England · Executions

Man hanged for poisoning his lover in an attempt to terminate her pregnancy

July 25, 1785
Durham, England
John Winship is hanged for the murder of his maid/lover

When Winship was informed by his maid and lover Grace Smith that she was with child, he convinced her to drink a concoction of corrosive mercury sublimate (now called mercuric chloride) in an attempt to induce abortion. She dutifully drank the potion only to die in agony 4 days later on March 16, 1785.

Winship’s indictment reads in part

John Winship late of the parish of Bishop Wearmouth in the County of Durham, yeoman, not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, and of his malice aforethought, contriving and intending one Grace Smith with poison feloniously to kill and murder, on the twelfth day of March in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of our sovereign lord George the third now King of Great Britain and so forth, with force and arms at the parish aforesaid, willfully, wickedly, knowingly and feloniously did mix a deadly poison, to wit, corrosive mercury sublimate, with water …

Winship was convicted of the murder on July 19 and hanged six days later.

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