By Tim Lambert

Priscilla Biggadike and her husband Richard lived with their 3 children in a tiny two room cottage in the village of Stickney in Lincolnshire, England. They also shared their home with 2 lodgers. All of them shared the same bedroom. Richard Biggadike worked as a well sinker and he got up early in the morning to go to work. He began to suspect that one of the lodgers was joining his wife in her bed afterwards. That led to arguments. Then on 30 September 1868 Richard Biggadike came home from work and Priscilla gave him a cake. Afterwards Richard fell ill. A doctor was called but Richard died the next morning.

However a doctor was suspicious of the sudden death and an autopsy found traces of arsenic. Priscilla Biggadike was arrested on 3 October 1868. She claimed her husband had written a suicide note (in fact he could not read and write). When she was asked to produce the note Priscilla claimed she had burned it. She later said she saw one of the lodgers, Thomas Proctor putting a white powder in her husband's tea cup. He then added milk and she poured in tea. She also said she saw Proctor put some white powder into a bottle of medicine but she gave the medicine to her husband anyway.

Priscilla and Proctor were both arrested but at the trial the judge instructed the jury to dismiss the case against Proctor because of lack of evidence. But Priscilla was found guilty and she was sentenced to death. Priscilla Biggadike was hanged in Lincoln Castle on 28 December 1868.

Priscilla Biggadike has the distinction of being the first woman in Britain to be hanged in private. Previously men and women were hanged in public. Its said that on his deathbed in 1884 Proctor confessed that he did give arsenic to Richard Biggadike. Yet Priscilla saw him and she did nothing to stop him or warn her husband.

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