Monday, 21 May 2012
Murderous Monday - Women Who Kill - Mary Bateman The Yorkshire Witch
Mary Bateman was hung on 30th March 1809 near York Castle for murder by poison and witchcraft.
Mary Batemen was born Mary Harker in 1768 to farming parents in Thirsk. She started out her adult life as a servant, con artist and petty thief. But soon her greed for what others had was to drive her to murder.
At the age of 24 on the 26th February 1792 Mary married John Bateman after a courtship of only three weeks. John was soon to tire of his wife's conniving ways, but only after she had sold every stitch of his clothing and all the furniture in the house after tricking her husband into leaving their lodgings by sending a forged letter stating that John's father was desperately ill. John eventually joined the army to escape Mary.
By 1799 Mary was parting vulnerable women from their money pretending to be a fortune teller who could help her victims with special charms and spells. However Mary wanted more and she was prepared to kill to get it.
In 1803 she befriended two Quaker sisters who along with their mother ran a draper's shop in St Peter's Square, Quarry Hill. All three women were to die mysteriously after taking 'medicines' prescribed by Mary. As soon as the women were dead Mary stripped the house and shop completely, telling their concerned neighbours that the sisters and their mother had died from the plague.
Rebecca Perigo had developed a fearful fluttering in her chest that her doctor could not treat. When it was suggested that and 'evil wish' had been placed upon her Rebecca's niece recommended Mary's services. Mary told Rebecca and her husband William of a Mrs Blythe who lived in Scarborough and was better placed to help them, via Mary herself. Soon Rebecca and William began receiving letters from the fictional Mrs Blythe, asking for household and personal items from the Perigo home so that she could better assist them in ridding Rebecca of the curse.
"My dear Friend
You must go down to Mary Bateman's at Leeds, on Tuesday next, and carry two guinea notes with you and give her them, and she will give you other two that I have sent to her from Scarborough, and you must buy me a small cheese about six or eight pound weight, and it must be of your buying, for it is for a particular use, and it is to be carried down to Mary Bateman's, and she will send it to me by the coach -- This letter is to be burned when you have done reading it."
Mrs Blythe's demands became increasingly bizarre and expensive and the Perigo's faith in her ability began to waver. It was then that they received another letter with a frightening prediction scrawled within it's pages.
"My dear Friends
I am sorry to tell you you will take an illness in the month of May next, one or both of you, but I think both, but the works of God must have its course. You will escape the chambers of the grave; though you seem to be dead, yet you will live. Your wife must take half-a-pound of honey down from Bramley to Mary Bateman's at Leeds, and it must remain there till you go down yourself, and she will put in such like stuff as I have sent from Scarbro' to her, and she will put it in when you come down, and see her yourself, or it will not do. You must eat pudding for six days, and you must put in such like stuff as I have sent to Mary Bateman from Scarbro', and she will give your wife it, but you must not begin to eat of this pudding while I let you know. If ever you find yourself sickly at any time, you must take each of you a teaspoonful of this honey; I will remit twenty pounds to you on the 20th day of May, and it will pay a little of what you owe. You must bring this down to Mary Bateman's, and burn it at her house, when you come down next time."
The Perigo's did as they were instructed and soon fell deathly ill. William ceased eating the pudding, but Rebecca continued to do so, taking the honey as well. On 24th May 1807 Rebecca Perigo died. When William informed 'Mrs Blythe' of his wife's death she was able to convince him that this was because Rebecca had not followed her exact instructions and had brought the death upon herself. Again the letters and bizarre demands continued, only this time William had becomes suspicious of Mrs Blythe's abilities and intentions.
Mary Bateman was arrested and items from the Perigo home was found to be in her possession, as well as some quantity of arsenic. It soon became apparent that there was no Mrs Blythe in Scarborough and that Mary had written all the letters.
Mary pleaded not guilty to murder, but confessed to the fraud that had taken place. But the evidence was soon to mount against her. A doctor testified that Rebecca's corpse showed poison to be the cause of death. The supposed letters from Mrs Blythe stating that no one should know about the puddings or the mysterious white powders and that the letters should always be burnt and finally the honey and remains of the puddings were tested and found to contain corrosive sublime of mercury.
Mary was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
After her execution Mary's body was displayed at Leeds General Infirmary where a sum of £30 was raised by charging others to view it. Pieces of her skin were stripped off and sold as magic charms to ward off evil. Eventually she was dissected and the top half of her skeleton placed on display at Thackery Medical Museum.