On March 29, 1835 Magdalene Hamilton Smith was born to wealthy Glasgow architect James Smith and his wife Janet. Named for her grandmother, her first name was later amended to Madeleine. The Smith's were extremely well connected in Glasgow society. At age 14, she was sent to London to attend Mrs. Gorton's Academy for Young Ladies. Mrs Gorton considered Madeleine to be "diligent, attentive, and exceedingly bright, but also given to stubborn sulks and other flares of temper which most alarm us." She returned to Glasgow at the age of 17 to again assume the role of a dutiful daughter until a suitable husband could be found for her and she could assume her natural role of wife and mother. At age 21 she was short and slight with deep-set large black eyes, and long black hair, attractive, accomplished and self-possessed. She was described as strong-willed and stubborn but when faced with the strong disapproval of her family and the possibility of public humiliation she prized money and social standing over love and sentiment.
When Emile first spotted Madeleine on the street he was immediately attracted to her and used his persuasive powers to finagle an introduction. The attraction between them was immediate and soon led to --The Affair!
Conscious of the strict moral codes of Victorian society, Emile knew that he would not be able to just simply walk up to Madeleine and speak with her, they would have to be introduced to each other through a mutual acquaintance. Even though it took several weeks he unwittingly came across the knowledge that one of his co worker's had two nephews, Charles and Robert Baird, who were acquainted with the Smiths. Emile befriended Robert and promptly set about enlisting his aid in obtaining an introduction to Madeleine.
Fortune smiled on Emile in the spring of 1855. As he and Robert were taking a stroll he happened to catch a glimpse of Madeleine and her sister Bessie entering on of the many shops lining the busy street. He convinced Robert to enter the store and retrieve Madeleine in order to facilitate an introduction. Madeleine was immediately attracted to Emile. With his dark good looks and slight accent he would provide an escape from the tedium and structured routine of her present life. They often met in public and occasionally walked together on the streets of Glasgow. When the Smith family left Glasgow for their summer home in Rowaleyn, Madeleine sent Emile the first of what would become a voluminous correspondence between the two. Emile kept nearly all of Madeleine's letters but firmly instructed her to destroy hers lest her father become aware of their existence.
Inevitably news reached her father of her "friendship" with Emile. Incensed he declared that Emile was nothing but a bounder and fortune hunter and demanded that she immediately cease all contact with him.
Madeleine wrote to Emile telling him of her father's anger and informed him that their relationship must end. Emile sensing that his chances at wealth and social prestige were about to be dashed used his prowess to entice her into rekindling their romance. In May of 1856, as a pledge of her unfailing love, Madeleine decides to give Emile her greatest gift, her virginity!
Unaware that their daughter was still carrying on a clandestine affair with Emile, Madeleine's parents arranged a meeting for her with William Minnoch, to whom she eventually became engaged. She again attempted to end her affair with Emile and this time he reacted angrily with a thinly veiled threat of blackmail. He threatened to show her letters to her father! She in turn pleads with him on his honor as a gentleman and what was once between them to return the letters to her. His refusal to comply with her requests sets in motion a series of tragic events that would lead to -- The Trial!
Between the 13th & 19th of February, Emile became violently ill with a mysterious stomach ailment. He would recover. On the 23rd of February he fell ill again from the same stomach ailment. Although it was less severe than the previous illness, nonetheless he was confined to his lodgings for a week. Emile began to voice to his friends that he became ill after drinking cocoa and chocolate. He believed he was being poisoned. He inferred that it might be Madeleine and stated that he would forgive her if she was.
From the 11th to the 14th of March in 1857 Emile kept a diary which included inferences to the times he and Madeleine met and his coinciding illnesses after receiving cocoa from her. His diary was excluded from the evidence after Madeleine's attorney presumed that they would show proof of her guilt.
At approximately 2 AM on the 23rd of March, Emile yet again suffered violently from the mysterious stomach ailment. He was pronounced dead almost 10 hours later.
On the 31st of March 1857, based on the mounds of letters found at Emile's lodgings and office, Madeleine was arrested and charged with murder and intent to murder. These same letters would be used in her trial as the key evidence against her.
The Facts Of The Case:
What Madeleine had written in her letters had placed her in completely in Emile's powers. If the letters were revealed to her father or worse still made public, she and her family would have suffered untold humiliation, her engagement to William Minnoch would be ended and her parents would be set against her. Madeleine changed tactics in an effort to retrieve her letters, the tone of her correspondence to Emile changed from cold & demanding and was infused with the affectionate banter they had previously contained.
When confronted with rumors of an involvement between the two, Madeleine lies to Emile about her engagement to Minnoch.
Between the 6th & the 12th of Madeleine attempted to buy arsenic but failed.
On the 21st of February she entered Murdoch's druggist and bought a quantity of arsenic. On this occasion the arsenic was mixed with soot. In her statement to the police she claimed that she had lied about her reason for wanting the arsenic. She told the druggist that she was buying it for her gardener to kill rats. She claimed that she did not want to admit that she was buying it for cosmetic reasons.
On March 6th, immediately prior to her leaving with her family for the Bridge of Allan, Madeleine goes to Curry's shop to purchase additional arsenic. This time the arsenic was mixed with indigo. The Smith family returned to Glasgow on the 17th of March.
On the 18th of March Madeleine returns to Curry's shop to purchase arsenic, which was also mixed with indigo. As required by law all sales of arsenic had to be recorded and the purchaser had to sign for it making her purchases a matter of public record. Also on two occasions, Madeleine was accompanied first by a former schoolmate and then by a woman who was presumed to be her older sister when she obtained the arsenic.
She claimed that she used all of the arsenic for cosmetic reasons. She stated that she diluted it with water and washed her face, neck and arms with it. She claimed that she was shown how to use the arsenic by one of her former schoolmates at Mrs. Gorton's Academy. This statement was later disputed when that same former schoolmate took the stand and denied ever speaking to Madeleine about the use of arsenic for cosmetic reasons. In addition, the common practice in Victorian times was to eat the arsenic in small quantities.
Also in her statement Madeleine claims that she had not seen Emile since three weeks prior to his death. As to that, there was no proof that Madeleine met with Emile prior to his first bout of the stomach ailment and according to public records there was no evidence that she even had arsenic in her possession. When he was struck with the stomach ailment the second time, the only evidence that Madeleine even met with Emile was the entry in his diary.
Emile was portrayed in court as vain, pretentious, boastful and having a heightened opinion of his own personal attraction to women. He was seen as a fortune-hunting social climber on the prowl for a rich socialite to conquer in order to gain a foothold in the social elite.
He had previously been engaged to a young woman in the county of Fife. The engagement was broken when the young lady jilted him and married another. He was given to periods of depression and mentioned suicide on more than one occasion.
It was also testified to in court that Emile was obsessed with his appearance. He apparently admitted to eating arsenic to improve his complexion. He was also seen eating poppy seeds and drinking Laudanum.
Even though he believed he was being poisoned by her, Emile continued to drink cocoa or coffee that was prepared by Madeleine.
He was a demanding and controlling lover. He decided what clothes she wore, whom she was allowed to speak to, and where she could go. He constantly criticized her supposedly unladylike-like behavior. Eventually this behavior would drive her to someone else and when her parents arranged an introduction between her and William Minnoch she readily accepted his advances.
He had a mercurial temperament and when he was advised to return Madeleine's letters and be done with her he raged that he would never return the letters and that as long as he was alive she would never marry another man. He did not keep a diary until after rumors had reached him about the involvement of Madeleine and Minnoch and their impending engagement.
The arsenic found in Emile's stomach was pure white. The arsenic legally purchased by Madeleine was colored with soot and indigo. After his death Emile's room and his office was searched. There was no arsenic found in his possessions.
The trial commenced on the 30th of June in Edinburgh before the high court of the Judiciary and ended on the 9th of July. There were three charges leveled against Madeleine: administering arsenic with intent to murder on February 19, administering arsenic with intent to murder on February 22, and murdering with arsenic on March 22.
After deliberating for a half an hour, the all male jury returned with their verdict: As the first charge, not guilty. As to the second charge, not proven. As to the final charge, the charge of murder:
Madeleine walked out of the courtroom to the cheers of the public who had assembled to her the verdict. She walked out under a cloud of notoriety and into a life of anonymity.