Arthur and Ethel Major were happily married. He was a lorry-driver, she was the daughter of a Lincolnshire gamekeeper, and they had a son, Lawrence. But Ethel also had a guilty secret.
She managed to keep this from her husband until 10 years after their marriage, when they left her parents home in 1929 and moved the short distance to Kirkby-on-Bain, Lincolnshire. It was then that gossips told Arthur Major that his wifes young sister was in fact her illegitimate daughter. She was 24 when she gave birth to the baby, which her parents had brought up as her sister to avoid a scandal.
Arthur felt cheated, and when Ethel refused to name the childs father he became violent, began drinking heavily and their marriage became nothing but quarrels.
Five years later, however, it was Ethels turn to feel outraged. She was now 45, and she discovered that her husband was receiving love letters from a woman who she suspected was their next-door neighbour.
In her fury, Ethel launched a campaign of revenge. She told all and sundry of her husbands infidelity, tried to have him evicted from their council house, and attempted to have him sacked from his job, telling the police that he was always drunk when driving.
Arthur Major responded by announcing that he would no longer be responsible for his wifes debts. And when she confronted him with the love letters and asked what he was going to do about it he replied: Nothing. Youd better do something about it yourself.
On May 22nd, 1934, he took to his bed in severe pain, Ethel blaming some corned beef he had eaten. His doctor treated him for what appeared to be epileptic fits, and when Major died in agony two days later the physician signed a death certificate attributing his demise to status epilepticus.
Ethel wanted her husband to be buried as soon as possible, and arranged the funeral accordingly. Meanwhile the local coroner received an anonymous letter claiming that a neighbours dog had died after eating scraps put out by Mrs. Major. The dogs body was exhumed, was found to contain strychnine, and Arthur Majors funeral was postponed pending a post-mortem examination. This found that he too had been killed by strychnine, and the police learned that Ethel had a key to a box in which her gamekeeper father kept a small amount of the poison.
She was arrested and charged with her husbands murder, and at her trial at Lincolnshire Assizes in November 1934 the prosecution described her troubled marriage.
The jury heard that on discovering her husbands affair with another woman Ethel had told her doctor, Now you understand why I have been ill. A man like that is not fit to live. I will do him in!
The doctor had not taken her seriously.
The court also heard that when Ethel was questioned by the police, she said, I have never had any strychnine poison.
I have never mentioned strychnine, the detective interviewing her told her. How did you know your husband died from strychnine poisoning?
Oh, I am sorry, Ethel replied. I must have made a mistake.
Her defence counsel established that her solicitor had told her that strychnine poisoning was suspected, but it was Ethel Majors mistake that registered with the jury. This and other circumstantial evidence convinced them of her guilt, and she was hanged at Hull Prison on DECEMBER 19th, 1934.