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Adelaide Bartlett
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Murderer (Alleged)
    (1855-circa 1933)
    Born in Orleans, France
    Birth name was Adelaide Blanche de la Tremoille
    Married English grocer Edwin Bartlett (1875)
    Adelaide discovered Edwin dead at 4 AM on January 1, 1886
    Autopsy found ingestion of chloroform to be the cause of death
    Tried for Edwin’s murder (April 12-17, 1886)
    Found not guilty
    She was allegedly the out-of-wedlock daughter of a British nobleman, who paid for the defense at her trial.
    She conducted an affair with her brother-in-law.
    At the time of her husband’s death, she was involved in an ‘intimate friendship’ with Reverend George Dyson.
    She had asked Dyson to buy four small bottles of chloroform at different shops (instead of one large bottle, which would have required signing the pharmacy’s register).
    When the Bartlett’s doctor asked if Edwin could have deliberately swallowed the chloroform, she said that he could not have done it without her knowing since she had been sleeping next to him.
    Also arguing against suicide: Before going to bed on New Year’s Eve, Edwin had asked their landlady to prepare a haddock for breakfast next morning.
    She largely dropped out of sight after the trial, with the circa 1933 death date being fairly speculative.
    She gave birth to a stillborn child (1881).
    Her nurse had recommended bringing in a doctor to assist in the delivery, but Edwin refused, because he did not want another man to ‘interfere with her.’
    Their doctor said about her care of Edwin, ‘A kinder, more tender, more patient or more self-sacrificing nurse could not have been wished for.’
    Her defense pointed out that there had never been a previous case of murder using liquid chloroform, since it produced such a painful burning sensation that it would be essentially impossible to administer it secretly.
    Concerning the possibility of the victim being rendered unconscious with a chloroform-soaked rag, then having the liquid poured down his throat, a doctor testifying for the prosecution admitted it would be extremely difficult to do so without pouring some down the victim’s windpipe. (And no chloroform had been found in Edwin’s respiratory system.)
    After the acquittal, surgeon Sir James Paget reportedly quipped, ‘Now that it’s over, in the interests of science she should tell us how she did it.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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