Lincoln

Lincolnshire Murders: Mum poisoned her two young children after being rejected by ex-husband

From the archives: A mother of five who killed her two youngest children by poisoning them after her ex-husband rejected her was sentenced to hard labour after being found guilty on manslaughter by a jury.

Sarah Clarke, 29, of Lincoln, had been found guilty of the manslaughter of her two young children after eight minutes on July 24, 1885 at Lincoln Assizes.

The court heard that Clarke had fed her two children laudanum – a form of morphine, at around 4am on Saturday, June 27, 1885, before taking the rest herself.

It is believed that Clarke planned on killing her two children before killing herself after being rejected by her former husband Joseph Clarke.

Clarke had five children in total, three with Mr Clarke and two with a George Taylor – who she had left her husband for.

It was Mr Taylor’s children who she killed in the early hours of June 27.

The court heard that Clarke had fallen in love with Mr Clarke at a young age and reluctantly married after falling pregnant with their first child.

However, after the birth of her first child, Clarke left her husband and moved to Bradford with her newborn.

After eight months, Mr Clarke received a letter begging for forgiveness and Clarke returned with their child.

The pair then went on to have another child before Clarke left again.

However, this trip did not last long and after two months, she returned and had a third child with Mr Clarke.

With three extra mouths to feed, Clarke persuaded her husband to get a lodger to help with finances.

George Taylor then moved in with the family.

Following this, Clarke abandoned her family and ran away with Taylor.

After 18 months, Clarke returned to Lincoln with a child she had had with Taylor and Mr Clarke took them in.

Clarke then ran away again, meeting Taylor in Gravesend where she fell pregnant with their second child.

After six months, Clarke attempted to return to Mr Clarke, who rejected her after falling for a neighbour’s daughter Emma Truelove.

This was a shock to Clarke who had travelled to Lincoln on June 24, 1885 to be back with her husband.

This is said to have caused her much heartache.

Following her rejection, she pawned her clothes, bought three bottles of laudanum and gave it to her children before locking the three of them in a hotel room.

The hotel owner became worried and called police who broke down the door, concerned for the safety of Clarke and her children.

On being found, Clarke said: “I wish you’d let me die.

“It’s all through him. I’ve taken laudanum and given the children some.”

After being found guilty of the manslaughter of her children, Clarke was sentenced to eight months of hard labour.


The events of this story were researched and documented by Douglas Wynn in Murder & Crime Lincoln.