Sometimes the planets align to drag you down a rabbit hole.
I’ve recently been researching the ancestry of my niece’s husband in County Durham.
I’ve also been reading the book The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by Deborah Blum. It includes a brief reference to murder by arsenic in the UK.
In fact, handled with skill by a calculating murderer, the poison seemed to engender a homicidal overconfidence. in 1872, one notorious British murderer, Mary Ann Cotton, killed 15 people (according to some sources it could be as many as 21) , including all the children of her five husbands, and several neighbours who irritated her, before she was caught in 1872, tried and hung.
They came in conjunction when I found the scene of Cotton’s crimes was County Durham.
There’s a fascinating past episode on Cotton in the BBC Radio Four series Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley available on BBC Sounds. More episodes are coming.
I’ve not been able to link any of Cotton’s victims, all but six male, to the family I’m researching, except by geography. Maybe if I dig further I’ll be able to add the story to his family history.