Christiana Edmunds

The Chocolate Cream Poisoner

Christiana Edmunds lived with her widowed elderly mother in lodgingsNewspaper portrait. Short bobed hair - staring eyes. probably an artist’s impression ! at 16 Gloucester Place Brighton (now demolished.) Almost opposite was the surgery of Dr Beard at 64 Grand Parade (now beneath Brighton University,) a married man, but not averse to a secret flirtation. Christiana fell in love with him, and secret affectionate letters followed. One day she visited his wife with a gift of chocolates; the next day Mrs Beard fell ill but she recovered . Later Dr Beard was to say that he had had his suspicions - but the time kept them to himself !

During the following months Christiana embarked on a career of buying Chocolate Creams, lacing them with strychnine, then returning them to the unwary Confectioner. Who then sold them on to the unsuspecting public ! She obtained the strychnine from Isaac Garret, Chemist and Dentist of 10 Queens Road Brighton, using excuses of needing to poison stray cats (Mr. Garret advised her that this was cruel), and when this excuse was exhausted she used a nearby Milliner to sign the poison book. Small boys were pressed into service to buy the Chocolate creams from J. G. Maynards, Confectioners, of 39 - 41 West Street Brighton, getting them to return the Chocolates in exchange for smaller ones ! In June 1871 Sidney Albert Barker, a 4 years old boy on holiday in Brighton with his parents died after eating a chocolate bought at Maynards. The Brighton Coroner David Black, solicitor of 58 Ship Street Brighton, held an Inquest but the jury returned a verdict of Accidental death !

After this Christiana stepped up her campaign; she sent parcels to prominent people of Brighton containing food which frequently made them ill, there was panic and fear as to where The Poisoner would strike next. In fact Christiana sent parcels to herself, declaring that she too had been ill, but at this point Dr Beard finally shared his earlier suspicions with the Police and Christiana was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of Mrs Beard. She was tried for the murder of little Sidney Miller at the Old Bailey in London in January 1872 and found Guilty and sentenced to death. She pleaded that she was pregnant, but this was disproved by the police Doctors. During the trial her mother Mrs Edmunds told of a long history of Insanity in the family on both sides, the papers argued that she was a “..poor mad creature” and her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

She died in Broadmoor Prison for the Criminally Insane in 1907.