Horncastle

Historic Lincolnshire murder case prised open by TV crews

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The mystery of a Lincolnshire woman controversially hanged for ‘murdering’ her husband by poisoning his cold beef has been reopened by TV crews and local solicitors.

As part of a new BBC One series called Murder, Mystery and My Family camera crews visited the Lincolnshire solicitors who defended the woman in 1934.

Ethel Major, 43, from Kirkby-on-Bain near Horncastle, was sentenced to death when she was found guilty of murdering her husband Arthur Major, 44.

Investigators at the time believed that she poisoned her husband’s corned beef dinner with strychnine.

Prosecutors at the time did not offer proof that Ethel had the poison in her possession, but that she had access to it with a key in her late mother’s purse.

Ethel’s fingerprints were never found on the bottle.

Crowds gathered outside Hull prison when she was hanged. Photo: Our Criminal Ancestors

Days before Ethel was due to be executed at Hull prison, the city’s Lord Mayor wrote to the Prime Minister asking for her to be spared.

According to the website Our Criminal Ancestors, Alderman J. Stark wrote: “The heartfelt please contained in this telegram are those of the 300,000 inhabitants, including the entire female population of this great city.

“People from all over the district have been knocking at the door of my home – many of them women – pleading with me not to give up.”

The Prime Minister at the time, Ramsey MacDonald refused to acknowledge the request and Ethel was hanged in Hull.

Chatterton’s Chief executive Edward Conway holds the plaque of Richard Chatterton.

Richard Chatterton, from Lincolnshire-based Chatterton’s Solicitors, defended Ethel and always believed she was innocent.

Shortly before she was hanged, she sent a letter to Richard and thanked him for “everything he had done for her.”

Camera crews and detectives visited the Horncastle branch of Chatterton’s Solicitors to investigate the case.

The episode will air on April 5 on BBC One at 9:15am.