Unsolved Murders

Jane Archer Piggott

Age: 77

Sex: female

Date: 24 Jun 1916

Place: 48 Church Street, Smethwick, Staffordshire

Jane Archer Piggott died from arsenic poisoning in June 1916.

Her 44-year-old son was charge with her murder but was acquitted when the judge stopped the case before the defence gave evidence.

The son had lived with Jane Piggott, his sister and brother and the lodger at 48 Church Street.

Jane Piggott's daughter said that she had been making a rice pudding in the kitchen at 44 Church Street on 24 May 1916 and that her brother had been at one point alone with it, but added that if he had put anything in the rice pudding that she thought that Jane Piggott must have seen him do so. She said that he was alone in the kitchen after she had put the puddings in the oven. However, it was also reported that the son and daughter had been the only people in the house when the puddings were being made.

Jane Piggott, a sister and a lodger became ill after partaking of the rice pudding which was later found to contain arsenic.

Jane Piggott died a few weeks later on 24 June 1916.

The court heard that her son had access to arsenic at Chance's works where he worked. He had worked at Chance Bros. and Co. Ltd. on Spon Lane Glass Works and was what was termed a mixer, and for that purpose had the care and custody of a large quantity of arsenic.

It was noted that two puddings had been made, but that only one of them had contained arsenic. The borough analyst who examined the pudding said that in the remains of the poisoned pudding he found 70 1/2 grains of white arsenic, which was said to have been enough to have killed thirty people. It was also noted that one spoonful was sufficient to have caused death.

It was suggested that the arsenic might have got into the pudding accidently from the son's clothes, but it was also said that it was improbable that such a large quantity could get into the pudding from his clothes, and to have only got into one of them.

The son's defence said that he had nothing to gain by the death of his mother or sister. The lodger, who had also suffered from the effects of the poison said that he could not conceive of any reason why the son would want to poison his mother.

The sister said that on Friday 19 May 1916 that she had purchased half a pound of rice and that on the following Sunday she made a rice pudding with part of the contents of the packet and said that everything was all right and that there were no complaints at all. She said that on 24 May 1916 the remainder of the rise was made by herself into two puddings, one in a basin and the other in a dish. She said that whilst she was making them the son was home from work. She said that between 12 noon and 1am the son was in the kitchen and for some little time was alone. She said that later on that afternoon she and her mother partook of the pudding and became ill.

However, when the lodger came home shortly afterwards and heard that Jane Piggott and her daughter were ill, he apparently did not believe that it was through the puddings and said something like, 'Let me have a go' and he then ate some of the pudding and then also became immediately ill.

The police were then called and the son was arrested on the following Saturday.

When the puddings were taken away for analysis, the pudding in the basin was found to be all right, but the pudding in the dish was found to have contained a large quantity of arsenic.

When the son was arrested at 48 Church Street at about 7.45pm on the Saturday he said, 'Well, it’s a bit hard on me, I haven't done nothing. I have kept nothing back from you and helped you all I can'.

When he was formally charged with administering poison, as at that stage Jane Piggott had not yet died, he said, 'I am innocent, so help me God I am'.

The son was tried at the Staffordshire Assizes on Friday 8 July 1916, but the judge stopped the case before the defence opened and the son was discharged.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Archives - ASSI 6/51/1

see The People - Sunday 09 July 1916

see Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 10 July 1916

see Berks and Oxon Advertiser - Friday 14 July 1916

see Dundee Courier - Monday 10 July 1916

see Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 05 July 1916

see Surrey Mirror - Friday 14 July 1916

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Tuesday 30 May 1916

see Dundee People's Journal - Saturday 15 July 1916

see Birmingham Mail - Saturday 08 July 1916

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Tuesday 04 July 1916

see Evening Despatch - Monday 29 May 1916