Executed at York, 14th Of August, 1753, for poisoning Thomas Harper, his Stepfather, and his two Children, William and Anne Harper
WILLIAM SMITH was a farmer in good circumstances at Great Broughton, in the county of York. His mother had married a second husband, one Thomas Harper, of Ingleby Manor, who had already two children. Smith therefore wished to rid himself of those whom he considered obtruders between him and his prospects from his late father's estate.
After forming several diabolical plans for cutting them off, and his resolution as often failing him, being one day in an apothecary's shop purchasing some physic for his horses, the evil spirit whispered to him that the means were at hand, and he immediately asked for a little arsenic to kill the rats in his barn. The apothecary, not suspecting a man of Smith's respectability meant the deadly powder for any other use, sold him twopennyworth.
The day chosen by this now-determined sinner to administer the poison was the Good Friday of the year 1753, when, observing a large cake being prepared, of which some neighbours had been invited to partake, he unperceived, as he imagined, mixed it with the flour, and thus it was served up to the table.
It providentially happened that the neighbours did not come to dinner, and none ate of the cake except Thomas Harper and two of his children, William and Anne.
Having made preparations for flight, the murderer, the moment he found his wickedness had taken its desired effect, set off for Liverpool, from which a suspicion arose that he was the perpetrator of the horrid deed.
The unfortunate people languished in excruciating torments until the next day, when they expired.
No sooner had Smith reached Liverpool than his conscience began to rebuke him, and having no kind of employment his existence became a burden to him. Nor could he find the least respite until he returned to the very spot where he committed the murder, where he was immediately apprehended, and confessed his crime.
At the autumn assizes for the county of York, before Mr Serjeant Eyre, Smith was, on his own confession, the evidence of the apothecary, and a maid-servant who saw him busy with the flour, with other corroborating circumstantial evidence, found guilty, and received sentence of death.