Mary Ann Cotton: The Black Widow Part II

Dear friends, here comes the next part of the dark story of one of the most famous English poisoners. Don’t forget to read the English version of the text and note the new words!

Mary Ann, who ended up on the street after her divorce from James Robinson, apparently had a devilish charm, or at least she appeared to be a very caring wife, because a fourth unlucky man married her – he was called Fredrick Cotton, and the Black Widow was known by his surname. Before that, Cotton used to live with a friend of Mary Ann’s, but her friend quickly bid farewell to the world because of intestinal problems. Frederick had two children from his previous marriage, and he and Mary Ann also had a son.

Meanwhile, Mary Ann’s ex-lover, Joseph Nattras, turned out to be living about 50 kilometers away. He had also been freed from his previous marriage. The poisoner persuaded her new husband to move close to her ex-lover, and before long the fourth husband, Frederick, died of intestinal fever. He had become redundant. He had life insurance in his name, and so did his sons. Joseph Nattras moved in with his mistress as a tenant, while she was having an affair with another man for whom she worked as a nurse. She became pregnant by him with her thirteenth child. Two of her three children with Frederick Cotton, died in quick succession, and she took the insurance money after their deaths. Apparently, Mary Ann had become extremely ruthless and self-confident in her dark deeds, for very soon after these deaths her tenant Joseph Nattras fell ill with stomach fever and shortly before he died he had bequeathed all his possessions to her. Having poisoned her own son, Mary Ann was left with her stepson Charles Cotton.

It was obviously time to put an end to her deadly influence, and Thomas Reilly, a parish servant, who asked her to take care of a sick woman, became the reason for her discovery. But Thomas Riley also worked as an assistant investigator and he could recognize a crime. Mary Ann told him that her stepson was preventing her from getting a job, so she asked for his help in getting the boy into an asylum, where he wouldn’t live long because he would probably die soon, like the rest of the Cotton family. And when the boy did indeed die five days later, Riley went to the police. The widow of many men started denying and giving confused testimonies, but to her regret at that time, the local newspaper traced her path through the north of England and discovered that Mary Ann had lost three husbands, a lover, her mother, her friend, and 11 of her children. And they all had felt similar symptoms. In the ensuing investigation and after the exhumation of Charles Cotton, it became clear that there was arsenic in his tissues.

Mary Ann gave birth to her last child in prison, and after that she was sentenced to death by hanging. The hangmen, who prepared the noose, left it short so that she would not receive the mercy of dying instantly from neck breaking, but she would die slowly from suffocation instead. She was hanged on March 24, 1873. Of the 13 children she gave birth to, only two survived – Margaret Edith, who was born in prison, and George, who was in the custody of her surviving husband James Robinson.

The TV movie Dark Angel was based on the terrifying case of the Black Widow.

Author: Iveta Radeva

Training Centre Raya London is a new and fastly developing English Language School specialized in teaching English as a second language. Founded in 2015 we are small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have very good facilities and resources for the students to learn English in UK.