Don’t eat your supper son…


Mary Coulson and her husband didn’t get on. James Coulson and his wife lived at 40 Roman Road in what is now Mile End, East London. They had a son who worked but Mary had lately fallen into alcoholism and frequently told her husband she wanted him dead.

In August 1878 James came home from work with a cut of meat. He put it in a saucepan to to boil and went out to get a beer, leaving Mary alone in the house.  When he returned his son was back and supper was ready and on the table.

James sniffed at his plate and got up to examine the pot it had been cooked in. The food looked and smelled ‘disagreeable’ and he was suspicious. He had every right to be as Mary had taken advanatge of her husband’s absence to pour carbolic acid into the stew! James realized what she had done and quizzed his son who admitted that his mother had warned him not to eat his supper.

Mr Coulson was asked whether he wanted to pursue the charge against his wife and he said that, under the circumstances and fearing that she would find a way to make good her threats, he did. She was fully committed for trial at the next sessions.

NB: Carbolic acid, or Phenol, is a highly dangerous poison. The Nazis used it a a more efficient way to murder people than Zyklon-B pellets. It burns the skin and the lungs if ingested or inhaled. It was used to make disinfectant and other cleaning products.

[from Daily News, Friday, August 2, 1878]

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