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26 Interesting Mary Ann Cotton Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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26 Interesting Mary Ann Cotton Facts

This world has seen quite a number of evil people. Many of them were men and some were women. So evil were the deeds of these women that they would put any man to shame. Mary Ann Cotton was one such evil woman whose heinous acts will pass down the annals of history and will not be forgotten easily. What did she do? Why did she commit such heinous acts? What did she gain from that? What happened to her eventually? We are going to find the answers to all these questions in this list of 26 interesting Mary Ann Cotton facts.

Interesting Mary Ann Cotton Facts: 1-13

1. Mary Ann Cotton was born in England on October 31, 1832. Her original name was Mary Ann Robson. Her place of birth was Low Moorsley, County Durham.

2. Eight years after her birth, her parents moved to Murton village in County Durham. Her father was a mine worker. Shortly after the family moved into the Murton, Mary’s father met an accident and died. He actually fell off a mine shaft and died after a 150 feet fall.

3. Mary’s mother remarried in 1843 to a man named George Stott but Mary could not get along with her step father pretty well. So, at the age of 16 she moved out.

4. Mary went to South Hetton, a village close to Murton. She wanted to become a nurse at the popular Edward Potter’s home. She received nurse’s training and also became a dressmaker. 3 years later, at the age of 19, Mary moved back to her mother’s home.

5. When she was 20 years old, Mary married a man named William Mowbray. William was a coal mine labor. Soon after their wedding, Mary and William moved to Plymouth, Devon.

6. The couple had 5 children while staying at Plymouth but 4 of them died of gastric fever. The couple moved back to South Hetton and had another 3 children. Those three also died of gastric fever. The two had one more child.

7. William died in 1865. The cause of death was intestinal problem. By the time William died, he was employed as a steam vessel fireman and British and Prudential Insurance company insured his life. With his death Mary received £35.

8. After William’s death, Mary went to live at Seaham Harbour and met with Joseph Nattrass. Nattrass and Mary were in a relationship but Nattrass was engaged to someone else and after Nattrass married the other woman, Mary went to Sunderland and became employed at Sunderland Infirmary. During her relationship with Nattrass, her 3 1/2 years old daughter died too, leaving behind only the youngest. She sent her last child to her mother.

9. While working at the infirmary, she met an engineer named George Ward. Ward was actually a patient there. The two married on August 28, 1865 but in October next year he too died because of intestinal problems and paralysis. Once again, Mary collected the life insurance money of Ward.

10. In 1866, Mary met a man (a widower) named James Robinson who had three children. He was a shipwright at Sunderland and in November he hired Mary as housekeeper. Just a month later in December, Robinson’s one-month old child died. The reason was gastric fever. Broken Robinson turned to Mary for solace and ended up impregnating her.

11. It was during Mary’s stay with Robinson that her mother fell ill. Upon receiving the news, Mary visited her mother and 9 days after Mary’s visit, her mother died. Mary brought her last child (who was living with Mary’s mother) to Robinson household. Soon after that, Mary’s daughter (whose name was Isabella) died along with the two remaining children of Robinson. All three died in April.

12. Mary and Robinson married in August 1867 and the two had their first child in November 1867. The child died in March 1868 because of illness. The couple had their second child in June 1869.

13. It was during her stay with Robinson, Mary continued pestering Robinson about getting a life insurance policy for himself. This aroused suspicions in Robinson’s mind and he investigated the matter to find that Mary had £60 in debts and stole £50 from Robinson instead of putting the money in bank. Robinson threw her out of his house and retained custody of their second child.

Interesting Mary Ann Cotton Facts: 14-26

14. Once thrown out by Robinson, Mary started living on streets as she had lost everything. It was then that Margaret Cotton, her friend, introduced Mary to her brother Frederick Cotton.

15. Frederick was a widower and had 4 children with his wife. Two of the 4 died earlier. After the death of Frederick’s wife, his sister took care of the two remaining children (Charles and Frederick Jr.). However, after introducing Mary to Frederick, Margaret suddenly died in 1870 (late March). The cause of her death was also stomach ailment.

16. Margaret’s death came as a shock to Frederick and emotionally broken, he found solace in Mary. And again… Mary became pregnant and this time, it was Frederick’s seed.

17. The two got married in September same year and their first child was born in 1871. After Mary’s and Frederick’s first child was born (named Robert), Mary got the news that Nattrass, her former lover, was once again single and was living at a distance of only 30 miles from her place.

18. Mary convinced Frederick move to a different place but never told him that the place they are moving into is actually close to her former lover. Once the Cotton family moved, Frederick died. How? A stomach ailment was responsible for his death too!

19. With Frederick’s death, Nattrass joined in Mary as a lodger and Mary also grabbed a job as a nurse. An excise officer named John Quick-Manning (or perhaps his real name was Richard Quick Mann) was suffering with smallpox and required a nurse and hired Mary.

20. While nursing, Mary was impregnated by John/Richard. Once she became pregnant, Frederick Jr. and Robert (Mary’s own son), both died of stomach illness.

21. Nattrass, who was living as a lodger had by now revised his own will in Mary’s favor. Soon after this, even Nattrass died of gastric fever.

22. Thomas Riley, a parish official asked Mary to nurse a smallpox infected woman but Mary said that Charles (Frederick Cotton’s only living son) was a problem. Mary asked Riley if she could send Charles to a workhouse. To this Riley said that considering Charles’ age, Mary will have to accompany the child at the workhouse. To this, Mary said that the boy wouldn’t bother her much because he was ill and will not live long just like the other members of the Cotton family. Just 5 days after that conversation with Riley, Mary reported Riley that Charles was dead.

23. Riley became suspicious and requested the village police as well as the doctors not to issue a death certificate for Charles because the circumstances of his death require investigations.

24. After Charles’ death, Mary tried to get the insurance money she against the insurance policy she had taken out for Charles. However, her request was declined because there was no death certificate. An investigation took place but the jury eventually concluded that the boy died of natural causes.

25. A local newspaper however caught up with the story and with some digging found that Mary Ann Cotton (she took the last name from her 4th husband) actually moved around in northern England, married 4 men of which 3 died. Not just that, one of her friend, her mother, her lover and more than 12 children died and weirdly enough, all died because of gastric fever.

26. Finally, the newspaper report led to serious suspicions and a forensic inquiry was set up where it was found that Charles died of arsenic poisoning. She was finally charged with murder but the trial got delayed until she delivered her final child. She named the child as Margaret Edith Quick-Manning Cotton. She was finally hanged on 24th of March, 1873.

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So, here are some recap facts:

(a) Mary Ann Cotton was a poisoner.
(b) She killed people by poisoning them with arsenic which led to gastric fever.
(c) She killed her mother.
(d) She killed 11 out 13 children she gave birth to.
(e) She killed 5 step children.
(f) She killed 3 out of her 4 husbands.
(g) She killed 1 innocent friend.
(h) She killed 1 lover.

So in total, she killed 22 people of which 16 were children. She committed all these crimes for money and to be very specific, insurance money.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3

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