbs was slowly pulling in a large net that encircled Christiana and he was extremely keen to put his own suspicions to the test.

 

Gibbs visited Christiana whilst she was suffering from the effects of the poison and asked to see the parcel she had received. He removed the label, which Christiana was keen to point out, had an incorrect spelling of both her name and address, and as he made to leave, she remarked to him,

 

“How very strange! I feel certain you’ll never find it out!”

 

It was an ominous line and one that Gibbs must surely have taken up as a challenge, for he was quite sure that much of the suspicion lay with Christiana and he thought he had just the way to prove her wrong. In possession of all the labels from the parcels, along with a whole slew of other articles of evidence written by hand relating to the case, Gibbs write to Christiana, asking her on what date she had bought the chocolates from Maynards, he knew the date already of course, but that was besides the point. Always keen to help the police when it came to fingering Maybnnards, Christiana wrote back to Gibbs immediately and when he received the letter, the final part of his plan was complete. He now had a verified copy of Christianas handwriting and he sent all the articles off to a handwriting expert, Guy Frederick Netherclift in London. Netherclift was, at the time, one of, if not the only true expert on handwriting analysis in the country. He had been trained in the art by his own father, Joseph, who had pioneered the art before him. His CV in regards to criminal handwriting analysis, he boasted, saw him having given evidence “to almost every court in the land.”

 

Meanwhile, the police issued a public notice, offering a £20 reward for information on who might have sent the parcels, published in the Brighton Gazette on the 17th August. 

 

“Borough of Brighton, £20 Reward – Whereas some evil-disposed person has lately sent to different families in Brighton, parcels of fruit, cakes and sweets, which have been found to contain poison, the particulars of two of which cases are stated at the foot hereof. Notice is hereby given that whoever will give information to the undersigned as shall lead to the apprehension and conviction of the offender will be paid a reward of twenty pounds.”

 

When he saw the notice, deciding it was finally time to risk his reputation, Dr Beard finally visited Inspector gibbs and relayed all the information concerning his relationship with Christiana. In his testimony, he maintained that the relationship had been purely plutonic, and explained that he had not visited the police and given the information earlier, due to his concerns of a scandal coming out that might harm his reputation in the area as a physician. Beard’s testimony was finally enough for Gibbs and an arrest warrant was issued for Christiana. He personally visited her at home and took her under arrest, transporting her directly to Lewes Prison where she awaited her hearing in front of the magistrates court the next morning on the 18th August.

 

The hearing made big news around Brighton, finally Christianas actions had got people talking, but not for the reasons she had always hoped. After a long day of evidence against her, the hearing was adjourned awaiting further evidence for one week. Christiana was denied bail and a reward of £2 to each of the young boys that Christiana had employed to deliver her forged notes around town was issued if they were to come forward with information. A week later, the second day of the hearing opened and further evidence was piled up against Christiana, this time from Isaac Garrett, who identified Christiana as the woman who came to his shop to buy Strychnine under the false name of Mrs Wood, along with several other witnesses who all firmly ID’d Christiana as being involved with the posioning. At the end of the second day, the court was once again adjourned to await the results of the handwriting and toxicology analysis. The third day opened one week later still, on the 31st Aug, this time, additional charges of the attempted murder of Isaac Garrett and Elizabeth Boys were added to the initial charge of the murder of Sidney Miller. Gibbs masterstroke employing Frederick Netherclift paid off handomsly, when he told the court that in his thoroughly expert opinion, each and every letter, note, and parcel label was written in the same hand, which matched the known handwriting of Christiana, though she had made deliberate attempts to conceal the fact. The toxicology results were equally as damning and reflected once more the state of Christianas mind, when they stated that “very little effort was made to conceal the poison” and that much of the fruit she had sent in the parcels were “literally stuffed” with “dangerous quantities of arsenic.” When all the evidence was given, Christianas defence did not even take the opportunity to cross examine any witnesses. Christiana was taken to her cell in Lewes Prison to await trial, whilst a new inquiry into Sidney Miller’s death was opened, this time with new evidence of the letters sent to Sidney’s father from Christiana, along with testimony from Dr Beard. In conclusion, the magistrate read out the verdict demanding that Christiana was to stand trial for the murder of Sidney and the attempted murder of Emily Beard and Elzaberth Boys. The entire time the verdict was read out, Christiana never flinched a muscle, remaining, “perfectly calm and self-possessed.”

 

Trial

 

Christianas cell in Lewes prison contained very few of the creature comforts she was so accustomed to. Though she was permitted to wear her own clothes whilst imprisoned, a decision enacted by the prison physician on account of her mental health, her cell contained only a hammock, pillow, blanket, dustpan and brush, soap tin, comb and her eating utensils. For two months she sat in her cell, taking her food privately and never once admitting guilt, nor showing any remorse for her crimes. Outside the prison walls, the public opinion was one of severe hatred. Her story had broken national headlines after the magistrates hearing and the unusual circumstances bled out into the wider world. The opinion against her, in fact, was so poor, that officials held private concerns that they would be unable to find an unbiased jury to sit through her trial. Due to this, her trial was moved from Brighton, to the Old Bailey, London where they hoped distance might ensure a fairer jury. In preparation, Christiana was moved to Newgate Prison and the date was set for her trial for the 8th January, 1872. 

 

Christianas mother hired a defence lawyer, John Humphreys Parry, who, perplexed by the whole thing, quickly recognised that his only hope of any defence at all was to plead insanity. Parry organised a meeting between Christiana and a team of top psychological doctors, including Edmund Jonas, the governor of Newgate Prison and Prison Surgeon, William Wood, a London Physician, Henry Maudsley, a psychiatrist and professor of medical jurisprudence at University College London and Charles Lockhart Robertson, the former superintendent of Sussex county asylum. During their meeting, the group found Christiana to be indifferent to the position she was currently in and thought she seemed to lack the proper understanding of the severity of the situation, lacking in moral feeling. 

 

“The most marked symptom is the utter insensibility shown by the prisoner to the position she is placed in and the danger she runs. Her whole mind is centered on her letters to Dr Beard, on his conduct in allowing his wife to read them after all that had passed between them, and on the horror she would feel, not at being tried for murder, but at these letters being read in her hearing in court, She further dwelt on her certain belief that Dr Beard desired the death of his wife even by posion; that though too cautious to speak of it directly, he had hinted at it; and that if so she knew he would marry her. There was no emotion or anguish shown during my two searching examinations. 

From these facts I conclude that, while the prisoner has in the abstractwithout question the knowledge of right and wrong, and knows that to posion is to commit murder, she is so devoid of all sense of moral responsibility that she cannot be regarded as conscious of right or worng, or morally responsible, in the sense which other men are so. Her family history of insanity, epilepsy and idiocy points to the insane temperament and is consistent with the deduction that the prisoner is morally insane.”

 

With the conclusion given, Christianas plea for insanity was neatly lined up and after a brief delay, her trial began on 15th January, 1872, opening with Christiana pleading not guilty to a packed house, who witnessed her sat in the box, a “young, bright and not uncomely lady” as the papers described her.

 

During the trial, the defence did not even try to refute any fo the evidence levied against Christiana, instead leaning into the insanity plea and appealing to the jury to take note of her family history of insanity. The prosecution struck back, stating that several witnesses thought she knew fairly well the difference between morally right and wrong and the hereditary nature of insanity as outdated nonsense and medical claptrap. In his summary, the judge reminded the jury of her coolly calculated planning throughout her poisoning spree and were then sent out to deliberate on the outcome. After just over an hour, they returned their verdict of guilty on all charges and the judge donned his black cap to deliver a sentence of death. Throughout the entire affair, Christiana only showed one outburst of emotion, when her mother took to the stand, otherwise she remained stoic and cool throughout. The trial was not to end so cleanly, however, as when the judge asked if their was any reason she should not be executed for her crimes, Christiana stated that she was pregnant./ It was a nonsense that was patently false, but the letter of the law stated that she had to be examined, and so a jury of matrons was hastily sworn in made up of 12 women from the courtroom, whilst a surgeon was found to carry out the exam from the crowd. It was quickly determined that she was absolutely not pregnant, the result was read out and Christiana was removed from the courtroom, back to her cell in Lewes to await her execution.

 

As one might expect by now, the case of Christiana Edmunds is never  straightforward one, and there was one final twist. In a dramatic about face, public opinion swung heavily after the guilty verdict was given and several appeals were written concerning the death penalty and her mental health. The Home Secretary received pardon pleas from several sources nationwide and in response, hired Dr William Gull and Dr William Orange to examine her in Lewes Prison. The two physicians concluded that she had “confused and perverted feelings”, concluding she was of unsound mind and her pardon, promptly granted, instead committing her to imprisonment in Broadmoor Asylum. Whilst this was seen as a victory to some of the public, many more, including several newspapers saw it a perversion of justice, used to protect a guilty murderer not based on her mental condition, but on her status in society and saw it as an attack on the working classes, with the middle and upper classes protecting their own.  In any case, on the 5th July, 1872, Christiana was removed to Broadmoor where she was to spend the rest of her days. During her imprisonment she routinely showed signs of habitual and obsessive deception, often concealing her letter writing home, having them smuggled out of prison, despite the fact that she was actually free to write any time she liked. This behaviour extended beyond letter writing, and her room was often turned over, with officers finding many small items hidden away that needn’t have been a problem. In October of 1880 she wrote a letter of appeal, pleading for release, which was promptly denied. Slowly but surely, as the years ticked by, all memories of Christiana Edmunds faded from the public attention. She died in Broadmoor, aged 79, on 19th September, 1907 from “senile debility”, essentially old age.

 

Conclusion

 

In later years many people have returned to the case of the Chocolate Cream killer to try to make sense of Christianas actions. Scarily, whilst only one death was recorded due to her poisonings, it’s impossible to plot an accurate figure for how many people were either injured, or even potentially killed from eating the chocolates, as so many of the poisonings passed by without suspicion. Many theories have been put forward, both detailing the exact nature of the relationship between Christiana and Dr Beard, and also on the true nature of Christianas mental instabilities. One modern interpretation of her issues diagnosed her with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, noting her intense need for attention in her later life during her imprisonment, along with her obsessive need to deceive and lie. Whatever the case, it is clear she was a woman with many troubles and her case remains, though largely forgotten, one of the more bizarre examples of poisoning in an era that was home to so many.

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