By Simon Cooper and Terry Deary
Last updated 2011-02-17
The greatest Victorian serial killer wasn't Jack the Ripper, as you may think. It was a woman! In 1873, in County Durham, Mrs Mary Ann Cotton was accused of poisoning her step-son, the eight year old Charles Edward. A doctor looked at the contents of the stomach and said, 'The boy died of gastric fever'. Mary Ann Cotton was free to go.
But the next day, a local newspaper pointed out that a lot of Mary Ann's children and husbands had died of 'gastric fever'. Too many to be a coincidence? The body of Charles Edward was dug up and tested for arsenic poison. It was full of it. So were some of her previous victims. Mary Ann Cotton was hanged and it was believed she had murdered three husbands and 15 of her children! Mary Ann is forgotten while Jack the Ripper, who killed half the number of victims, is remembered. Strange.
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