Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Poisoning Landlord

A Liverpool born man who let greed get the better of him was hanged after he was found guilty of poisoning his tenant.  

Frederick Henry Seddon was born in Liverpool in 1872 and baptised at St Peters Church in Church Street. At the age of 21 he married his wife Margaret at St George's Church in Everton. They would have five children together. 

Seddon was an insurance agent and he was known to be energetic, respectable and charitable. During the Boer War he organised concerts at the Picton Lecture Hall in William Brown Street, with proceeds going to widows of servicemen.  At this time he was living at 88 Belmont Road, Anfield.

At the beginning of the 20th Century Seddon secured a position as superintendent with the Liverpool & Manchester was promoted to superintendent in his firm and moved to Buckinghamshire, where he began speculating in property. He bought a fourteen bedroom house in Tollington Park, North London in 1909 and the following year let the first floor to a wealthy spinster named Eliza Barrow. She moved in with Ernest Grant, the eight year old son of a friend who had died and who she was now the guardian of.

Eliza had substantial savings and annuities. However she agreed to allow Seddon to take a controlling interest in return for an annual sum and living rent free for life. 

88 Belmont Road
On 14th September 1911 Eliza Barrow died having suffered excruciating stomach pains. Just a month earlier, she and Ernest, along with Seddon's family, had holidayed together in Southend. Seddon then arranged for her to be buried in a communal plot instead of her family vault in Islington. 

When Frank Vonderahe, a cousin of Eliza's went to take over estate, he was informed by Seddon that there was nothing left after the funeral expenses and paying for Ernest's upkeep. Frank went to the police with his suspicions, leading to Eliza's body being exhumed on 15th November. A postmortem took place and two grains of arsenic were found in the stomach, leading to the arrest of Seddon and his wife. 

The trial took place at the Old Bailey, where it was proved Seddon's fifteen year old daughter Maggie had bought flypaper from a chemist. Against the advice of his counsel, Seddon conducted his own defence, suggesting that Eliza could have drank water that the flypapers had been getting soaked in. 

Seddon was found guilty and sentenced to death, but his wife Margaret was acquitted. He was hanged at Pentonville on 18th April 1912. Margaret returned to Liverpool, marrying American James Cameron just seven months later. She took the emigrated to America with him and the five children.

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