Mary Ann Cotton


It is not known the exact number of people Mary Ann Cotton murdered in her prolific career. She is presumed to have killed at least 20.

Mary Ann Cotton was born in the village of Low Moorsley in Sunderland, England in October of 1832. When she was 9 her father died when he fell down a mine shaft. In 19th century England life was especially harsh for the poor. Mary was faced with the fear of being sent to a workhouse and being separated from her mother and brother. She escaped that fate when her mother quickly remarried.

At the age of 15 Mary Ann obtained a position as a nursemaid to an aging coal mine manager. She worked for him for three years and then returned home to live with her mother in Murton, England. On July 18, 1952 Mary Ann married a miner named William Mowbray. They moved to Cornwall and would eventually have four children. Three of the children died suddenly of what was presumed to be gastric fever. They moved back to Murton in 1856 with their remaining child, a daughter. Four years later Mary Ann's daughter succumbed to the same gastric fever that had claimed her other children. Mary Ann gave birth to four more children two of whom quickly died from gastric fever. In 1863 they moved to Herndon and William took a job as a fireman on a steamship. In 1864 Mary Ann lost another child to gastric fever. This time the child's life had been insured and they received a small sum from British and Prudential Insurance. William Mowbray was injured on the job and laid off of work. In January of 1865 he died fatal stomach ailment. Mary Ann received £35 from the insurance company.
Soon after William's death Mary Ann lost another child to gastric fever. At this point she sent her last remaining child to live with her mother. In order to support herself Mary Ann took a job at a hospital in Sutherland and met her next husband, George Ward, while he was a patient. When George lost his job as an engineer, he began suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. He died in October of 1866. His life had also been insured.
Mary Ann went to work as a housekeeper to James Robinson, a widower with five children in November of 1866. One month later one of Robinson's children died from gastric fever. In his grief he turned to Mary Ann and the two became lovers. Mary Ann soon became pregnant. In March of 1867 Mary Ann's mother fell ill and she went to take care of her. Nine days later her mother was dead. Mary Ann returned with her only living child from her first marriage. In April of 1867 Mary Ann's child along with two of James Robinson's children developed severe stomach pains and died. Four months later Mary Ann and James Robinson were married. Their baby girl was born in November and by March of 1868 she too was dead. In Autumn of 1869 James Robinson threw Mary Ann out of his house when he discovered that she was stealing from him. Mary Ann moved to Walbottle, Northumberland and met a miner named Frederick Cotton, a widow with two children. Their relation soon turned intimate and they were married in September of 1870, even though Mary Ann was still married to James Robinson, and their son was born six months later. Mary Ann learned that a former lover, Joseph Nattrass was living near her and decided to rekindle their relationship. In September of 1871, Frederick Cotton died of gastric fever. Mary Ann collected on his life insurance policy. Joseph Nattrass moved in with Mary Ann and the three remaining children. Mary Ann however had her eye on someone new. John Quick-Manning, an excise officer, was recovering from small-pox. Mary Ann had been hired as his nurse. The two began an affair and Mary Ann soon found herself pregnant again. In March of 1872 one of Frederick Cotton's sons and the infant child he had with Mary Ann died. Shortly after he revised his will to include Mary Ann, Joseph Nattrass also died of gastric fever.
Now the only person standing between her and John Quick-Manning was her stepson, Charles Edward Cotton. She tried to send him to live with one of his uncle's who refused to take him. Next she tried to have him committed to a workhouse but was told that she would have to accompany him. She warned a parish official that he was sickly and would be dead soon. By July 12, 1872 Charles Edward Cotton was dead. When the official learned of his death he went to the police with his suspicions and an autopsy was performed. The doctor collected tissue samples from little Charles and when the samples were tested he discovered that they contained high levels of arsenic.

On July 18, 1872 Mary Ann Cotton was charged with his murder but she would not go on trial until after the birth of her final child in January of 1873.

Mary Ann Cotton was found guilty and hanged on March 24, 1873 at Durham County Gaol. Her death was prolonged because the hangman had misjudged the drop.


Anonymous said...

I have read a book about her, I think she is a very interesting person to study about. I think she still has more to her background

Anonymous said...

she is a sick person! how can someone kill kids!!? out of all men and women she killed kids. thats just sick.

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