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1785: John Winship, family planner

July 25th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1785, a Sunderland-area farmer named John Winship was hanged for killing his Grace Smith maidservant 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 with her killer’s strangulation as much as might be proper.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Abortion and Infanticide,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions

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2 thoughts on “1785: John Winship, family planner”

  1. jane says:

    Did the hanged man confess? It wasn’t exactly the height of forensic science at the time.

  2. Headsman says:

    He did confess. (Post-conviction, pre-execution.)

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