Louisa Collins

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Louisa Collins
Louisa Collins 1888.jpg
Born11 August 1847
Died8 January 1889(1889-01-08) (aged 41)
Criminal statusExecuted
Spouse(s)Charles Andrews
Michael Collins
Children9 sons, 1 daughter
Conviction(s)Murder
Criminal penaltyDeath by hanging

Louisa Collins (11 August, 1847 – 8 January ,1889) was an Australian poisoner and convicted murderer. Collins, who was dubbed the "Borgia of Botany" by the press of the day, endured four trials in front of 48 men, after the first three juries failed to convict.[1] Collins was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on the morning of 8 January 1889.[2]

Early life[edit]

Louisa Hall was born at Belltrees near Scone, New South Wales on 11 August 1847, one of at least seven children of Henry Hall and his wife Catherine (née Ring).[3] Henry Hall was a native of Birmingham, who had been sent to Australia as a convict in 1831 onboard the ship Asia,[4] whilst Catherine was a migrant from Ireland.

At a young age, Louisa married Charles Andrews, a butcher. Louisa and Andrews had nine children, seven of whom survived infancy.[5] By December 1886, Andrews had moved his family to the inner city suburb of Botany. Andrews had work as a wool washer that used chemicals, including arsenic, to wash the wool before export. To make ends meet, the family took in lodgers. One of Andrew's co-workers was Michael Collins, who took up residence in the Andrews' family home.

Charles Andrews discovered the liaison between his wife and Michael Collins in December 1886. Charles Andrews confronted Michael Collins and threw him out of the boarding house.[6]

Widowed[edit]

On 31 January 1887 Charles Andrews signed a will that was drawn up by a clerk at the insurance office. Soon after, he started to feel violently ill, suffering from stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. Andrews died on 2 February 1887. The widowed Mrs Andrews quickly applied for the life insurance of her dead husband.[5]

Acquaintances were not surprised that the widowed Andrews took up with Michael Collins soon after the death of her first husband. Louisa Collins stated they were married on 9 April 1887, within two months of Charles Andrews' funeral.[7] Collins was four months pregnant on her wedding day. Her child, John Collins, born in 1887, died and was buried in a pauper's grave.[5]

Michael Collins fell ill after he and Louisa had been married for one year. Immediately before his death on 8 July 1888, he displayed the same symptoms as Charles Andrews had in 1887.

Inquest[edit]

A coroners inquest was held at the South Sydney Morgue by Mr. H. Shiell, J.P (the City Coroner)[8] Michael Collins' life was not insured.[8]

Neighbours were suspicious that both husbands of Louisa Collins had died with the same symptoms. Andrews' body was exhumed and a chemical analysis found the presence of arsenic. The autopsy of Michael Collins declared the cause of death to be arsenical poisoning. Louisa Collins was arrested for the murder of both men on the recommendation of the coroner, as she was the only person who nursed the men during their illnesses.[9]

Trials[edit]

One of Louisa Collins' sons from her first marriage, Arthur Andrews, gave evidence that his father was a healthy man who could work a 15-hour day if necessary.[citation needed] Some of the most important testimony was given by Collins' only daughter, May Andrews. May, just 10 years old at the time of the first trial, gave evidence that the family kept Rough On Rats – a deadly arsenic-based poison.[citation needed] Sydney was suffering a rat plague in the 1880s, which led to boom sales for the product, which was the basis of the case against Collins.[citation needed]

Collins endured four trials, the first three failed to find a verdict.[10] She did not call any witnesses to her defence.

Punishment[edit]

On 8 January 1889, Louisa Collins was hanged at Darlinghurst gaol.[11] She was the last woman to hang in the state of New South Wales.[12]

Publication[edit]

The first full-length examination of the case, Last Woman Hanged: the Terrible True Story of Louisa Collins, by Australian author and journalist Caroline Overington, was published in 2014.

A novel, The Killing of Louisa by Janet Lee, was published by UQP in 2018.[13]

Victims[edit]

  • Charles Andrews 52
  • Michael Peter Collins 26

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Louisa Collins". Molong Express And Western District Advertiser. X, (968). New South Wales, Australia. 5 January 1889. p. 2. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Overington, Caroline (2014). Last Woman Hanged. HarperCollins.
  3. ^ New South Wales Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  4. ^ New South Wales Convict Transportation Records, Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 179 (92)
  5. ^ a b c Maley, Jacqueline (18 October 2014). "Last woman hanged in NSW, but was Louisa Collins innocent?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014.
  6. ^ "The Sydney Morning Herald – Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  7. ^ "The Sydney Mail – Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  8. ^ a b "CORONER'S INQUESTS". The Sydney Morning Herald (15, 693). New South Wales, Australia. 11 July 1888. p. 7. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "THE BOTANY POISONING CASE". The Sydney Morning Herald (15, 708). New South Wales, Australia. 27 July 1888. p. 4. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Louisa Collins". The Evening News (Sydney) (6726). New South Wales, Australia. 10 December 1888. p. 4. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "THE EXECUTION OF LOUISA COLLINS". The Sydney Morning Herald (15, 850). New South Wales, Australia. 9 January 1889. p. 7. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ Chenery, Susan (25 September 2018). "'They'll never hang a woman': Louisa Collins thought she'd be spared". the Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  13. ^ "UQP - The Killing of Louisa".

Bibliography[edit]