Suspected Poisoning at Yorke Street, Wrexham, 27th March 1854

by Wayne Piotr Cronin-Wojdat

On Monday 27th March 1854, Mrs. Emma Owen, a confectioner from Yorke Street, Wrexham, and the wife of Mr. Richard Owen, a tailor, was not feeling to well. She approached Mrs. Higgins, a neighbour living on Yorke Street for some help. She wanted Mrs. Higgins to give her some gin.  Due to the state of health of Emma, Mrs. Higgins instead persuaded her to take a dose of castor oil.  The castor oil had been obtained from Mr. Jones the chemist who added a tincture of rhubarb to the castor oil giving it an appearance of having a black substance on the top of it.

At sometime between 4 to 5 o’clock on the evening of Tuesday 28th March 1854, Emma arrived at the home of Mr. Thomas Jones, a labourer, and his wife Margaret, at the Dunks, Wrexham.  She had arrived at the home with the intention of lodging and taking in the clean air.  During the evening Emma kept complaining of pain in the left hand side of her body and kept touching the area. 

Emma complained to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, “o’ dear I feel very sick and bad ever since those villains gave me that nasty stuff”.  Emma told them that Mrs. Higgins had given the castor oil to her with black substance on the top of it.  Shortly after taking the castor oil her bowls had acted violently and that she had been woken up during the night with the pain.  Emma and Mr. and Mrs. Jones retired to bed.

At around 9 o’clock, the following morning, Wednesday 29th March 1854, Emma Owen was found dead in her bed.

At 11 o’clock on the morning of Thursday 6th April 1854 a Coroner’s Inquest was held at the Feathers Inn, Chester Street, Wrexham to ascertain the cause of Emma Owens death.  After hearing evidence from the witnesses the Jury came to the verdict was that she was “found dead” and that the likely cause was heart disease.

The Coroner’s Inquest verdict obviously did not stop the speculation and gossip about the death of Emma Owens.  On the 15th April 1854, the local newspaper, the Wrexham & Denbighshire Advertiser carried the following announcement,

“Post Mortem on the Body of Mrs. Owen-

At the request of the friends of the late Mrs. Owen a post-mortem examination of the body was made by Mr. Edward Williams, Surgeon, which completely sets at rest the idle rumours which were extant, and satisfied the relatives that deceased died from natural causes”.

Source: Wayne Piotr Cronin-Wojdat; Wrexham Coroner Inquests.

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