Mary Bateman (1768 – 20 March 1809) was an English criminal and alleged witch, known as the Yorkshire Witch, who was tried and executed for murder during the early 19th century.
She was born to a farmer in Asenby, North Yorkshire in 1768. She became a servant girl in Thirsk, North Yorkshire but was eventually released due to petty theft. During the 1780s, she became a minor thief and con artist who often convinced many of her victims she possessed supernatural powers. By the end of the century, she had become a prominent fortuneteller in Leeds who prescribed potions which she claimed would ward off evil spirits as well as acting as medicine.
Also in 1806, Bateman was approached by William and Rebecca Perigo who believed they had been put under a spell after Rebecca had complained of chest pains and asked for her help in lifting the curse. However, over the next several months, Bateman began feeding them pudding which was laced with poison. While Rebecca regularly ate the pudding, her husband was unable to eat more than a spoonful. Rebecca's condition worsened however and she finally died in May 1806. William Perigo continued to pay her for more than two years until he discovered one of the "charms" which he and his wife had received from Bateman was worthless paper; he went to the authorities who arrested Bateman the following day after William lured her to a meeting.
Although she proclaimed her innocence, a search of her home turned up poison as well as many personal belongings of her victims including the Perigo couple. In March 1809, she was tried in York and found guilty by a jury of fraud and murder. Sentenced to death, Bateman attempted to avoid her execution by claiming she was pregnant, but a physical examination disproved this. She was finally hanged alongside two men on 20 March 1809. After her execution, her body was put on public display. Strips of her skin were tanned into leather and sold as magic charm to ward off evil spirits.
Bateman's skeleton was on display to the public at Thackray Museum in Leeds until 2015, when it was returned to Leeds University. A BBC-TV programme about Bateman, featuring a modern-day descendant of hers (Tracy Whitaker), showed Bateman's skull being laser-scanned to demonstrate how her face may well have appeared. It was first shown on 12 April 2001, entitled The People Detective - 1. Witch and presented by historian and curator Daru Rooke.