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AtoZChallenge M: Murder Attempt at Haverfordwest

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate, by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B, April 3 will be C, and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been published.   Blog posts are usually on a theme, or you can choose to post each day with no theme at all. My theme for 2024 is “Haverfordwest in the News”. Haverfordwest is a town in the county of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter M

from:  Cardiff Times, Saturday 11 February, 1888, page 6
At a special sessions held on Saturday at Haverfordwest — before Messrs T. Rule Owen and Joseph Thomas — Maria Williams, a widow, residing at the Fold, near Merlin’s Bridge, Haverfordwest, was brought up, on remand, charged with attempting to administer poison to her daughter, Laura Williams, aged 14. The case has excited great interest in the neighbourhood, and the court was crowded during the hearing. Nothing in the evidence adduced, showed the motive for the alleged attempt.

The first witness examined was the young girl herself, who gave her evidence in a clear and unhesitating manner. She stated that she obtained some rat poison from Mr Rees, chemist, at Haverfordwest. She purchased three pennyworth, which she brought home, and placed on the dresser. She opened the package, and placed some of the poison on three pieces of bread for the rats, and put it on the floor of a room upstairs. Her mother, who was in bed in the next room at the time, sent a younger sister downstairs for the poison, and placed it on the bed. Witness did not see the poison afterwards.

This was on the Sunday, and she was from home until the following Wednesday, when she returned to the house, accompanied by a Mrs. Pritchard.  Her mother was then in bed, and asked for some tea. There being none in the pot, she said she would rather have a basin of gruel, which the witness got for her. It was taken up to the mother by a younger sister. Mrs Pritchard then left the house and witness went part of the way home with her.

On her return, her mother was sitting by the fire. She asked witness to boil her two eggs, as she did not like the gruel, and asked witness to taste it. Witness took a spoonful of the gruel but spat it out, as she thought it tasted rather strangely. Witness said to her mother that she did not like it, whereupon the mother observed that she thought there was rather too much ginger in it. Witness added that her mother then told her to go to the garden to get some leeks for broth. On returning with these, she found the door locked, and the mother forbade her sister opening it.

The mother, however, went to bed, and the sister opened the door. She then put on her hat and jacket, and took the basin of gruel to Mrs Pritchard, Merlin’s Bridge, and a Mr James Hicks came in and swallowed a spoonful of it. He took another in his mouth but spat it out. The basin and gruel were produced in court at this point, and identified by the witness. Inspector Francis pointed out that witness had not spoken as to the gruel alleged to have been given to her, on the Sunday night, when the witness said that she had thrown it away owing to the smell,—Mr W. J. Jones, who appeared for the defence, endeavoured in cross-examination to elicit from the witness an admission that she had told a woman named Jacks,  that she put the poison in the gruel, but this she denied, and said that Mrs Jacks had tried to induce her to make a statement to that effect.

Mrs. Pritchard gave corroborative evidence. Mr James Hicks said that he foolishly swallowed a spoonful of the contents of the basin, which made him very sick. It smelt very much of lucifer matches, and caused him to vomit. He took possession of the basin, and afterwards handed it to P.C. Devonald, and the latter now identified the basin and its contents.

The accused was remanded. Bail was refused.

The charge against Maria Wiiliam, of the Fold, near Merlin’s Bridge, Haverfordwest, of attempting to administer poison to her daughter, Laura Williams, aged 14 years, which was adjourned from Saturday last, again came on for hearing before Mr Rule Owen (mayor) and Mr J. Thomas. P.C. Devonard proved delivering to Mr. W. Morgan, analyst, Swansea, the basin containing the gruel, as received from Mr James Hicks.

Mr W. Morgan, analyst, stated that he received from P.C. Devonard on Sunday last, a basin containing gruel, and which, on examination, he found to contain phosphorus, but he could not say at present there was sufficient to destroy life. The Chief Constable, in reply to Mr T. Rule Owen, said he was not prepared to produce corroborative evidence that the poison was administered by prisoner.  The Bench found there was not sufficient evidence to justify them  in committing the prisoner for trial, and she was accordingly discharged.

**Please notePunctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading.

1888, ALLEGED ATTEMPTED MURDER AT HAVERFORDWEST, Cardiff Times, Saturday 11 February 1888. retrieved on 10 August 2023 from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.



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2 thoughts on “AtoZChallenge M: Murder Attempt at Haverfordwest”

  1. I wanted the answer to that question too Anne. It seems to me that punishments were either so lenient or so harsh that they were ridiculous. You could be right about the reason.

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