Herbert Armstrong was a
53 year old solicitor in picturesque Hay-on-Wye. He was
also a retired
Territorial Army Major.
He was a small
mild-mannered man who married a domineering, nagging woman who
nagged him continuously.
His wife, Katherine, was a
hypochondriac and was certified insane in July 1920.
She returned home after several months in an asylum but
died of an agonising illness shortly after her return.
Her death was certified as
gastritis by a doctor, Armstrong then went on a long holiday to recover
from the ordeal.
in Hay-on-Wye was Mr. Oswald Martin,
was in dispute with Armstrong professionally. Armstrong invited
Martin to tea where he handed Martin a scone, apologising,
“Excuse fingers.” Later that day Martin was violently ill
and his father-in-law, who was also the town’s chemist, informed the
doctor treating Martin that Armstrong had made several
purchases of arsenic.
The doctor agreed to send a sample
of Martin’s urine for analysis and, as suspected, it
proved to contain quantities of arsenic.
31st December 1921 Armstrong was arrested and
charged with the attempted murder of Oswald Martin.
Mrs Armstrong’s body was
then exhumed and Bernard Spilsbury, the famous pathologist,
carried out a post-mortem. It contained two hundred and
eight milligrams of arsenic. Though the body had been
buried for ten months it was in a remarkable state of
preservation, this being due to the mummifying effect of
3rd April 1922 Armstrong
was tried at Hereford for the murder of his wife and the
trial is notable for the weight of medical evidence.
Armstrong had a hard time trying to explain away why he
even had a packet of arsenic in his pocket when arrested,
he was subsequently found guilty.
31st May 1922 Armstrong
went to the gallows at Gloucester Prison where
John Ellis and Edward Taylor hanged him.
Armstrong was the only
solicitor ever to be hanged in England.
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