Factory worker by day and barmaid by night, Mary Ann Britland, 39, was also an ardent lover. She had set her sights on her next-door neighbour Thomas Dixon, with whom she was having an affair, and had decided that if she was to get him for keeps she must clear the decks of anyone who was likely to stand in her way.
Using strychnine and arsenic, she first poisoned her daughter Elizabeth, 19, and then her husband Thomas, 44, at their home in Turner Lane, Ashton-under-Lyne. Shocked by their neighbours double bereavement in quick succession, the kindly Dixons took Mrs. Britland in. Now all that stood in the way of her love for Thomas Dixon was his wife Mary, 29, who she accordingly dispatched, also with strychnine and arsenic.
The treble tragedy set tongues wagging locally. The police exhumed all three bodies and traced the deadly poisons to Mrs. Britland, who was charged with all three murders. Although they also arrested Thomas Dixon, he was quickly proved to be entirely innocent of any involvement, and Mrs. Britland stood alone in the dock at Manchester Assizes.
After a two-day trial she was found guilty and hanged on Monday, August 9th, 1886, at Strangeways Prison.