Mary Lefley was the last woman to be executed in Lincoln, arraigned for the alleged brutal poisoning of her husband in 1884 with enough arsenic to kill fifty men. Despite there being little hard evidence, including a lack of motive, as well as a total absence of poison in the house, she was found guilty and hanged on the strength of the circumstantial and the suspicious.
This book examines in forensic detail the judicial processes which led to the execution of an obscure woman living in a remote part of rural England and critically analyses those processes. It also defines the social and historical factors of the case which shaped the attitudes and therefore the actions of the key players in the story. Finally, it traces and tracks the reinventions of Mary Lefley’s identity found in a variety of different contexts, up and including to present day internet blogs.
Whilst the historical sources are examined, compared and evaluated, the book is not an attempt to either exonerate or prove the guilt of Mary Lefley. Even if that was possible after all this time, it would be treading the well-worn path of previous writers on the subject. Rather, the book seeks to clear away the historical contradictions and confusions which have accumulated over time and have prevented a clear understanding of the misfortunes of Mary Lefley.