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CONFESSION OF POISONING A…

THE TRIAL OF MRS. LANGFORD.

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THE TRIAL OF MRS. LANGFORD. At the Norwich Assizes, on Monday, Mary Ann Langford was indicted for the wilful murder of her infant child, Charlotte Langford. Mr. William Cooper and Ir. Abdy ap- peared for the prosecution; the prisoner was defended by Mr. O'Malley, Q.C., Mr. Metcalfe, and Mr. Ford. The facts of the case were as follow:—The prisoner, who was also charged in another indictment with the murder of her husband, Albert Frederick Langford, had been married for some years prior to this charge, and was the mother of several children. Her husband was a druggist in Norfolk-street, Lynn. He had been an invalid for two years past, and was latterly wholly incapacitated for business. The child whose death was the subject of this inquiry was about four months old. For some time previous to her last confinement the prisoner had been in very low spirits, partly from family reasons and partly on account of the supposed falling off of her husband's business. On the 27th of April she sent for her mother-in-law, Mrs. Susan Langford, who lived not far off, about eight a.m., or a little before that time. Mrs. Langford. sen., obeyed the summons, and on her arrival her daughter-in-law said, in answer to her inquiries about Mr. Langford, Oh dear, Mrs. Langford, be is very ill, and the baby too." Dr. L )we, the family doctor, was immediately sent for, and on his arrival he found Mr. Langford, the husband, in strong tetanic convulsions, and the infant (then in its bed in another room) in convulsions also. In reply to Dr. Lowe's query about the time when the convulsions came on, the prisoner in a loud whisper said, "Doctor, I have poisoned myself." With strychnia ?" said the doctor. Her answer was Yes." "And your husband, too?' said he. Her answer was Yes." Upon that she also was seized with convulsions. Another physician, Dr. Archer, was sent for, and these two gentlemen re- mained in attendance for the day. The child died about six p.m., having been in almost continuous con- vulsions throughout the day. A post-mortem examina- tion was then made, and the viscera were sent to Dr. Letheby for examination, together with a dress worn by the prisoner, and a bottle containing about two ounces of pure strychnia, taken from a drawer in the shop, which drawer was not kept locked. It was proved among other things that the prisoner's husband had been for some time too ill to attend to his business, and that the prisoner used to go into the shop every day to get the money that was taken, and occasionally to sell small things, like tobacco, to the custo- mers. The principal evidence was that given by the medical men, one of whom—Dr. Archer —was too ill to appear in court. The evidence of Urs. Lowe and Archer, by whom the post mortem examination of the child had been made and who also had seen the child before its death, showed that before its death there were twitchings of the muscles of the face and arms that the fingers were rigidly bent and the toes also that the muscles of the abdomen were contracted that it was convulsed at times strongly, five or six times in the day that before and after death there were the general appearances in the b idy which are usually indicative of death by strychnia, and that it was treated for poisoning by strychnia. They also proved that the stomach and its contents were put into a jar, fastened down with a bladder, and sealed by thtm, and afterwards by the Coroner, in order that it might be conveyed intact to Dr. Letheby, by whom it was received at the same time that he received a gown belonging to and worn by the prisoner in the morning of the 27th of April, from the pocket of which a small portion of crystals of strychnia was taken. Dr. Letheby: 1 received from a police-constable a hamper. There were two jars and a wide-mouthed bottle containing a brown paper packet, sealed. The packet contained rather more than five and a half grains of pure strychnia in a crystalline state. A dress was brought to me at the same time. This is it. I cut the pocket out, examined it, and found about a third of a grain of strychnia. I took out of one jar the whole of the viscera of a child, the stomach, and its contents. I found on opening it a fluid ounce of a thick fluid, pap and mi'k. It was analyzed, and I dis- covered very distinct traces of strychnia. I examined the liver, and from a portion of the liver I extracted something which I knew to be strychnia by its bitter t'te and its action on frogs. I have heard the evi- dence given by Drs. Lowe and Archer, and I believe the child's deith to have been caused by strychnia. I found quite enough in the stomach to found the oxidization test. I examined the brain and spinal cord, and found nothing there I have heard Dr. Lowe's evidence with respect to the secretion of strychnia by the mother's milk. It is quite pos- sible that may be so, but the mother must be under the in- fluence of strychnia to have such an effect. The bitterness of the strychnia would affect the milk. The time of action of the strychnia depends on a great number ef circumstances. It may be a few minutes, it may be two hours. Cross-examined by Mr. O'Malley The portion discovered in the stomach is the portion unabsoibed. The absorption from the stomach into the circulation may or may not go on until death is produced. In the case of a child I should ex- pect it would go on very quickly. After it had received a full killing dose I should think half an hour more likely. Six hours would be the extreme limit. There was milk in the child's stomach. After evaporation and application of peroxide of manganese, I obtained the red and the violet colours which are the charac- teristics of strychnia. There is no other substance that would produce that colour by that test. My opinion is that in cases of poisoning by strychnia we should fla(L it in the stomach. My opinion still is that we ought to find it in the stomach. I remember reading the report of a case in the Lancet, by Dr. Harley, that the mother did communicate nt/a; vomica through her milk to her child, by whom symp- toms of poisoning by mtx vomica were shown, and that after the discontinuance of the medicine in which the nux vomica was contained the symptoms ceased. Dr. Taylorl have heard the evidence In this case to- day, and from what I have heard I believe the child died from the effects of strychnia. I can see no other cause for the convulsions. It is quite possible that most poisons may find their way through the milk into a child, but it is very improbable, as they pass away through the urine and the excretions. I have listened to the evidence about the time the child lingered, and I never knew a similar in- stance of an infant living so long after taking strychnia. I can only suppose that the dose was exceedingly small, but I can see no other cause of death. In this particular case I think the poison was not conveyed through the mother's milk. If it had depended only on the milk it would have been so rapidly absorbed that in the course of nine hours there would have been no trace. Cross examined by Mr O'Malley Pure strychnia is a very insoluble substance. It is absolutely necessary that it should be dissolved in the stomach. The liquids of the stomach exercise a solvent power on it very slowly. In his speech for the prisoner Mr. O'Malley con- tended that there was no proof that the prisoner had administered poison to her child wilfully or feloniously, and that no reliance could be placed on the statements made by her to Dr. Lowe, or Dr. Archer to the effect that she had poisoned herself and her husband, as she was not conscious all the time of what she was saying ani doing, and was unable to reply properly to the questions put by the doctors. The jury found the prisoner Not Guilty. No evi- dence was offered on the second indictment.

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