Monday, 24 October 2016

Ursula Lofthouse

Yorkshire Gazette, 22 November 1834

WILFUL MURDER, At Kirkby Malzeard, in this County.

The secluded and romantic village of Dallowgill, in the parish of Kirkby Malzeard, in the West-riding of this county, has, during the past week, been  thrown into the greatest alarm and excitement, by the sudden and mysterious death of a person named Robert Lofthouse, the unfortunate deceased, resided in a small village called Dallowgill, in the parish of Kirby Malzeard, and was by trade a clogger: his family consisted of himself, his wife, and a child, aged about sixteen months.

The following is a report of the particulars, so far as we have been able at present to collect them:-

The deceased went to Ripon market on the 6th instant in good health, and on his return, about seven in the evening, he called at his brother’s, who resides in Dallowgill, and there partook of some bread and milk. He shortly after left his brother’s house and went home.  On arrival, he stated to his wife that he felt rather unwell, and asked her if she had any potatoes in the house. She said, “No, thou had better have some tea”, stating at the same time, that it would do him good. She prepared it accordingly; and they both partook of it. He had taken nothing to eat for dinner, and during the day had three gills of ale. His wife said, “I’ve made a cake on purpose for thee.” The poor fellow, immediately proceeded to take a meal of tea and cake, but before he had finished he said, “bless me I don’t think I could swallow the piece of cake now in my mouth for all the world.” The poison had taken effect instantly, and produced constriction of the throat; violent vomiting and purging ensued, attended with other distressing symptoms, which were at first considered those of cholera.

She immediately went to his brother, and desired him to her husband, as he was dangerously ill. The brother went and found him as described by his wife; he grew gradually worse, and on Friday afternoon, Mr. Sowray, of Kirkby Malzeard, surgeon, was called in, who found him dangerously ill and prescribed what he considered requisite. He attended him until the Saturday, when he died.

On the morning before his death, about 10 o’clock, the deceased having continued alarmingly unwell and taken no food in the interim, his wife spread some treacle upon a portion of the remainder of the cake, and gave it to her husband, he tasted and chewed some of it, saying “it eats rough like oatmeal,” put it out of his mouth and said, “I shall never eat any more.”-

A report having been circulated in the village and neighbourhood, that the deceased had died of the cholera, none of the villagers could be prevailed upon to go near the house where he laid, Mr. Sowray, for the satisfaction of the inhabitants, called in Mr. Leash, of Masham, surgeon, and Mr. Warburton, of Pateley-Bridge, surgeon, to view the body, when they gave it as their opinion, that the deceased had not died in the cholera, which set the case at rest at that time, and the body was interred on Monday, the 10th instant. The brother of the deceased, a shopkeeper, finding that his customers deserted his shop on account of the deceased having died of cholera, determined that an investigation should be set on foot.

A second report became current, in the course of two or three days after the burial, that the deceased had been poisoned, consequently, Mr. Dinsdale, of Bedale, coroner, issued his warrant for the disinterment of the body; and after being four days in the ground, it was exhumed in the presence of a large concourse of people.

15 November 1834

The inquest was held at the house of Mr. Thorpe, the Shoulder of Mutton inn, in Kirkby Malzeard, on Friday, the 15th inst.; and the following persons were summoned and composed the jury :- Cristopher Kendal, of Gruelthorpe, Esquire, Foreman; Thomas Ashbridge, of Azely, Esquire; Thomas Farmery, of Kirkby Malzeard, Esquire; Mathias Ascough, of Grewelthorpe, fellmonger; Marmaduke Tomlinson, of Grewelthorpe, butcher; Henry Lund, of Azely, farmer; William Tebb, of Azely, farmer; Stephen Smith, of Azely, miller; Joseph Preston, of Kirkby Malzeard, gentleman; Thos. Kendrew, of Grewelthorpe, rope-maker; John Shaw, of Laverton, farmer.

A post-mortem examination of the body was taken in the presence of the surgeons above-mentioned, and two medical gentlemen, named Nicholson and Hall, from Ripon. Mr. West, of Leeds, chemist, having been sent for, was in attendance, and analyzed the contents of the stomach. He found a small portion of arsenic, but not sufficient as he supposed to have produced death. The deceased, however, had vomited much before his death; which might account for the small portion found on the stomach.

Mr. John Lawson Harland, of Kirkby Malzeard, druggist, deposed, that a person answering the description of the deceased’s wife, and to the best of his knowledge was the same person, purhcased, on the 6th inst., the day the deceased was taken ill, two pennyworth of arsenic, and was questioned by witness, as to the use she intended for it; she replied, that she was purchasing it for Mr. Grange, who is a farmer of the highest respectability, and resides in the neighbourhood. Witness particularly cautioned her to be careful how it was used; and told her it was sufficient to destroy half the village. She answered, she would keep it safe in her pocket until she delivered it, and left witnesses shop.

Mary Gill, of Kirkby Malzeard, deposed, that she was in Mr. Harland’s shop on the 6th inst., and was present when a woman purchased two pennyworth of arsenic, but was not positive whether the deceased’s wife was the person or not.

Mr. Grange, positively swore that he never commissioned the deceased’s wife, or any other person, to purchase arsenic for him; for he never used any.

Several other witnesses were examined; and after a patient investigation  of the case for two days, the jury gave it as their opinion, that the poison had been administered  to the deceased by his wife, returned a verdict of WILFUL MURDER, that “the deceased was feloniously and traitorously poisoned by his wife, Ursula Lofthouse.”

She was immediately given in charge of Mr. Thomas Thorpe, constable of Kirkby Malzeard, and the coroner issued his warrant for her commitment to York Castle, where the wretched woman arrived on Tuesday last, to await her trail at the ensuing assizes. The prisoner was present at the inquest, and watched the proceedings with the greatest indifference.

By this unfortunate event, an only child, a little girl, has been deprived of a father, and her mother is incarcerated in jail.

It is a very strong circumstance in support of the supposition of the deceased’s having died from the effects of poison, that after he had vomited in the yard, seven fowls had approached the place, and picked up some of the content’s of Lofthouse’s stomach. The result was, that they were all taken ill soon after, and died.

Mr. Tate, Solicitor of Ripon, is engaged by the township, to prosecute at the next assizes.

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