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EXECUTION OF MARY ANN BRITLAND.

A FEMALE POISONER. Thk sentence of death passed at the recent Manchester Assizes on the woman Mary Ann Britland, of Asbton-undei-Lyne, who was convicted of having poisoned a woman named Mary Dixon, was carried itfto effect on Sept. 13 at the prison, Strangeways, Manchester. Since she was committed to prison under sentence of death the woman had been in a very depressed condition, and her depression increased when the Home Secretary's letter arrived to tell her that she must abandon all hope of a reprieve. During her imprisonment she was visited by many of her irelatives, three of whom, including her daughter, had a most affecting interview with her on Saturday. It is stated that to some of her relatives she made a full and free confession of the crime of which she stood convicted, and on being asked whether she had also " done away with" her husband and daughter, she hung her head and did not deny it. The cell in which Britland was confined was regularly visited by the prison chaplain, the Rev. John Dreaper, whose ministrations she received most gratefully. At the end of last week she made a request that Canon Whittaker, formerly of Leeslield parish and now of Lincolnshire, should be sent for. Canon Whittaker, she stated, was the clergyman who christened her, and she afterwards attended the church with which he was connected. The prison authorities sent accordingly for the canon, who arrived •on Saturday and had an interview of two hours' duration with the condemned woman. In her last hours the prisoner was much excited. She ate scarcely anything on Sunday night, and at midnight and during the small hours of Monday morning she was , heard moaning heavily and singing snatches of hymns. In the morning, when the .warders entered th cell to prepare her for execution, she looked wearied and excited, , and she had no appetite for such refreshments as were .offered to her. With as little delay as post sible the executioner, Berry, of Bradford, had her pinioned, and the customary procession started for the scaffold, which was erected in the south-west corner of the prison. Heading the procession came the prison chaplain, reading the prayers. He was followed ( by the prisoner, supported by two female warders, with two male warders in the rear, and behind them walked Major Preston, the governor of the prison; the prison surgeon (Dr. Braddon); the under-sheriff (Mr. j Hughes), and Mr. W. Isaac Booiton, a Justice

i of the Peace of Ashton, who was present by permission of the High Sheriff. As the procession left the cell in which the prisoner had been confined one of the warders took up a position on the roadway a short distance from the scaffold, in order to see that the sentence was properly carried into effect • »• little farther away stood the representatives of the Press* Save the tolling of. the prison * bell and the screaming of the poor woman who was being led to execution, nothing was heard or seen for a minute or two by those who were waiting. As the procession approached the scaffold the voice of, the chaplain 'was drowned by the prisoner's appeals to God for mercy. Oh, Lord!, have mercy," Oh, forgive me, forgive me," she cried, piteously. A few minutes sufficed to bring the procession along the covered way connecting the cells with the scaffold, and the prisoner, who looked thin and pale, was still shrieking with such voice as was left to her. It was feared that there would be a scene on the scaffold, but it was not so. As soon as the prisoner had been placed under the beam her face was covered in the usual manner, the rope was put round her neck, and at a given signal from the executioner the two female warders let go their hold of the prisoner, The bolt was then drawn, and in an instant the woman was hanging at the end of the rope, dead. The length of the drop was Beven feet. The hoisting of the black flag informed the crowd outside that the prisoner had suffered the last penalty of the law. The great interest of the public in the trngedy of which this was the last act was shown by the dimensions of the crowd that gathered outside the prison walls, and additional interest was imparted to the execution by the circumstance that Britland is said to bo the first woman who baß been hanged iD Manchester. Several women had been sentenced to death in the city, but never previously had one been executed. If an opinion may be formed from the remarks that were being made in the crowd, very -little regret is entertained that the woman Brit» land's career should have been thus terminated. The crime for which Mrs. Britland has paid the fall penalty of the law was of a very extraordinary character. At the beginning of the year she resided at Ashton with her husband and two grown-up daughters, and near them lived Thomas Dixon and his wife. A close intimacy seemed to exist between the two families, and Mrs. Britland was often seen in the company of Dixon, and on one occasion went on a journey to Oldham in his company. In March last Mrs. Britland's daughter, who was engaged to be married, became suddenly ill, and died in great agony. Early in May Mrs. Britland's husband died under similar circumstances, and a fortnight after Mrs. Dixon suddenly became ill and succumbed. Various rumours were circulated, and on the police making enquiries they found that Mrs. Britland had been a frequent purchaser, of mouse powder." The symptoms before death and an investigation of the bodies of the deceased led to the belief that they had been poisoned. After the death of Mrs. Dixon, Mrs. Britland seems to have been greatly alarmed, and in a conversation with Mr. Law, a coffee tavern keeper, asked him "if they could tell if a person had been poisoned?" and "if they could discover if the person had had mouse powder ?" The police apprehended Mrs. Britland, and also Thomas Dixon, the husband of the deceased woman, but Dixon was subsequently discharged. When being sentenced to death Mrs. Britland strongly protested her innocence, and said she had not given poison to Mrs. Dixon.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH18861002.2.40.25

Bibliographic details

EXECUTION OF MARY ANN BRITLAND., New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7758, 2 October 1886, Supplement

Word Count
1,059

EXECUTION OF MARY ANN BRITLAND. New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7758, 2 October 1886, Supplement

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