Murder by fly-paper……….




In the spring of 1909, Miss Eliza Barrow, a well-to-do 49 year old spinster, moved into the four room top floor flat at 63 Tollington Park in Finchley Green, London. Her landlord Frederick Seddon occupied the ground floor with his wife Maggie, five children and elderly father.

After a few months Miss Barrow asked Seddon, the area supervisor for an insurance company, for some financial advice and advised her that in return for a small annuity he would agree to manage her business accounts.

She duly signed over to him her properties in Camden Town and early in 1911, he increased the annuity in exchange for her shares in Indian Railways.

That summer, Miss Barrow fell violently ill with constant diarrhea and vomiting. The top floor of the house stank so badly that the attendant doctor advised Mr and Mrs Seddon to hang sheets soaked in carbolic outside the bedroom.

Seddon then instructed his daughter Margaret to purchase from the local chemist a three penny box of fly paper, which in those days was coated with arsenic. They then hung the fly paper, suspended over saucers of water to aid evaporation around Miss Barrow`s bed. Ten days later, after several disturbed nights, Miss Barrow died.

Seddon arranged for her burial in the cheapest public grave possible, accepting a commission of 12 shillings from the undertaker for the business, but he hadn’t reckoned on the fact that Miss Barrow’s burial would be published in the register of the local newspaper, or that a cousin of hers Frank Vonderahes, would read it.

As the Barrow family vault lay in Highgate Cemetery and no application had been made to bury Miss Barrow there, Vonderahes contacted the police. An exhumation was ordered and Eliza’s body was found to contain fatal amounts of arsenic.

After trial Seddon concluded his speech with ‘I declare before the great Architect of the Universe I am not guilty’ and he raised his arm and gave a Masonic sign.

Mr Justice Bucknill then pronounced the sentence of death.

No reprieve came and Seddon was hanged at Pentonville Prison, just a short walk from his home, on 18 April 1912 with over 7,000 people assembled outside. The crowd would undoubtedly have been larger, were it not for the fact that news of the sinking of the Titanic three days earlier.


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