Thursday, January 27, 2011

Historical Cases Thursday - Dr William Palmer

William Palmer (6 August 1824 – 14 June 1856) was an English doctor who was convicted of murder in one of the most notorious cases of the 19th century.
He was born in Staffordshire on 6 August 1824. It is said that his medical training was interrupted a few times with the allegations of stealing money and apparently he was bit of a ladies man.
While working at Stafford infirmary, he was accused of poisoning an acquaintance during a drinking competition; although nothing was proven, the hospital imposed tighter controls on the dispensary as a precaution. Palmer also enjoyed gambling, but his lack of success in this pursuit led him into serious debt.
He returned to his home town of Rugeley to practice as a doctor, and married Ann Thornton, in 1847. The first of several suspicious deaths connected to Palmer was that of his mother-in-law. On 18 January, 1849, Ann Mary Thornton died while visiting her daughter at Palmer's house. She was about 50 years old. On 10 May, 1850, Leonard Bladen died. He was a 49-year-old house guest of the Palmers. Apart from their first son who long outlived his father, William and Ann would have four more children, who all died in infancy:[4]
The only other family member to die in this period was an elderly uncle of Palmer and his death attracted no suspicion, but then followed the death of Ann Palmer. She died on 29 September, 1854, only 27 years old. At about this time, Palmer was involved in an affair with Eliza Tharme, his housemaid.
On, 1855, Tharme gave birth to Alfred. He was an illegitimate son to Palmer. Ann was believed to have died of cholera. Palmer did benefit financially from the death of his wife. He had taken out a £13,000 insurance policy on her life.
Palmer then insured his Brother Walter's life. Walter Palmer died on 16 August, 1855. But Walter died a bit too soon and the insurance company refused to pay up. By this time, Palmer was heavily in debt, and was being blackmailed.
In November, 1855, Palmer and his friend went to bet on some horses. Cook won a large amount of money but Palmer lost heavily. Cook and Palmer had a celebration party at the Raven, a local drinking establishment. On the previous day already Cook was complaining of feeling ill, but he was only thought to have drunk too much brandy. The next day the two gamblers returned to the race track where his friend booked a room.
On 17 November, 1855, two people close to Palmer fell suddenly ill: young Alfred Palmer and John Cook. Alfred died within the day, the fifth child of Palmer to die in infancy. On 19 November, Palmer went to London in order to collect Cook's earnings from the horse races. On 21 November, Cook died at about 1:00 AM. On 23 November. A post mortem examination of Cook's body took place on November 26. An inquest on Cook opened on 29 November, the verdict was delivered on 15 December Deciding that the Cook case concerned "willful murder". Suspicions of foul play were heightened when Palmer tried to bribe several people involved with the coroner's inquest, but the final straw was Palmer's purchase of strychnine shortly before Cook's death.
Palmer was arrested for Cook's murder. The bodies of Ann and Walter Palmer were also exhumed and re-examined, although not enough evidence was found to charge Palmer with their deaths. Palmer was found guilty of murder. Some 30,000 were at Stafford prison on 14 June 1856 to see Palmer's public execution by hanging. As he stepped onto the gallows, Palmer is said to have looked at the trapdoor and exclaimed, "Are you sure it's safe? After he was hanged his mother is said to have commented: "They have hanged my saintly Billy".
The salutation "What's your poison?" is thought to be a reference to the events.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This week in history # 1

This is the first "This week in history" that I'll be doing.

This week in crime history...

Jan 30, 1948:


Gandhi assassinated

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic.

He was born in 1869, his mother was deeply religious and early on exposed her son to Jainism. Gandhi was an unremarkable student but in 1888 was given an opportunity to study law in England. In 1891, he returned to India, but failing to find regular legal work he accepted in 1893 a one-year contract in South Africa where he fought for the rights of Indians.

In 1914, Gandhi returned to India. He supported Britain in the First World War but in 1919 launched a protest of Britain's mandatory military draft of Indians. By 1920 he was leader of the Indian movement for independence. He reorganized the Indian National Congress as a political force and launched a massive boycott of British goods, services, and institutions in India. In 1922 he was arrested by the British authorities for sedition, found guilty, and imprisoned.

He was released in 1924. In 1928, he returned to national politics when he demanded dominion status for India and in 1930 launched a mass protest against the British salt tax, which hurt India's poor. The march, which resulted in the arrest of Gandhi and 60,000 others, earned new international respect and support for the leader and his movement.
With the outbreak of World War II, Gandhi returned to politics and called for Indian cooperation with the British war effort in exchange for independence. Britain refused and sought to divide India by supporting conservative Hindu and Muslim groups. In response, Gandhi launched the "Quit India" movement it 1942, which called for a total British withdrawal. Gandhi and other nationalist leaders were imprisoned until 1944.

In 1945, a new government came to power in Britain, and negotiations for India's independence began. Gandhi sought a unified India, but the Muslim League, which had grown in influence during the war, disagreed. After protracted talks, Britain agreed to create the two new independent states of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947.
In an effort to end India's religious strife, he resorted to fasts and visits to the troubled areas. He was on one such vigil in New Delhi when Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who objected to Gandhi's tolerance for the Muslims, fatally shot him

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stories about true South African Crime

I haven't been here for a while, so I thought I'd come back with a sort of a bang (well I think so)

I'm a member of a True Crime club on the website Goodreads and we love talking about who our "favorite" (if you could call it that) serial killer is, and who's work do we kind of watch... nothing creepy, we're just all interested in true crime. But lately I've been interested in crime in South Africa, where I'm from, but the books are rather limited, so I thought I'd share some information about crime in South Africa here with you and showcase some books.

I'm currently a second year psychology and criminology student at UNISA and I love to read about crime in South Africa and what makes it so different from other countries. South Africa has a high rate of murders, assaults, rapes, and other crimes compared to most countries. Many people leave the country because of high crime rates. There are also many gang related crimes, especially in the Western Cape where gangs are plenty. Murders are often committed, but Serial killers aren't as many compared to other countries.

A survey for the period 1998–2000 compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked South Africa second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita and first for rapes per capita in a data set of 60 countries. Total crime per capita was 10th out of the 60 countries in the data set. Rapes happen not only because of obvious reasons, but women are raped because of some beliefs that men have, one of these are that you will be cured of Aids if you have sex with a virgin. (This is NOT true). Some men are also offended by Lesbians and rape them in order for them to become "normal" again. This is NOT true, again. Rape is usually also a result of a man wanting to feel power over the women.

The murder rate has increased by an order of magnitude in South Africa during the last 40 years,though it has fallen from 66.9 per 100,000 people in 1994–95 to 37.3 per 100,000 in 2008–09. From 2003–2009, crime decreased significantly according to official police data.

According to government statistics, violent crimes such as murder and (reported) robberies decreased in 2007. Between 1994 and 2009, the murder rate reduced by 50% to 34 murders per 100 000 people.Rape and hijacking rates, however, showed no signs of slowdown. Hijackings and cash-in-transit heists, particularly, have been shown to be on the increase. The incidence of rape has led to the country being referred to as the "rape capital of the world", scary thought isn't it?

There are different manners of crime in this Country, but we are working on fighting this fight and decreasing crime. It's not an easy task but it has to be done.

So if you'd like to hear more about true accounts of victims of crime you should try these:

I have Life - The true story of Alison who survived rape and near murder (A gripping tale)

Living without Liesl - a Mothers tale about her daughters murder right in their own backyard

It's me, Anna - The story of a young girls abuse by her stepfather

Steeped in Blood - a Forensic scientist tells his story

If you know of any other great books please share them with us