Murder and white phosphorus were a common occurrence when the deadly poison was still easily available with few questions asked. As the following story shows from The Belfast Telegraph dated 15th November 1956, it was used particularly in food to disguise the taste and smell.
An Irish girl had sent four people a p4 poison laced cake. Unfortunately for her, she had not done a very good job of disguising the chemical, which meant that those on the receiving end had been able to discern the food was a bit off.
The psychopath was sent to the nut house
Aside from Louisa Merryfield, one of the most famous murder cases involving white phosphorus poisoning occurred around the same time. By now it was becoming obvious to the authorities that a common rat poison was being put to nefarious extra uses. “The merry widow of Windy Nook” was a quite bizarre case, particularly because of the age of the killer and her carefree manner, and the 11th February 1958 Daily Herald outlined the charge against Mary Wilson.
Money appears to have been the prime motive of the 66 year olds intent. To lose one husband within a fortnight may have been unfortunate, but two within the same time frame was a test for the imagination.
The 25th March Birmingham Daily Post continued coverage of the trial, where the prosecution outlined how the “deadly” beetle poison that Wilson had used had been found in the two unfortunate husbands, whose deaths had originally been deemed due to “natural causes”. This also shows the complete failure of the doctors and the medical proffession in general to undertake proper and robust investigation.
The Daily Mirror of 25th March 1958 also reported on “the wicked woman’s” dealings.
And so the inevitable guilty verdict as reported by Birmingham Daily Press of 31st March 1958. Wilson’s defence that the phosphorus found had been found in her husbands’ medication was a ludicrous nonsense and she was sentenced to death. She was however spared execution, and died just five years later in Holloway prison- the year in which The Animal Cruel Poisons Regulations banned the use of white phosphorus in “vermin” control.