England · Executions

Man executed for murdering young daughter by poring sulfuric acid down her throat

August 8, 1846
York, England
John Rodda is hanged for murdering his young daughter by pouring vitriol (an archaic term for sulfuric acid) down her throat

The child was Mary Rodda, reported as either 18- or 21-months-old. She was fed an amount of vitriol oil, obtained shortly before the murder. At trial, the druggist who sold the vitriol testified Rodda had claimed he was purchasing the acid to kill vermin.

Mary was taken to the doctor after she fell ill, which the doctor initially suspected was from teething pains. Soon after, she began “constantly vomiting a dark frothy substance,” as reported by The Northern Star (July 25, 1846). She lingered in illness with frequent, burning vomiting from April 16 until the evening of April 19. According to The Morning Post (July 21, 1846), a constable admitted into evidence Mary’s pinafore dress worn during one of her vomiting episodes. The dress “was burnt much from the contents of the stomach which were vomited by the child.”

It was determined Rodda killed his daughter to obtain money from a burial society (a group which provided money to pay for a loved one’s funeral expenses). The amount given was 2 pounds 10 shillings, approximately £200 or $260 in today’s economy and, as suggested, just enough to pay for the child’s funeral expenses.

Rodda admitted his guilt to his assigned clergyman directly preceding his execution.


Image from Criminal Chronology of York Castle; with a Register of the Criminals Capitally Convicted and Executed at the County Assizes, Commencing March 1st, 1379, to the Present Time: An interesting Record to those who trace the Progress of Crime through the Change of Manners, the Increase of Population, and the Raised Complexion of the Penal Code. Published 1867

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