North-East History: The Story of Mary Ann Cotton
One of the darkest tales from the North-East starts in County Durham in October of 1832. Mary Ann Cotton (nee Robson) was born in Low Moorsley, now part of Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham. Around even before the times of Victorian killer Jack the Ripper, Mary Ann Cotton is cited as Britain’s First Serial killer.
The British nurse and housekeeper who was believed to be Britain’s most prolific female serial killer, allegedly poisoned up to 21 people. For nearly a decade in the mid-Victorian era, Mary Ann Cotton poisoned a string of her husbands for their insurance money as well as anyone else who got in her way, including 11 of her own children.
Mary Ann also worked as a hospital nurse in nearby Sunderland, where she easily poisoned a handful of her victims.
Mary Ann’s downfall came when a parish official, Thomas Riley, asked her to help nurse a woman who was ill with smallpox. She complained that the last surviving Cotton boy, Charles Edward, was in the way and asked Riley if he could be committed to the workhouse. Riley, who also served as West Auckland’s assistant coroner, said she needed to accompany him. She told Riley that the boy was sickly and added: “I won’t be troubled long. He’ll go like all the rest of the Cottons.”
Five days later, Mary Ann told Riley that the boy had died. Riley went to the village police and convinced the doctor to delay writing a death certificate until the circumstances could be investigated.
Mary Ann’s first visit after Charles’ death was not to the doctor but the insurance office. There, she discovered that no money would be paid out until a death certificate was issued. An inquest was held and the jury returned a verdict of natural causes. Mary Ann claimed to have used arrowroot to relieve his illness and said Riley had made accusations against her because she had rejected his advances.
Local newspapers latched on to the story and discovered Mary Ann had moved around northern England and lost three husbands, a lover, a friend, her mother, and 11 children, all of whom had died of ‘stomach fevers’.
Rumour gave rise to suspicion and scientific investigation. Doctor William Byers Kilburn, who had attended Charles, had kept samples, and tests showed they contained arsenic. He told the police, who arrested Mary Ann and procured exhumation of Charles’ body. She was charged with his murder, although the trial was delayed until after the delivery in Durham Gaol on 10 January 1873 of her thirteenth and final child, whom she named Margaret Edith Quick-Manning Cotton.
Cotton’s trial began on 5 March 1873. The jury retired for 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. She was hung just under 3 weeks later at Durham Goal on 24 March 1873.
Over 100 years later, in the early 1990s, when Durham Jail was being modernised, the graves of some of those executed were disturbed, including that of Mary Ann Cotton. A pair of shoes belonging to her were found along with her bones. The bodies were removed and all were later cremated.
Raoul Moat Drama Coming Soon To ITV
It looks set to be one of ITV’s biggest dramas this year and The Hunt for Raoul Moat is being brought to screen by the same people responsible for smash hit shows Line of Duty, Bodyguard and Vigil.
It was confirmed last April that production on the series had commenced, nearly 12 years after Moat gunman shot ex girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and her new boyfriend Christopher Brown, with Brown dying from his injuries. After fleeing Samantha’s home in Birtley, Moat, who had been released from prison just days earlier, went on the run, shooting on duty policeman PC David Rathband in the face as he sat in a patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle and leaving him blind.
From there, Moat headed for Northumberland, forcing the quiet village of Rothbury into a lockdown as police launched a frantic search for him. The hunt for Moat reached its conclusion with a tense stand-off between the killer and the police on a riverbank, with Moat eventually shooting himself and dying from his injuries as he was rushed to Newcastle General Hospital.
ITV announced three parter The Hunt for Raoul Moat almost a year ago, as filming got underway in Yorkshire, with a cast including ex Bodyguard star Matt Stokoe as Moat and Inspector George Gently actor Lee Ingeleby as police chief Neil Adamson.
ITV have yet to officially announce an release date for The Hunt for Raoul Moat, but is expected to be form part of the channel’s spring programming.
Peter Kay halts Newcastle show and ‘rushes off stage to help as fans fall ill’
Peter Kay’s Newcastle show was thrown into chaos when three audience members fell ill.
According to the Sun the Phoenix Nights star halted his latest show and rushed to assist when he spotted a fan on the front row had become unwell and needed assistance.
Minutes later, a member of the audience was escorted out of the venue in a wheelchair.
An onlooker told the Sun: People near the front started shouting for an ambulance.
‘Peter asked if they were being serious, then he asked for the big lights to go on and stewards ran over to see what was going on.
‘He then went off stage for around 10/15 mins and one person was seen getting wheel-chaired out.’
After the situation was under control he got on with his show, but two more audience members then reportedly become unwell.
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International Women’s Day – The North East’s Most Influential Women – North East Updates
On this International Women’s Day, March 8, we highlight the extraordinary contributions made by women in the North East throughout history and the present. For hundreds of years, the women of the North East have shaped our world, and without them, things wouldn’t be the same.
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