Mrs. Alicia Hughes a widow, married Jack Roberts, a widower of Talsarnau in the west of Wales, on MARCH 3rd, 1951, and was almost immediately desperately miserable.
When Robertss eldest daughter wanted to return home and assume her role as lady of the house, Alicia was even more discontented. The rows between the two women were such that Roberts in despair threatened to commit suicide.
On March 4th, 1952, Jack Roberts became ill. Two days later he died, and a post-mortem revealed traces of arsenic in his body. The police discovered that Alicia had bought two tins of arsenic based weedkiller shortly before her husbands death, and when she tried to cut her own throat while under investigation they thought they had a case against her.
But Alicia claimed at her trial in Swansea that she used the weedkiller to kill weeds on the path of the school where she was caretaker. And since Jack Roberts had threatened suicide, couldnt he have taken the arsenic himself?
Thats what the jury thought, and they found her not guilty. But investigations into the death of her first husband, John Hughes, then revealed traces of arsenic in his decomposing body. This, said pathologist Dr. Roche Lynch, at an inquest on Hughes, could not be accounted for by anything other than external administration.
Two husbands – two deaths by arsenic? Wasnt that a bit more than coincidence?
Things looked pretty black for Alicia until another renowned pathologist, Dr. Francis Camps, arrived on the scene. He told the coroner that the first husbands death was quite consistent with natural causes.
It was in fact impossible exactly to ascertain the cause of death, Camps asserted. Insoluble arsenic washed into the coffin from the soil could have adhered to some of the body, such as the brain and muscles, and still have been present at the time of the analysis.
That was enough to spare Alicia a second trial for murder.