July 25th, 2014 Headsman
On this date in 1785, a Sunderland-area farmer named John Winship was hanged for killing his maidservant Grace Smith with a poisonous draught of corrosive mercury sublimate which Winship had intended to induce an abortion.
His body was delivered to a local surgeon, who autopsied it and “in the presence of many gentlemen of the faculty” lectured on Winship’s organs as he dug them out (and extracted two intestinal worms).
the doctrine of the late Mr. Hewson, F.R.S. was demonstrated, that, in executions of this kind, death is not produced, as has been generally supposed, by an extravation of blood, occasioned by the rupture of the vessels of the brain, but by suffocation: as in the case of drowning, etc. (Newcastle Courant, July 30, 1785, quoted in this anti-abortion tract)
Grace Smith, who died four agonizing days after she ingested the toxin, perhaps did not sympathize overmuch with her killer’s unpleasant strangulation.
Also on this date
- 1729: James Cluff, on appeal
- Feast Day of St. James the Greater
- 1831: Julien Sorel, in The Red and the Black
- 1844: The Bandiera brothers
- 1570: Ivan Viskovaty among hundreds on Red Square during the Oprichnina
- 1826: The Decembrists
- 1794: Andre Chenier, poet