In April, 1876, Charles Bravo took to his bedroom, rubbed a dose of laudanum into his gums and poured himself a glass of water from the jug on his nightstand. Within minutes of retiring to bed, Charles Bravo fell desperately ill. Within two days, he would be pronounced dead, the victim of Antimony poisoning. Suicide, manslaughter and murder have been cast forward by amateur historians and famous crime writers alike. 145 years on, some have claimed to have solved the mystery of the death of Charles Bravo, but in reality, the truth lies as buried as the characters themselves. Two inquests to the good, the question remains, who killed Charles Bravo?
Ruddick, James (2001) Death at the Priory: Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England. Atlantic Books, 2001.
The Verdict in the Bravo Case (1876, August 12), The Independent, p. 6.
The Balham Mystery (1867, May 16), The Daily Post, p.6.
Taylor, Bernard & Clarke, Kate (1988) Murder at the Priory: The Mysterious Poisoning of Charles Bravo. Grafton Books, 1988.
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The Balham Mystery: The Death of Charles Bravo
In April, 1876, Charles Bravo took to his bedroom, rubbed a dose of laudanum into his gums and poured himself a glass of water from the jug on his nightstand. It had been a long day, though little did he expect the night was about to become much longer. Within minutes of retiring to bed, Charles Bravo fell desperately ill. Within two days, he would be pronounced dead, the victim of Antimony poisoning. This might seem like just another page in the very Victorian chapter of the The Golden Age of Poisoning. Charles Bravo’s death, however, stands tall as a murder mystery that was never solved. Suicide, manslaughter and murder have been cast forward by amateur historians and famous crime writers alike. 145 years on, some have claimed to have solved the mystery of the death of Charles Bravo, but in reality, the truth lies as buried as the characters themselves. Two inquests to the good, the question remains, who killed Charles Bravo? This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
The Last Hurrah of Charles Bravo
At just after 9:30 PM on the night of Tuesday, 18th April 1876, the rooms and hallways of The Priory, a large estate in Balham, South London, were quietening down for the night. The Mistress of the Estate, Florence Bravo was asleep in her room, her personal servant, Mrs Jane Cox sitting by her bedside, was knitting by a dim light coming from the fire, burning slowly in the grate. The day had been a trying one, the master of the estate Charles Bravo had returned from taking a ride on one of the horses in a bluster. The horse had bolted whilst he had been riding and Charles was in quite a level of shock upon his return. Later that evening, at dinner, Florence Bravo had drunk too much wine once again and tensions between the married couple had flared over both her drinking and her expenses. Florence had been planning a holiday, respite for a recent bout of illness and Charles was not impressed by her plans. Now though, as the night set in, things were finally at rest. As the knitting needles clicked and clacked, the quiet was broken by a short commotion in the hallway. Florence didn’t stir from her sleep and Mrs Cox ignored the sounds, continuing her knitting. Within minutes however, the relaxing air of the quiet bedroom was torn asunder, as Mary Ann, the houses young maid burst into the room.
“You had better come quick. Mr Bravo is ill.”
Mary Ann had undersold the situation, Mr Bravo was far more than just ill, he had consumed a fatal dose of Antimony and within 55 hours, he would succumb to the havoc wreaked upon his insides by the caustic poison. A scandal had been tightly wound and with the mysterious death of Charles Bravo, it was ready to burst upon a nation, fascinated by the lives of others, especially those in estates such as The Priory.
The Early life of Florence Campbell
Florence Campbell was born on the 5th September, 1845, in Darlinghurst, a small suburb od Sydney, Australia. Her parents were wealthy Scottish merchant and Industrialist Robert Campbell and his wife Ann, who owned several vast estates in both Australia and New Zealand as well as property in England. Florence was the second child and eldest daughter of the family, which would eventually grow to furnish Florence with six brothers and two sisters. Robert Campbells father had made the family their fortune after leaving Scotland to trade wool and gold in Australia, but when Florence was a young child, Robert and his wife Ann opted to move the family to England and start a new chapter in their own story, taking up residence in Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, a 3500 acre estate, with a large, imposing 18th century mansion house standing tall in the centre. The family also owned property in both Knightsbridge in London and Brunswick Terrace in Brighton. In short, they were a family that had rather large means and were of a certain class in English society. As was the fashion for the day, their daughter, Florence, was seen as somewhat of an asset and as she grew older, Florences parents began to eye suitable matches for her hand in marriage. To say that Florence was to be groomed for an arranged marriage might be overstretching it a touch, but she certainly would have felt the hand of her parents decision making steering her own freedom of choice in a direction they would have found both suitable and very probably advantageous for Florence and the families business as a whole.
Aged just 19, whilst holidaying with her family in Canada, Florence met the 21 year old Alexander Ricardo, a young officer of the Grenadier Gaurds, whose parents were Member of Parliament John Lewis Ricardo and his wife, Lady Catherine Duff, sister to the fifth Earl of Fife. They were old money and also founders of the International Telegraph Company. Alexander was handsome and Florence found him instantly attractive. The pair began courtship with both families blessing and married son after on 21st September, 1864. Alexanders father had passed away two years previous to the marriage and now as they were wed, he saw a large sum of money arrive in the form of trusts and bonds from his fathers will. Aside from the large initial payment, the couple were to receive yearly sums that were well into the thousands of pounds. In a time when the average family lived on £28 per year, it would be an understatement to say they were in a very comfortable financial position to start their new life together. Things are now always as easy as they should be however, and it wasn’t long after the marriage that the facade of the outside ideal began to crack.
When they had first married, the couple took a lease on a large estate named Hockham Hall, but within 3 years of moving in, they found they were actually living beyond their substantial means and had to downsize. Further, Florence had pushed Alexander to leave his military career. The British Army were maintaining a military presence in far flung corners of the world and Florence was concerned that Alexander would be constantly sent abroad. In order to start a family in a more secure role she insisted he leave the army, which he did in the spring of 1868. After he left the military and entered into civilian life, Alexander found he struggled with the normality of it all, he dabbled in the family business, but found little to interest him and fell to a depression, and began drinking heavily, frequently to excess which lead to arguments between himself and Florence. If this wasn’t already enough to put a considerable strain on the relationship, rumours circulated of affairs and though he originally denied them, Alexander later admitted to seeing at least two women outside of the marriage.
Florence dealt with this as any well to do Victorian woman would and in many respects, the only way they could, by simply running away from the problems and attempting to pretend they don’t exist. She frequently spent weeks away, holidaying with friends or staying alone in her parents property in Brighton. Eventually, however, Alexanders drinking was getting too out of hand and his behaviour towards Florence was becoming too much for her to handle. He blamed her of controlling him, of ruining his life and verbally abused her frequently, oftentimes he would later apologise and promise to stop drinking to excess and reform his behaviour, but it was always short lived. Finally, when Florence was on the verge of being unable to take it anymore, the entire travesty came to a climactic head, when in Christmas of 1870, after a prolonged argument when Florence was reprimanding Alexander for insulting her sister, he snapped and hit her in the face three times. Things blew up, chairs were tossed and the families valet was pressed into restraining Alexander. The marriage was effectively over and Florence left to return to her parents. This was not a time when divorce or separations in marriage were taken lightly however, and though her parents were very close with Florence, her father insisted that she return home as she had a “moral duty” to stand by her husband, no matter the situation. As a compromise, he promised he would talk with Alexander personally. Florence was not to be sold so short though and she was said to become hysterical at the suggestion that she return to her abusive husband. Her mother finally arranged for Florence to go away for a while in the hopes she could reassess her own feelings and the seriousness of the situation may shock Alexander into reassessing his behaviour. The Campbells arranged to send their daughter to a Sanatorium on the Welsh border named The Hydro. It was run by a nationally famous physician named Doctor James Gully, who had gained notoriety in high society through his embracing of the rather modern cure of Water Therapy. Florence agreed to the compromise and three days later, arrived at The Hydro where she would enter into the care of Doctor Gully. Whatever Florences parents had hoped for in regards to the therapy and care Florence would receive at The Hydro, it was more than likely a world away from what was to occur during her time there.
Florence & The Hydro
Dr James Gully was the Campbell families physician and had known Florence since she was aged 12 years old, so he was all too happy to help her parents when they came to him asking for his help with their daughter. In 1870, when Florence was admitted to the Hydro, he was in his 62 years old and a kindly man. His notoriety and fame had bought him many accolades, from people as diverse as Charle Darwin, to the Prime Minister, who called him “The finest physician of his age.” He was a progressive doctor, not only in his treatments with water therapy, but also in his social outlook and had treated many women recognising the social pressures that were heaved upon their shoulders to be perfect domestic specimens of their gender whilst also maintaining an ambitionless lifestyle. This was in a time when most saw these pressures, often leading to depression, anxiety and stress, as simply “women problems” and dismissed them with a wave fo the hand and a swift reminder to “pull your socks up” and “do your duty”. Doctor Gully was, in this respect, several generations ahead of his time. Aside from his medical and social practices, he was interested in Phrenology and Spiritualism, had written several books and even a play for the London West End theatres.
Gullys own wife was 14 years his senior, and the pair had separated some years prior. Though still married, the pair had parted mutually some years prior and now, his wife was living out her days in a home. Gully lived the life of a bachelor behind closed doors.
As the weeks and months rolled on, Florence found comfort in Gullys treatments. She was able to return to sleeping naturally without the aid of narcotics, something which she had not been able to do for several months prior to her admission and she relaxed, fully taking on board Gullys therapy. It was perhaps, inevitable that she should become infatuated with Doctor Gully. Though he was 37 years her senior, short and bald, a far cry from the handsome image of Alexander, her husband, he was kind, progressive and supportive of Florences independent thought. Throughout her time at the Hydro, the pair drew closer socially as well as professionally. Meanwhile Alexander was continuing to drink heavily. He visited Florence twice in Malvern, the town that made home to The Hydro, but both times ended in disaster, with Alexander spending time getting drunk and acting erratically. His health was suffering too, both physical and mental and when Florence returned to her parents home, she made it clear that she did not intend to make any further attempts at mending the marriage. In fact, she had been speaking with Gully, who had supported her in her separation and even gone as far as to speak with solicitors on her behalf and encouraged her to go against her fathers wishes of sticking the marriage out. Gully motivation was not entirely professional however, as the pair had been sleeping together since a top to Bavaria the pair took together in August under the guise of a business trip. The affair was nothing short of an intense scandal, both being officially married and with the age gap, the wealth of Florences family and the fame of Gully as a medical man, the liaisons between the pair were very dangerous indeed. The affair had almost been uncovered, when a servant inadvertently walked in on the pair whilst they were having sex in Florences bedroom. She left the room quickly, flustered and Florence dressed quickly, caught up with her and bribed her into silence.
Doctor Gully and Florence had been busy making plans as it turned out. They had agreed to wait out the death of Gullys wife and for the separation to become official between herself and Alexander, but things were thrown for a loop when, in April 1871, Alexander turned up dead whilst living with a mistress. He had died from his excesses in drinking and this left Florence in an interesting position, not least because she was now a widow and officially free from er dreaded marriage, but because Alexander had not changed any of his will and therefore left Florence the princely sum of £40,000, a huge sum of money. This saved only to hasten the plans between Gully and Florence, who had set about making use of her inheritance by moving back to London and into a large mansion Estate named The Priory, in Balham, South London, where she could mingle in the west end of London in just half an hour, but so too have enough land to indulge in gardening and the keeping of horses. She furnished the house to match the interior decor of Gothic Rosewood and Oak and hired three maids, a cook, butler, coachman, groom, footman, 2 groundsmen, 3 gardeners and a personal companion named Jane Cox. For Gullys part, they kept the facade by his retiring to London, where he bought a house named Orwell Lodge, five minutes walk from the Priory gates.
And so things continued for a while. Florence settled into the high life in The Priory, visiting Gully in secret after the servants went to bed, in many respects, the servants turning a blind eye to a situation that was perhaps more obvious than the couple realised, meanwhile Florence and Mrs Cox, her personal maid grew close in their relationship, with Mrs Cox taking on something of the role of a surrogate mother to Florence. Mrs Cox had family in Jamaica and had spent time living there herself, but after her husbands death, she returned to England with her three sons, now aged 3, 5 and 7 and busied herself with living and working at the Priory to support their education. Things were relatively peaceful for Florence, at least until May 1872, when she visited her solicitor in Surrey for a weekend trip. Doctor Gully stopped in to visit “coincidentally” and though neither Mr nor Mrs Brooks, Florences solicitors were any the wiser to the couples affair at the time, they were made acutely aware, when Mr Brooks walked in on the pair having sex on his drawing room sofa. What followed was much as Gully and Florence had feared. As news of the affair spread, Florences parents were outraged, Doctor Gully found himself falling from grace heavily, his reputation shred to tatters overnight and many of servants at the Priory either left or threatened to leave her employ, such was the social outrage. The times wrote of Florence.
“An adulteress and an inebriate, selfish and self-willed, a bad daughter and a worse wife.”
Whilst the Evening Standard wrote of the affair in general as a “disgraceful connection”. If things couldn’t get any worse, in 1873, Florence found herself pregnant with Gullys baby. The decision to have an abortion was one made by society, the pair had found themselves social pariahs enough already and so Doctor Gully performed an abortion in secret at the Priory with Mrs Cox nursing her back to health over the following week, keeping the whole thing quiet from the other servants of the house. The situation had been too much for Florence, who promptly ended the affair with Doctor Gully, telling him she would like to return their relationship to a professional one, though she did keep the door open, offering him the solace that one day, perhaps, she may reconsider when things had quietened down.
Florence & Bravo
With the news of the affair spreading throughout London and a fair degree of social ostracism taking hold over both Gully and Florences lives, Florence acme despondent and depressed. Mrs Cox, took note of this and made to amend the situation in the only way that made sense in Victorian England. She engineered a meeting between Florence and a young man named Charles Bravo, whose family she knew from Jamaica. Bravo was the image of a Victorian gentleman, born in England in 1845, he was the same age as Florence and the son of wealthy colonial merchants. He was educated at Kings College London and Oxford, had taken the bar in 1868 and held ideas of joining parliament. For now, he worked in a small legal practice as partner with his long term friend, Edward Hope. After Christmas shopping one day with Florence, Mrs Cox took Florence to the Bravo family home in Kensington for tea and introduced her young mistress to Charles Bravo. At the same time, Mrs Cox did her best to sell Florence to Bravos parents. The meeting went just as planned and over the next months, Mrs Cox engineered further meetings between the two, both in London and whilst holidaying in Brighton. Florence was not slow and could of course see what her personal maid was doing by introducing and engineering chance meetings between the two, but she liked Charles and so agreed to go along and let matters take which course they would. Bravo was tall, slim and dressed conservatively. He was cultured, well travelled, read poetry and literature and was a keen fan of Shakespeare. He was, for Florence, an easy man to like and soon the pair began officially stepping out together. Bravo began staying over at the Priory and the relationship progressed quickly. It did, however, leave Florence in a difficult position in respects to Doctor Gully, whom she had been stringing along to a certain degree since their earlier breakup. Now she wrote to him officially ending any promise of a future, stating that her mother was ill and that she must end any relationship with Gully in order to mend the rifts between her and her parents in order for Florence to be able to meet her and fix the relationship before it could be too late. It was of course, a fairly poor excuse and Gully soon found out the truth, that Florence had met a new man named Charles Bravo. He wrote to Florence twice, the first an angry letter, venting his frustrations over her lies and then again, immediately after sending the first, he wrote to her again wishing her the best for her future life with Bravo.
This cleared the path to a certain degree, but Florence still held concern over her past affair with Gully becoming uncovered by Bravo. The affair had been kept a secret until now, but in a calculated gamble, Florence opted to tell Bravo the truth over dinner one night, in order to clear the air.
“I told him that I had became acquainted with Dr Gully after the failure of my marriage, I told him that I had been constantly in Dr Gullys company. I told him we had gone together to Kissingen and that I had become pregnant.”
In short, she confessed the entire affair to Bravo and left him to make a decision. Fortunately, Bravo had not been an angel himself and he told Florence that he did not care about her past with Gully and that he had, in fact, had an illicit affair and had been keeping a married woman with a five year old son in secret. The couple decided to forget both transgressions and to move on, never mentioning either to one another and forge a new life.
This new life was in essence, a trade off for both parties. Ordinarily, a woman with Florences history in Victorian England would not have found a husband who would accept the past so easily, but Florence was rich. Florence was acutely aware that her money played a large role in her attraction for Charles Bravo and an even larger role in his calm dismissal of her past with both Alexander and Gully, however, the relationship with Bravo could return Florence back to a healthy social position and restoring her reputation. It was a strange contract that hinged on a relatively normal relationship between two young people, but made immeasurably more complicated once the issue of money and social status factored in to the equation. Still, it was a fair trade off for both it seems and the pair were married on 7th December, 1875 in All Saints church, Kensington, too much fanfare. As the wedding procession left the Priory on the morning on the 7th, Doctor Gully watched from his home in Orwell Lodge, the home that Florence had convinced him to move to. In response, he told his butler never to admit Florence to his home ever again.
Within two weeks of the marriage, Charles Bravo received an anonymous letter accusing him of marrying Florence for her money, he became enraged and was convinced it was from Gully, two weeks later he received two more letters. None of them threatened or demanded anything, only accused him of being a gold digger. Mrs Cox suggested he burn them and forget their existence, but they sowed a seed that would quietly dig into Charles Bravos head concerning Florences past. Aside from the letters however, things seemed to be going well for the newlyweds. They had taken a short honeymoon in Brighton and Charles had integrated into his new stately home, whilst Florence ingratiated herself into polite society once again. Edward Hope, Bravos partner wrote of the couple, after visiting them shortly after the marriage,
“I saw them at dinner and again the next day, when we played tennis. Charles showed me around the estate, the gardens and stables. He seemed very pleased with everything. He was very proud of his wife and very proud of the Priory. He seemed to be remarkably happy.”
Florence had even begun patching things up with her parents. It was, at least on the outside, a happy marriage. Things behind closed doors are rarely so simple however, and problems had already begun to show. The anonymous letters that Charles had received had started a grudge between himself and Doctor Gully, though Gully never admitted to writing the letters, Charles was convinced they were from him. He at times, would bring this up to Florence, blaming her for her past, despite the couple promising never to mention them again. Charles had also began exercising what he saw as his traditional rights, taking control over several financial dealing to do with the household. Traditionally, the man was the head of the household and it was, as such, part of his role to run the paperwork and household expenditure. Charles saw Florences outgoings as excessive and asked her to try to kerb her spending and cut back on the staff for the house. Florence however, rightly so, reminded Charles that the staff and household were paid by her own money, she was a strong, independent minded women and had dismissed the social norms of gender long ago.
“I reminded him that I had always lived within my means and I was accustomed to looking after my own affairs”
Florence told Charles. This as you can imagine, went down like a sack of cement with Charles, who became infuriated and flashed signs to Florence of a temper that she had not known before the marriage. His temper progressed and his tantrums continued, always concerned with his feelings of inadequacy for not being able to run the household with an iron fist and for Florences past relationship with Gully, which slowly ate away at him. Eventually, after a passionate argument between the pair, Florence once again returned home to her parents, where she told them that Charles had become violent, was opening her mail, controlling her drinking and was obsessed with Gully.
“He says he will not be happy until he sees his coffin going across Tooting Common. My husband had promised not to mention Gullys name before our marriage, yet now he was constantly speaking of him. He was always abusing his, calling him “That wretch” and attacking me for my former acquaintance with him.”
Florences father was exasperated at his daughters apparent inability to settle down to a suitable married life, but her mother was a little more accommodating and allowed Florence to stay in the family home whilst they went to Italy on holiday. During her stay, Charles wrote several letters to Florence apologising for his behaviour and promising to patch things up. The whole thing was made all the more complicated for Florence however, as she was now aware that she was pregnant with Charles baby, and so, she returned to The Priory to attempt to patch things up with her husband. Even as he wrote letters apologising for his behaviour however, Charles had been scheming to sack Mrs Cox without mentioning anything of his plans to Florence. Mrs Cox represented a heavy threat to Charles, or so he believed. He saw in Cox and Florence, a conspiracy to band together. It was in a way, classic domestic abuse for Charles to wish to cut off Florences ties with her closest ally in her personal servant. He had perhaps, underestimated how close the pair had become and failed to realise than in sacking her, he had effectively fired Florences surrogate parental figure. It was perhaps the gravity of the firing that lead Charles to allow Mrs Cox to stay on in her position until she could find a new role, rather than evict her immediately, a cut throat position he had taken months prior when he fired Florences Coachman Mr Griffiths and evicted him from the property.
Four days after her return to the Priory, Florence miscarried. It was an unfortunate situation that lead her to fall into a depression. In fact, after her previous abortion, she had had several complications, including septicaemia which had almost killed her, though she had survived, she had some doubt over her future ability to carry a child in a successful pregnancy and the miscarriage left her feeling despondent about her future prospects to be a mother. The doctor suggested Florence got a change of air and Florence and Mrs Cox planned a trip to Worthing, a town outside of Brighton on the South Coast. When she told Charles of he plans over dinner, his temper flared again, slamming furniture around and telling her that it was an unnecessary expense. The argument that followed was heated and terminated only after Charles struck Florence and stormed out of the house. Mrs Cox brought him back but the marriage had fallen to a new low.
By March, Florence began feeling better and Charles responded by inviting himself back into the master bedroom. After Florences miscarriage and during her depression she had asked Charles to sleep in a separate bedroom whilst she was nursed in the master room by Mrs Cox, but now she felt better, he took it upon himself to return to his marriage bed. Florence wa all too aware that this meant that he would continue to try for another child and sure enough, just two weeks later, Florence was pregnant again, though by easter, she suffered her second miscarriage. Once again, Charles Bravo was relegated to the spare bedroom whilst Mrs Cox nursed Florence back to health. Over the following two weeks, the Priory was in a state of relative calm, in letters written to Charles parents, he was reasonably caring towards Florence, if somewhat offhand about her mental condition considering her second miscarriage. On the 18th April, Charles left the house to take the horses out, but when he returned, he was suffering from a state of shock. The horse he had been riding had bolted and though he hadn’t been thrown, the whole thing had taken its toll on him. Florence helped him into the bath to rest and relax and it wasn’t until dinner time that evening that his constitution returned. Over dinner that night, he drunk several glasses of red wine whilst Florence, finally up and about after her miscarriage, drank a bottle of sherry, before retiring to her bedroom, which Charles had advised her to do on account of her health. Whilst in bed, Florence sent for more wine to be brought to her room and upon hearing of this, Charles strode over and the couple had a heated argument concerning Florences drinking, before he retired to bed.
Here we are, back where we started, on the night of the 18th April, 1875. Charles had retired to his room, drank a glass of water from the jug on his bedside table, a practice he did every night almost ritualistically, rubbed Laudanum into his gums for a toothache and laid down to bed. Quickly however, he noticed there was something wrong. His insides burnt. He dashed out of his bedroom shouting “Florence, Florence! Hot water!” But Florence did not respond. Instead, the maid, Mary Ann went to the room to see what was wrong and upon finding Charles being violently ill out of his bedroom window, dashed over to Florences room opposite to tell Florence and Mrs Cox of the situation.
“You had better come quick. Mr Bravo is ill!”
Leaving Florence asleep, Mrs Cox put down her knitting and went to Charles room to see what the fuss was all about. She too saw Charles vomiting ou too his bedroom window before turning to Mrs Cox, asking for water and then promptly passing out onto the floor. Cox sent Mary Ann down stairs to fetch mustard powder and hot water, which she returned with promptly, mixing a solution for Charles to drink. She then sent the maid back downstairs to fetch coffee and told her to send the coachman to the town Doctor. Mary Ann first decided the situation was dire enough to demand her to wake up Florence, which she did and told her of all that was happening. Florence immediately got out of bed and dashed to the bedroom, where Mrs Cox filled her in on the particulars. Charles had been throwing up for some time and she thought she could smell Chloroform in his vomit, and she pointed out to Florence an empty chloroform bottle on the shelf. Florence asked about a doctor and Mrs Cox informed her that she had sent for Doctor Harrison, who had treated Florence during her miscarriages, and he was on his way. Florence was not impressed by this however, as Doctor Harrison lived over an hour away by horse and cart and demanded Mary Ann to send for Doctor Moore, the local town doctor instead. In the end, Doctor Moore arrived twenty minutes before Doctor Harrison, and when Harrison arrived, Moore filled him in on the situation as he saw it.
“Though it was impossible to tell with which substance, I told him that Mr Bravo was, in my opinion, fatally ill. I also told him that I doubted whether he would live for more than about an hour.”
It was a prognosis that Doctor Moore agreed with and the pair agreed to inject Charles with brandy to keep his heart going and to use morphine suppositories for the pain. The doctors then took upon searching the room. They told Mrs Cox that Chloroform was certainly not the culprit, which they both assumed was something more likely to be an irritant, such as arsenic, though after a thorough search, they could find nothing which pointed to any poisoning having taken place. Florence suggested to the doctors that it might have had something to do with the days earlier incident with the horses affecting his heart and that they should send for the surgeon Doctor Royes Bell, Charles’ cousin and a considerably well known and well thought of physician. He was a Harley Street surgeon and a member of board at Kings College London. A letter was sent for him to attend the Priory as soon as he could and at 2:30am, he arrived with his colleague, Doctor George Johnson, a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons and one fo the most famous physicians in London.
Upon their arrival, Charles was flitting in and out of consciousness, though in his poor state, he managed to recognise Doctor Bell. Both Doctor Bell and Johnson, who had taken over the case, agreed with the earlier diagnosis of an irritant poison being the culprit and Doctor Johnson asked Chalres what he had taken. Charles, seemingly bemused at the question, told them he had taken some Laudanum before bed, but that was all. Not satisfied that Laudanum would be the culprit of such an extreme reaction that Charles was suffering, they dismissed his answers, but could find nothing in the room that would have caused such a strong poisoning effect. With the situation worsening, Mrs Cox called Doctor Bell to the drawing room. Here she dropped quite a bombshell, when she first entered the room to attend to Charles earlier that night, he had told her,
“I’ve taken poison, don’t tell Florence.”
Doctor Bell immediately went to fetch both Doctor Harrison and Johnson, and Mrs Cox repeated her story to all three doctors. Enraged, Doctor Harrison demanded to know why Mrs Cox had not told them earlier, but Cox simply replied that she had told him as soon as he arrived, though Doctor Harrison was quite sure she had not told him anything of the sort. The doctors then went back to Charles bedside to investigate the claim further. They asked him what he had taken and that they were aware he had told Cox that he had taken poison, though it was meant to be kept a secret. Charles, however, only repeated that he had only taken Laudanum for his toothache and perhaps swallowed a little. “If it isn’t the Laudanum,” he said weakly, “then I don’t know what it is.”
The doctors all left for the night, taking samples of Charles vomit for analysis and Doctor Bell stayed by Charles bedside. Quite aware of his situation, Charles asked to write his last will and testament and dictated one line, simply,
“I give all that I possess to my wife Florence, whom I appoint my executrix.”
At 4pm the next dat, Charles parents arrived at The Priory along with Florences parents the next morning. Throughout the period, all four doctors remained on the case, nursing Charles, though none could see much hope in his diagnosis, as well as arranging for questioning of all the house staff, however none could bring any light on the matter, all expressing their happiness in the house and their bemusement to the current situation. Florence, was not one to give up lightly and she wrote a letter to Doctor William Gull, a Sir and a physician who was tasked with seeing to Queen Victoria herself.
My husband is dangerously ill; could you come as soon as possible to see him? My father, \Mr Campbell of Buscot Park will feel very grateful to you if you could come at once. I need not say how grateful I shall be to you, Yours truly, Florence Bravo.
P.S. Dr George Johnson is coming in the course of the afternoon. Mr Royes Bell of Kings College, who is the cousin of Mr Charles Bravo, acquiesces in the wish for you to come.”
Doctor Gull arrived at around 6pm that evening and immediately upon seeing Charles, he cam to the conclusion he had been poisoned, demanding to know what he had taken. Charles only repeated the now familiar line that he had taken Laudanum for a toothache. Doctor Gull insisted that he should tell them what he took, and that if he died without doing so, then suspicion would fall upon the house as to a poisoning. Charles only nodded in agreement and turned away from the doctor. Not known for his bedside manner, William Gull repeated his questions, but Charles only repeated that it was Laudanum and nothing else that he had taken. He then asked if there was any hope for him.
“Looking at your condition, Mr Bravo, it wouldn’t be right to give you any hope. There’s very little life left in you. In fact, you’re half dead now.”
With that, he left the house and by 5am the next morning, 55 hours after his first symptoms, Charles Bravo breathed his last. He was pronounced dead at 5:20am by his cousin Doctor Royes Bell. It was a prolonged, grim death, but just what it had been that killed him remained a mystery and if if he had been telling the truth til then end, the question of who remained as a dark shadow over the roof of the Priory.
Bravo Death & Inquest
The following day, Royes Bell visited the Surrey coroner, but found it impossible to have a death certificate issued without an inquest, due to the nature of the death. He enlisted the aid of Pathologist Joseph Payne to perform a post mortem. The inquest was scheduled for the following Tuesday, and Florence requested it to be held at the Priory. This was not unusual for an inquest to be held in private properties, however, as it was a public matter, the door would have to be open for all. The very next day the post mortem autopsy was conducted in the presence of Dr Johnson, Harrison and Moore, along with Royes Bell. Organs were removed for analysis along with contents of Charles stomach.
The inquest, set for Tuesday 25th April took place in the dining room fo the Priory, with a jury of seventeen local tradesmen. Florence remained in her bedroom for the entire duration. The day was more or less a rather pointless affair, as no analysis had returned of the contents and organs of Charles digestive system. For the most part, Mrs Cox and Charles parents along with several of the house staff gave statements as to their experiences of the night of Charles poisoning, with all stating they felt he had no reason to poison himself and that he had a happy marriage. Mrs Cox stuck by her story that he had told her that he had poisoned himself and that he had asked her to keep it a secret from Florence. The inquest was then adjourned until Friday 28th April, by which time they hoped more information on the poison might have come to light through the analysis.
As it happened, Doctor Redwood, the man in charge of the analysis had already completed his work and the results were leaking out ahead of the adjourned date. On Friday, when he was called to give his statement at the inquest, he gave the results, stating that he had found evidence that Charles Bravo had died of Antimony poisoning in the form of Tartar Emetic, a soluble form of the poison that comes in a white powder, easily diluted into water. Four grains of the powder would be enough to be fatal, but the analysis suggested evidence of between 30-40 grains inside Charles stomach, more than 10 times a fatal dose. The coroner then made to sum up the case and bring an end to proceedings, rejecting both Dr Johnsons request to give a statement along with a request to hear a statement from Florence, which the coroner denied on compassionate grounds. One might infer that he was anxious to get home for the evening. The jury stepped out and returned with t heir verdict promptly.
“We find that the deceased died from the effects of poison, Antimony – but we have not sufficient evidence to show under which circumstances it came into his body.”
And that was it, show over. The inquest finished with an open verdict and the case was closed. Or was it? As it happened, very few people were satisfied with the outcome of the inquest, the Campbells, the Bravos and even the Jury itself found the whole thing completely unsatisfying in its conclusions. As his body was taken to Norwood Cemetery the following day for burial, the mourners followed the procession under an air of suspicion and frustration. Joseph bravo had voiced his concern as to the bottles of poison that could be found all over the Priory, referring to Florences homeopathic medicines and referred anyone that would listen to Charles letters to his mother in the days leading to his death that he said clearly suggested the voice of a carefree and happy man, not a man on the verge of committing suicide. Jospeh Bravo made his opinion official and enlisted the help of his solicitor to take his suspicions to Scotland Yard. Upon finding out that the Bravos were pressing the matter with the detective agency, Florence retaliated by writing a series of letters to Charles father, insinuating that Charles had come under some trouble for money from supporting the mistress and her child that he had had previous to their marriage and that she believed this may have been a reason for him killing himself. She was, in effect, protecting herself by digging up a reality that would have been seen publicly as most certainly sordid and unwholesome at best. Just as Chief Inspector Clarke from Scotland Yard travelled to question Florence and Mrs Cox on the rumours that were persisting and casting suspicion around Charles Bravos death, a rift opened between Florence and her in-laws.
Chief Inspector Clarke headed up the investigation into the complaints and rumours that were rising up around Charles Bravos death. He had questionnaires sent out and sales registers checked for the sale of poisons at all local chests and druggists. At the same time, the press were beginning to pick up on what they were calling “The Balham Mystery” and devoting considerable column inches to the story of Charles Bravo. This lead to several letters being printed, many sent from anonymous sources, stating anything from their reluctance to believe that Charles had killed himself to their frustrations with the inquest and the inner in which it was carried out and concluded.
On the 15th May, Inspector Clarke interviewed Florence once again, this time in the police office at Brighton. He also informed her that he would be taking official statements from all the staff at the Priory, as well as performing an official search of the house and the grounds. The next day, Florence took out an advert across several papers, requesting information on the poison that lead to her husbands death and offering a £500 reward.
“£500 reward – whereas up to the present time it is not known where or by whom the antimony or tartar emetic which caused the death of the late Mr Charles Delauney Turner Bravo, of The Priory, Balham, Surrey, was procured on or before the 18th April last. The above reward will be paid on behalf of his widow by the undersigned to any one who will prove the sale of said antimony or tartar emetic, in such a manner as will throw satisfactory light on the mode by which Mr Bravo came by his death on the 21st of April Last. Any information to be given to Superintendent Williamson, Scotland Yard, London.”
This hit the front page of many local and national newspapers, including the Pall Mall Gazette. On the same day, Scotland Yard released a statement that a second inquest would be later scheduled. Naturally as the press intensified around the case, rumour and baseless conjecture wormed its way into the storyline. Police and newspaper editors were receiving anonymous letters hand over fist, suggesting motives for the murder of Charles Bravo and connecting it with every person that could possibly be involved in the Priory household. Some letters rang more true than others however, and it wasn’t long before Doctor Gully and Florences affair were once again brought to the fore. Letters were being written that suggested Alexander Ricardos death had been equally as suspicious as Charles Bravos and calls for exhumations of his body were being made, along with suggestions that his death may have been a scheme concocted by Gully and carried out by Florence. Whilst these were all baseless rumour, it made for an uncomfortable time for Florence. Furthermore, police were making interesting links. First of all, they discovered that Mrs Cox had met with Doctor Gully five times in the weeks running up to Charles death. Considering that Gully had previously told his butler never to admit anyone from the Priory to his house, this was most unusual. Whats more unusual is that Mrs Cox had informed Gully of Florences miscarriages and he had prepared several medicines for her, which he had left at her house for collection in small bottles, none of which could later be found at the Priory.
Another story that began circulating and was later confirmed was the disquiet felt by some o the house staff that Charles had previously sacked. In particular, Mr George Griffiths, the coachmen who Charles had sacked and evicted from the Priory. He had held a new position in Herne Bay in Kent, but had told the landlord in a local pub one night that he “wouldn’t want to be in Charles Bravos shoes” and that Bravo would “get what was coming to him” adding that he thought Charles would be dead in a few months. Making matters worse for Griffiths, A chemist in Streatham had records of a large quantity of Tartar Emetic being sold to him whilst he was the coachman at the Priory. Upon questioning, Griffiths admitted both to buying the poison and keeping it stored in the horse stables, and of having the drunken conversation concerning Charles with the landlord, however, he stated he was referring to a recent dog bite and that he was commenting on the possibility of Charles dying from Hydrophobia. Regardless, it was a story which ran along with all the other rumour and conjecture and fuelled the fire of suspicion around what was quickly becoming the hottest news item of the day and the revelation that Tartar Emetic was at least held in the Priory stables cast a further grim shadow across the house staff. A full search was made of the Priory by police, though nothing suspicious was found, however questioning had been undertaken and Charles habit of drinking water nightly from a jug and glass tumbler by his bedside before retiring to bed had come to light. The police learnt of how this was a routine that he had followed religiously for some time, so much so that even old university friends of Charles confirmed the practice. Police were by now convinced that the Antimony was administered through the jug of water and not in any of his food, as others ate the same food during dinner as Charles himself and the medical evidence suggested that the effects of the poison would have been active within minutes of ingesting the poison. It had to have been taken minutes after entering his room for the night, they suggested.
On the 26th June 1876, the original inquest was quashed and a fresh inquest was scheduled to take place two weeks later. For those dissatisfied with the original results, this was great news, but for Florence and Mrs Cox, who were by now, quickly finding themselves to be the publics number one suspects, the news was much less exciting. The inquest opened in stark contrast to the rather private affair of the first. By now the story was a national talking point and as such, members of the press were poised to take note of everything which would pass between witness and jury. Further, the inquest itself, which in the first incident had skirted so many issues, was now set to expose every tiny facet of the case to the public. For Florence, who had already suffered the scorn of society for her affair with Dr Gully once before, this was surely a harrowing thought. On the 11th July, in the billiards room of the Bedford Hotel, the second inquest opened, with legal talents hired by both the Campbell and Bravo families that would not have seemed out of place in a. High profile case at the highest courts of law of the time. The inquest ran for 23 days and was meticulously transcribed, both for official records and for the press. During the inquest, reputations were laid to waste and full details of Florences sex life, both with her husband Charles and with Doctor Gully were made entirely public to great scandal and excitement in the press.
On the 11th August, just after 11:30am, the Inquest concluded with the Jurys verdict,
“We find that Mr Charles Delaunay Turner Bravo did not commit suicide, that he did not meet his death by misadventure, but that he was wilfully murdered by the administration of Tartar Emetic, but there is not sufficient evidence to fix the quilt upon any person or persons.”
As expected, the press had been damning in all involved and the summaries of the conclusion of the inquest were no exception,
“An enormous amount of very objectionable matter has been turned over, the world has been taken into confidence on subjects which it had better not have known and the end is as the beginning, unsatisfactory. What is the evidence disclosed? A case of shocking immorality, influenced by sordid motives. Mr Charles Bravo, an ambitious young barrister, entangled with a woman at Maidenhead, met with an attractive widow of tainted reputation, redeemed by an income of £3000 per year. Having no means of his own, save such as were pledged to the woman he had been keeping, he was still wishful. To get into parliament and make a name in the world. The lady whom he met was anxious to redeem her position, and make peace with her family. She wanted whitewash; he wanted money; and both, well knowing the antecedents of each other, agreed to shut their eyes to the past, and unite their fates for considerations that seemed to offer mutual advantage. It was a compact built on a bad foundation, and soon crumbled away.”
“We have no sympathy for Dr Gully, nor for Mrs Bravo. They have met with their deserts, but we do sympathise with the English speaking people all the world overshoe have had this nauseous story turned over for their demoralisation, with the professed object of clearing a reputation that could not be cleare, but showed in darker clouds the more it was dragged to light.”
Two days after the inquest ended, Florence returned to Balham to oversee the sale of The Priory and to say her farewells to the staff of the house. She went on to settle in Southsea, a small seaside town in Hampshire, until her death on Tuesday 17th September 1878, just two years after the inquest of Charles Bravo death. Her own inquest concluded death by misadventure, but it was alcoholism that killed her, her heart, liver and kidneys were in poor condition and the lining of her stomach had ruptured, leaving her with severe internal bleeding.
Mrs Cox left the Priory and moved to Birmingham to live with her sister and Dr Gully moved to Austria, chasing to run away from his destroyed reputation in England. In the end the death of Charles Bravo had not been solved and concluded in a mystery, but all who were involved were destroyed one way or another. The Balham Mystery, as it was known in the press was hamstrung for a time, with Libel cases from both the Campbell and Bravo families tying up any speculation as to the truth behind the death of Charles Bravo, but upon their ending, the floodgates of speculation opened.
The mystery of who killed Charles Bravo, or if indeed, he was murdered at all, is a question which still persists today 145 years on. Over the years, crime writers such as Agatha Christie have commented on how they believe matter sot have unfolded on the night of the poisoning and though many authors have claimed to have “finally solved” the mystery, the reality is that none have done so convincingly. Out of the many theories, there are three main theories that have become shortlisted as the main contenders over he years, running the gamut of suicide, manslaughter and murder. Al three theories are backed by various participants in the contemporary story, lending them an element of credence, however just how much, is still up for debate.
The first theory, which was the original theory of many at the time of Charles death, is that he took the poison himself, committing suicide either through a jealous rage or a petulant temper tantrum. Most proponents believe that he took the antimony and then immediately regretted his decision, or lost his nerve and hence, called out for hot water, knowing himself to be poisoned. Evidence is also pointed to that Charles, whilst he lay diving in bed, showed no panic towards his impending death and that he not once accused anyone of poisoning him. Sir William Gull, one of the physicians who attended him during the illness believed Charles to have killed himself, stating that “no one would be so casual about our impending death.” Naturally, proponents also believe Mrs Cox statement, that Charles told her that he had poisoned himself, and that he wished she would not mention it to Florence.
It is worth noting, that of the suicide theory, it is only one physician of the six which attended Charles at the Priory that believed it to be a suicide. Doctor Gull believed him to have taken the Antimony knowingly, whilst all others suggest the no one would kill themselves with such a terribly painful poison. The Pathologist who undertook the post mortem said of the suicide theory,
“No one wishing to commit suicide would have done so with one of the most painful chemicals in the entire pharmacopoeia.”
Furthermore, in the run up to his death, not a single one of his friends or family members thought Charles had shown any signs of suicidal tendencies and many commented on the plans they had made with him over the coming weeks and months. The medical evidence also appears to shoot down much of what proponents of the suicide theory claim to be evidence, such as confusion and depression being side effects of high doses of Antimony, suggesting this could have lead to his indifference whilst dying, along with the fact that doctors were administering alcohol and morphine to make him more comfortable as he lay in bed slowly dying. This might lead one to consider just how firmly Charles had his feet on the ground during those hours anyway. Doctor Johnson said of such a situation,
“A person as ill as that is perfectly indifferent to most things.”
In the end, Charles Bravo had little to no motive to want to kill himself and Inspector Clarke wrote at the time that
“I can find no motive whatever for Mr Bravo to have taken his own life.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the statements made by house staff comes continuously from Mary Ann. A young member of staff, she was perhaps far more astute and observing than many of her superiors realised and her statements are oftentimes some of the most fascinating documents to read in the whole case. Interestingly, she not once mentions the confession apparently given by Charles to Mrs Cox that he had poisoned himself in any of her testimonies, however, if both parties were in the same room when Charles told this to Mrs Cox, which they would have been if we are to believe Mrs Cox story, she would have almost certainly heard this. Why then, does she never mention it?
The second theory that has persisted is that of manslaughter. One of the main proponents of this theory is Professor Mary Hartman, Professor of History at Rutger University. Her theory ran along the lines that Florence was slipping Antimony into Charles Bravos alcohol for some time in order to make him ill from the effects of drinking. This was done in order to turn people away from alcohol by creating a negative association with there drinker. Another reason this might have been done could have been to stop Charles sexual advances. If, after two miscarriages, Florence was so desperate not to become pregnant for a third time, might it have been credible to believe she was poisoning him just enough to make him ill as a form of birth control? This was not as uncommon as it might sound in Victorian England, though it more usually done with Chloroform, rather than Antimony or other irritant poisons. The theory follows that Florence poisoned his water jug that night, but accidentally put too much into the solution, leading to his death rather than just sickness. It was true that Charles had suffered strange bouts of sickness leading up to his death which seemed to pass as fast as they had come on, which lends the theory a level of intrigue, but how realistic is it that Florence might accidentally slip ten times the desired amount of Antimony into his water without realising?
As far as Florences behaviour goes, she did appear genuinely upset when she heard of Charles sickness, and did turn quiet hysterical at times. During the inquest, the crown counsel mentioned that her behaviour was “Generally consistent with innocence”, and she did appear to want to help as best she could demanding for more nearby doctors to be called and contacting so many respected physicians and pleading for their help.
Finally, we are left with the theory of Murder. Probably one of the more popular theories, even for those who are adamant it was an intentional killing, it still remain a mystery as to who the murderer might have been and how had they pulled it off without getting caught?
George Griffiths remains one suspect due to his drunken conversation with the local pub landlord after his sacking by Charles Bravo. Regardless if one believes him to be innocent or not, publicly stating “I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes, he’ll be dead in a few months” is not a good look for anyone. Griffiths has an apparent motive, being dismissed by Charles Bravo and he even has evidence stacked against him in the form of a receipt of purchase of Antimony, which he had used and kept in the stables. However, things start to fall apart as far as suspicion goes when one considers that Griffiths never denied any of these things to police, he told them honestly that he had used the Antimony for the horses and that he had spoken out against Charles, but it had been over another mater entirely and he was drunk at the time. In fact, he held little malice towards Charles, he was a skilled workman and gained new employment in Hearne Bay just three days after his sacking from he Priory. His new employer, Lady Prescott also gave witness that during the time of the poisoning, Griffiths was at work on her estate. In the end, Inspector Clarke himself said of all of the staff at the priory,
“I am satisfied that none of Mrs Bravos Servants were involved in what happened”
In many respects Griffiths can be seen as a compelling suspect, but his suspicion fails to hold up under close scrutiny.
So who else can it have been? Doctor Gully falls under some suspicion due to the way in which his relationship ended with Florence so abruptly and of how she had lied to him about her marriage to Charles. Had he fostered a resentment towards the couple and especially towards Charles? One of the more interesting aspects of Gully as suspect came in the arrival of an anonymous letter received by police shortly after the case became public news. The letter had a Malvern postmark, suggesting it was someone who knew Gully well, and suggested that Gully had written the anonymous letters to Charles and then conspired with Mrs Cox to kill him.
In support of this, there was the matter of the anonymous letters that Charles believed were written by Gully, though Gully himself always maintained that he never wrote once to Charles and it is certainly true that Cox and Gully met on at least five occasions, all of which were supposedly by chance in the run up to Charles death. He had plenty of motive, possibly feeling aggrieved by the way in which his own relationship with Florence had ended and the extent of which his reputation lay in tatters after the affair came to light. As for Gully himself however, at the inquest he was asked about his thoughts on Florence and Charles marriage and he appeared to have been resigned to the truth of the situation and moved on in many respects. In fact, it turned out later that Gully and Florence had met up before she was married to Charles. Florence was unsure if she should marry and she asked Gully for his advice. If Gully had wanted the couple to be split up, or if he wanted Charles out of the picture, he was effectively presented with a perfect opportunity to do so cleanly, however, on the contrary he actually supported Florence and suggested she marry Charles. If this was. Man burning with anger and resentment, he certainly didn’t seem to show it at what was probably the most opportune time for him to do so.
So how about Mrs Cox? Naturally she is one fo the most oft repeated suspects due to her lying about what she did or did not say to Doctor Harrison upon his arrival concerning Charles supposed statement of poisoning himself. Her motive is initially clear, she had three children, debts, a mortgage and a personal connection to Florence, her position at the Priory was far more than merely professional and Charles was about to dismiss her. Her behaviour during both the night of the poisoning and at the inquest is suspicious at best. Firstly, she told police that she reacted to Charles Bravos cries for help, however, in truth, Mary Ann, the maid had alerted her. This might seem fairly innocent, however it seems unlikely that Mrs Cox would not have heard Charles call for help on the landing just feet away from Florences bedroom door. If she had heard him, why had she ignored him until her hand was forced by the maid? When the doctors arrived, why had she given them along list of possible illnesses or reasons for his sickness if she knew that he had been poisoned, which she later stated he had told her? She also appears to have cleaned up much of the scene before the doctors arrived as when they asked for samples of vomit, she told them that she had already cleaned the bowl and his night shirt. One of the more interesting aspects here is that all of her treatments before the doctors arrived were consistent with how someone might treat a poison victim, so either she knew that he had taken poison and was telling the truth that he had told her so, or she knew anyway. If this is the case, was it Mrs Cox that poisoned Charles?
Much goes against her as a suspect, however, in her favour is one rather important matter pertaining to her own personal life. Mrs Cox family were the owners of several large plantations in Jamaica and she had been informed that she was imminently going to inherit them. The plantations consisted of over 1000 acres of land and were estimated to be valued at £6800, so one of the main aspects of her motive, that of financial difficulty is more or less shot out of the water in one swoop. Why would she have risked so much, if she knew that all of her financial troubles were about to be instantly blown away and in fact, she was about to be made a relatively rich woman indeed?
And so, we are left with Florence. Florences motive is clear, she was in an unhappy marriage, based on shaky foundations. Not only was the contract of marriage dubious at best, with Florence essentially marrying for respectability to a man she knew had eyes on her money, but their is also evidence to suggest that she was pregnant with Charles child before they married, a situation which would have forced her hand in many respects. Florence was a strong and independent woman, she would not have appreciated Charles pushing his weight about the house, demanding her to act as he wished and to spend her own money as he commanded, and to top it off, she had miscarried twice and had a bleak outlook upon carrying a pregnancy to term, whilst Charles failed to understand what the miscarriages were doing to her physical and mental health. Was she desperate enough and trapped in a corner, with divorce or separation pretty much an impossibility that murder was her last resort to escape? She had been married to an alcoholic before in Ricardo and he had also showed signs of illness after bouts of heavy drinking, had she used antimony before to stop him drinking? Once again, we are drawn to Mary Anns testimony where she explains the situation in Florences bedroom when she alerted her Mrs Cox and Florence to Charles plight. In her testimony she alludes to the idea that Florence was feigning sleep when she first alerted the room. If this is true, why would she have done such a thing? And finally, as a last twist, the water jug is considered to have been the most likely of methods for transmitting the poison to Charles. If Florence had poisoned the water however, someone else must have changed it, as Doctor Johnson reportedly drank from the same jug 4 hours after his arrival and obviously suffered no ill effects. Had Florence poisoned the water and had Mrs Cox changed it and filled dit with clean water during her sending Mary Ann off to do so many trivial tasks, like fetching mustard powder and coffee? If this is the case, was the murder a collusion between Florence and Mrs Cox and if so, how much of it was turned out by Florence and how much by Mrs Cox? Had Cox been unknowingly dragged into a situation which she felt honour bound to help out in, or had it been more conspiratorial?
After the inquest, the lives of all involved were forced apart almost instantly. Mrs Cox left abruptly after being sacked by Florence. Gully left for Austria, away from all the talk and gossip and to start a new life. As for Florence, she fell to drink and lead a self destructive existence for only two years before her own death. 145 years on, those that were involved are all dead and for the most part forgotten, perhaps a fate which they might be pleased for, as Charles Bravo lay in his bed dying a shadow of suspicion fell upon the Priory, casting a long darkness over those that resided there, that all the while the story is told, they will likely never escape from.