Methodist Preacher, sentenced to Death for poisoning his Two Brothers-in-Law, with an Intent to possess himself of their Property, 1811
AT the Isle of Ely Assizes in 1811, Michael Whiting, a shopkeeper in Downham, near Ely, and a dissenting preacher, was indicted, under Lord Ellenborough's Act, on a charge of administering poison to George Langman and to Joseph Langman, his brothers-in-law.
It appeared in evidence that the Langmans resided together at Downham, and were small farmers; and that their family consisted of themselves, a sister named Sarah about ten years of age, and a female domestic, of the name of Catharine Carter, who acted as their housekeeper and servant. They had another sister, who was married to the prisoner. On the morning of Tuesday, the 12th of March, 1811, they sent their sister to the prisoner's house to borrow a loaf. The prisoner returned with her, and brought a loaf with him, and told the Langmans that, as he understood their housekeeper was going on a visit to her friends for a day or two, he would bring them some flour and pork to make a pudding for their dinner. He went away, and shortly afterwards returned with a basin of flour, and pork. Addressing himself to the housekeeper he said: "Catharine, be sure you make the boys a pudding before you go." He then took the young child home with him to dinner. The housekeeper made two puddings, but observed the flour would not properly adhere; she left them in a kneading trough, and the Langmans boiled one of them for dinner. The diners had hardly swallowed two or three mouthfuls before they were taken exceedingly ill, and seized with violent vomiting. Suspecting the pudding had been poisoned, one of the Langmans gave a small piece to a sow in the yard, which swallowed it, and was immediately taken sick and, after lingering some time, died. The elder brother soon recovered, but the younger one continued in a precarious state for several days. The remnants of the pudding were analysed by Mr Woolaston, professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge, and found to contain a considerable quantity of corrosive sublimate of mercury. The prisoner, who it appeared was a dealer in flour, attempted to account for the pudding being poisoned by stating that he had lately laid some nux vomica to poison some vermin, and that some of it must accidentally have been carried into his flour-bin. Mr Woolaston, however, positively stated that the pudding contained no other poisonous ingredient than corrosive sublimate; and it came out in evidence that the prisoner, who sold drugs, had purchased of the person whom he succeeded in business a considerable quantity of that poison. It also appeared that the flourbins belonging to the prisoner had been searched, and that immediately upon its being discovered that the Langmans had taken poison the prisoner had emptied his bins and washed them out.
Mr Alley, from London, conducted the prisoner's defence. The trial lasted till six o'clock at night; and the jury, after deliberating about ten minutes, found the prisoner guilty. The judge immediately passed sentence of death, and he was left for execution.