Visiting a friend, 46-year-old Mrs. Louisa May Merrifield said she couldn’t stay long because she had to go home to lay out an elderly woman. Asked who had died, she replied: “She’s not dead yet, but she soon will be.”

The elderly woman was 79-year-old Mrs. Sarah Ann Ricketts, to whom Mrs. Merrifield and her husband had become housekeepers at her Blackpool home a month earlier in March 1953, subsequently persuading her to change her will and leave them her bungalow.

This, however, was not unusual. Mrs. Ricketts was always talking of changing her will as one beneficiary after another displeased her. But this time, Mrs. Merrifield had decided, the change would be final. Mrs. Ricketts would have no chance to make another will.

Within days Mrs. Merrifield was boasting that her employer was leaving her the bungalow, and this was true. At Mrs. Ricketts’s request, her solicitor had called and drawn up a new will in the Merrifields’ favour.

On April 10th Mrs. Merrifield called Dr. Yule to see her employer, asking him to certify that Mrs. Ricketts had been in a fit state to make a will. She feared the old lady might die suddenly, she explained, and in that event she wished to avoid trouble with Mrs. Ricketts’s relatives.

Three days later she called Dr. Wood, saying that Mrs. Ricketts was seriously ill. He was annoyed to find that the patient was merely suffering from a light touch of bronchitis.

The next morning, APRIL 14th, his partner was summoned. He found that Mrs. Ricketts was dead, and said that Dr. Yule must be called. Dr. Yule refused to sign a death certificate.

Then Mrs. Merrifield’s friend Mrs. Brewer saw Mrs. Ricketts’s death notice in the newspaper. Realising that Louisa had told her that Mrs. Ricketts was dead three days in advance of the event, she phoned the police.

An autopsy found that Mrs. Ricketts had died from phosphorus poisoning, having ingested an ingredient of the rat poison Rodine.

No poison was found when police searched the bungalow. Meanwhile Mrs. Merrifield asked the Salvation Army to come and play “Abide with Me” outside the house.

She was arrested 14 days later, her husband’s arrest following shortly afterwards. Convicted of murder when she was tried at Manchester, Mrs. Merrifield was hanged at Strangeways Prison on September 18th, 1953.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict in respect of her 71-year-old husband Alfred, who was released to inherit a half-share in Mrs. Ricketts’s bungalow. He later appeared in Blackpool sideshows, and died in 1962 aged 80.