Where does a man who is unhappy in marriage look to have an affair? Edward Bell, 26, looked no further than his next-door neighbour, Mary Hudson. Soon after their affair began, Bell’s 30-year-old wife, also called Mary, died, and two days after her funeral her bereaved husband announced his engagement to Mary Hudson.

That was an ill-advised move, because it set tongues wagging in Weston, near Spalding, where they both lived. The police heard the rumours, Mrs. Bell was exhumed, and traces of perchloride of mercury and strychnine were found in her body. At Lincoln Assizes Edward Bell was adjudged to have administered the poisons, and he was hanged on Tuesday, July 25th, 1899, in Lincoln Prison.

James Billington should have hanged Bell, but the executioner was ill and sent his son William in his place. William told the authorities that he had assisted at previous executions, which wasn’t true – this was his first. The lie wasn’t discovered until after William had successfully hanged Edward Bell, which triggered a subsequent Home Office inquiry ordering a tightening-up of the rules on appointing executioners.