THE PRICE OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE
In 1886, thirty-seven year old William Mabbott was a successful grocery store manager who was responsible for two shops - one in Shropshire, England, the other in Montgomeryshire, Wales. He worked for Joshua Judge and was an honest, trustworthy man and a hard worker. When his employer bid him not to supply William Samuel with any more store credit and to collect the sixteen shillings Samuel owed, Mabbott did as he was told. Judge's decision to deny Samuel credit, and Mabbott's obedience to that order, was to cost the man his life.
Witnesses said that Samuel was seen going into the Montgomeryshire store twice on the day of Mabbott's death, 14th June, 1886. There was a confrontation between the two men on Samuel's first visit. Exactly what was said is unknown, but when Samuel left the store, he was furious. He went to a pub and purchased a jug of porter, a type of ale. Returning to the store, he offered the jug to Mabbott, who was seen drinking from it. Samuel then left the scene.
It was not long afterward that Mabbott collapsed. He was found by the ten-year old shop assistant, Thomas Morris, who later testified that Mabbott told him and other neighbors that Samuel had "dosed me in porter." This accusation was repeated several times. A doctor was sent for when Mabbott's pain and involuntary twitching grew worse. At approximately half-past six, two doctors arrived - a surgeon and a general practitioners - who administered an emetic, but Mabbott's spasms continued to worsen. A stomach pump had no effect. About an hour after being found by Morris, Mabbott died in agony, a victim of strychnine poisoning.
In the meantime, Samuel returned to the shop, the jug in hand, to witness Mabbot's death spasms. One of the witnesses, remembering the dying Mabbott's accusation, took the jug from Samuel and turned it over to the doctors, who found white crystals inside. A chemical test proved to the doctors' satisfaction that the crystals were strychnine. Later, a more formal analysis was made at the magistrate's order, and the conclusion was confirmed. The same analyst also found 1/10 of a grain of strychnine in Mabbott's stomach contents. There was no doubt the man had been poisoned by the contents of the jug.
It was learned during the police investigation that eleven days earlier, Samuel had asked a friend to buy him strychnine, telling him that it was for a rat-catcher of Samuel's acquaintance; the friend tried three chemists without success. Four days later, Samuel asked another friend to try a different chemist's shop; this attempt succeeded, and Samuel ultimately procured thirty grains of strychnine for six pence - more than enough to kill thirty people, and certainly sufficient to dispose of William Mabbott.
Following a coroner's inquest at the Bull Hotel in Welshpool in July 1886, Samuel was tried for willful murder. After a trial lasting a day and a half, the jury found him guilty, and the judge sentenced him to hang. Samuel went to the gallows on 26th July, still owing Joshua Judge sixteen shillings... the price of a good man's life.
The Daily News, The Weekly Dispatch, 1886
Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims, Katherine Watson, 2004