Sarah Dazley (1819 – 5 August 1843), later known as the "Potton Poisoner", was an English murderer convicted of the poisoning of her husband William Dazley. Dazley was suspected, but not tried, in the poisoning of her first husband Simeon Mead and their son Jonah Mead in 1840. The murder of William Dazley took place in Wrestlingworth, England.
Born in 1819 in the town of Potton, Bedfordshire, Sarah Reynolds was the daughter of the town barber Philip Reynolds and his wife Ann Reynolds. At the age of 7, Dazley's father died and her mother went on to date a series of men. Following her mother's footsteps, the tall girl with long auburn hair and big brown eyes married at the young age of 19 to Simeon Mead. They lived in the town of Potton for two years before moving to Tadlow in 1840. Shortly after the move, she gave birth to their son Jonah. Jonah became ill and died at the age of seven months. In October 1840, Simeon Mead died unexpectedly as well.
It didn't take much grieving for Dazley to get over her first husband before marrying her second, and final, husband William Dazley in 1841. Once married they moved to the village of Wrestlingworth. Dazley invited teenage Ann Mead, Simeon Mead's daughter, to live with her and her new husband. William Dazley was opposed to the idea of Mead living with them so in retaliation he became an avid drinker and hit Sarah. She went on to tell one of her friends, William Waldock, that she would kill a man who ever hit her.
William Dazley grew ill and his wife along with Ann Mead began taking care of him. The local doctor, Dr. Sandell, gave William prescriptions that helped him show signs of recovery, while under the care of Ann Mead. After seeing this Sarah started making pills of her own for her husband. Mead was unsure what she was seeing and didn't notice it as a problem at first. When William refused to take the new pills, Ann took one herself to show him there was nothing wrong. She was not aware that these pills contained arsenic trioxide that Sarah had intentionally added. Once Sarah saw Mead take the pill she scolded her for it. After taking it, Mead became ill and shared similar symptoms with William, vomiting and stomach pains. William continued to take Sarah's made up drugs and died on October 30, 1842.
After his death, suspicion rose against Sarah and the deaths of her two husbands and son. William Dazley's body was exhumed and found to contain traces of arsenic. An arrest warrant was then issued for Sarah Dazley, who fled to London.
After being discovered in London by the Superintendent of Blunden Biggleswade Police, she insisted she was innocent of any crimes. Dazley claimed she had no idea about any poisonings and never got a hold of poisons or anything of that matter. She was arrested and returned to Bedford. The news of William Dazley's death caused suspicion regarding the deaths of Jonah and Simeon Mead as well, so their bodies were also exhumed. Traces of arsenic were found in Jonah, but Simeon's body was too decomposed to test.
Sarah Dazley was committed to Bedford Gaol on March 24, 1843 and awaited her trial. Meanwhile, she used this time to conjure up defenses such as William poisoned himself, or he poisoned Jonah and Simeon so she poisoned William as revenge for murdering her family out of his desires for herself.
On July 22, 1843, Sarah Dazley was tried for the murder of William Dazley at Bedfordshire Summer Assizes. She was not tried for the murder of her son Jonah, but the case was kept if the first case against her were to fail. Dazley was found guilty. The chemists she bought arsenic from were able to testify against her, as well as Ann Mead and neighbor Mrs. Carver. They told what they had seen, including the pill making. William Waldock testified against Sarah about her statement that she would kill any man that hit her, after making claims that William Dazley had hit her. The Marsh test was used to detect the arsenic in William Dazley's body and the result was used as forensic evidence against Sarah. It only took 30 minutes for the jury to convict Sarah for the murder of her second husband.
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Judge Baron Alderson sentenced Sarah Dazley to hang. She was executed on Saturday, 5 August 1843, at Bedford Gaol. She was the only woman to be publicly hanged at Bedford Gaol. Thousands of people came to watch the execution. She became known as the Potton Poisoner.
- The Potton Poisoner, Wrestlingworth, Beds, UK
- Burke, Edmund (1844). The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year.[dead link]
- The Lancet. 1843.
- Robb, G. (1997). "Circe in Crinoline: Domestic Poisonings in Victorian England". Journal of Family History. 22 (2): 176–90. doi:10.1177/036319909702200203. PMID 11618785.[dead link]
- Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade
- Sarah Dazley – a Victorian poisoner