British Executions

Frederick Henry Seddon

Age: 40

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 18 Apr 1912

Crime Location: 63 Tollington Park, Islington, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Frederick Henry Seddon was convicted of the murder of Elizabeth Mary Barrow 48 and sentenced to death.

He poisoned her with arsenic at 63 Tollington Park, Islington, London on 14 September 1911.

Both Frederick Seddon and his wife were charged with Elizabeth Barrow's murder, but Frederick Seddon's wife was acquitted.

Frederick Seddon was an insurance agent and his salary and commissions came to about £300 per annum.

He lived at 63 Tollington Park with his wife and five children, and later rented out an upper floor to Elizabeth Barrow.

Elizabeth Barrow had lived with her cousins for 15 months prior to 27 July 1910 along with her two adopted children, a little girl and a 10-year-old boy who were the children of a friend that had died. However, she disagreed with the cousins and found lodgings with Frederick Seddon and his family, taking up four rooms on an upper floor. Elizabeth Barrow sent her little girl away to school and moved into 63 Tollington Park with the 10-year-old boy as well as some relatives of her adopted children, a husband and wife. However, it was heard that either Elizabeth Barrow or Frederick Seddon and his wife turned out the husband and wife ten days after they moved in.

After Elizabeth Barrow died from arsenic poisoning on 14 September 1911 both Frederick Seddon and his wife were charged, it being claimed that either Frederick Seddon or his wife or both of them had administered the poison.

The police said that the motive for the murder was financial.

They noted that on 27 July 1911, Elizabeth Barrow had the following primary assets:

  • India Stock worth £1,600 with a return of 3.5% that yielded £56.
  • A leasehold public-house and barbers’ shop that yielded at least £120.
  • Considerable sums of money in note and gold estimated to be worth £400.
  • £216 in a savings bank.

It was then said that Frederick Seddon appeared to have gained complete ascendancy over Elizabeth Barrow who the police report described as somewhat weak minded. It was heard that her India Stock had fallen slightly and that she had become nervous about the compensation charges and the budget, and the police report noted that Frederick Seddon had no doubt preyed on her fears.

It was then found that Elizabeth Barrow transferred these assets to Frederick Seddon in exchange for a perpetual annuity.

On 14 October 1910, Elizabeth Barrow transferred her £1,600 India stock to him and on 11 January 1911 she assigned the leaseholds to Frederick Seddon in exchange for an annuity of £52 charged on them. It was noted that Frederick Seddon had previously consulted his solicitors on 17 October 1910 on that matter. In regard to the India Stock, it was heard that Frederick Seddon had promised Elizabeth Barrow an annuity of £72 for the stock, but that for that there was no security whatever.

It was noted that the transactions had been carried out through brokers and solicitors, but that Frederick Seddon admitted at his trial whilst in the box that in the first instance he had attempted to effect the transfers by an instrument prepared by himself.

Later on, on 19 June 1911, Elizabeth Barrow went with Frederick Seddon's wife and withdrew the £216 from her savings bank in gold which was then taken back to 63 Tollington Park.

It was heard that down to October 1910, Elizabeth Barrow had been receiving her rents quarterly and cashing the cheques over the counter which would have increased the amount of money that she would have had.

It was noted that from 1 June 1911 onwards, according to Frederick Seddon, he paid Elizabeth Barrow £10 in cash on the first of each month in respect of her annuity.

On 25 January 1911, Frederick Seddon sold the India Stock and invested the money in 14 houses that yielded a weekly return of £4.

It was noted that from October 1910 to September 1911, 33 £5 notes that had been paid to Elizabeth Barrow were cashed, 27 of them by Frederick Seddon's wife, who had used an assumed name for some of them, and the other 6 cashed by Frederick Seddon. Frederick Seddon and his wife later said that they merely cashed them for Elizabeth Barrow and gave her the change.

However, following Elizabeth Barrow's death, Frederick Seddon said that he could only find £10 in her possession.

The police report noted that that meant that Elizabeth Barrow's store of notes and gold in her cash box, estimated by a witness to be worth about £400, the £216 from the savings bank, the proceeds of the rents, the annuity payments Frederick Seddon said he had made to Elizabeth Barrow and the £165 in gold from the 33 bank notes that had been changed, had all disappeared.

The police report noted that motive was no proof of crime but said that Frederick Seddon had the strongest inducement to get rid of Elizabeth Barrow, not only to relieve himself of his obligation to pay her annuity, but to avoid detection as a thief and swindler.

The police report next dealt with Elizabeth Barrow's illness and death. It noted that Elizabeth Barrow was first taken ill on 1 September 1911 and was then treated by her doctor for diarrhoea. It was noted that she mended a little, but the doctor that had treated her said that he couldn't understand why her sickness and purging would not yield to treatment.

The police report noted that Frederick Seddon's 16-year-old daughter went to a chemist on 26 August 1911 and asked for four packets of arsenic fly-papers. However, the chemist was only able to give her one packet, which contained 6 papers, each of which it was noted would have contained 4 or 5 grains of arsenic. It was noted that 2 grains could have been a fatal dose, but that 5 grains certainly was and further noted that the arsenic could be distilled from the papers and easily disguised in meat juice or brandy.

Following her initial illness, on 11 September 1911 Elizabeth Barrow executed a will drawn up by Frederick Seddon, leaving her furniture etc to her adopted children and appointing Frederick Seddon as the sole executor. It was noted that she had at that time been very ill, but the doctor that saw her that day, and again on 13 September 1911, said that he didn't think that her condition was critical. It was also noted that he had not been consulted as to Elizabeth Barrow's capacity to make a will on 11 September 1911.

Frederick Seddon went out to the theatre on the night of 13 September and returned at 12.30am on 14 September 1911. It was noted that when he had returned from the theatre, his wife had told him that Elizabeth Barrow was dying to which Frederick Seddon had replied, 'Is she?' and to which his wife replied, 'No', smiling while she said it, later saying that she had said that in the light that she felt that Elizabeth Barrow was taking too gloomy a view of her condition.

Elizabeth Barrow was violently ill through the night and sent down for Frederick Seddon's wife two or three times, during which on one occasion they had found her lying in agony on the floor. However, it was noted that they didn't send for the doctor, even though he lived across the road. After that Frederick Seddon and his wife stayed with Elizabeth Barrow. Frederick Seddon's wife sat up with her in her room whilst Frederick Seddon stood outside her door smoking.

Elizabeth Barrow later died at 6.30am on 14 September 1911.

She was buried soon after, but at the instance of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who had been apprised of Frederick Seddon's financial dealings with Elizabeth Barrow, her body was exhumed by the coroner on 15 November 1911 and it was found that she had died from arsenic poisoning.

The doctor found that she had 0.6 of a grain of arsenic in her organs from which he computed that 2.01 grains of arsenic altogether must have been in her body which would have been the result of a 5-grain dose. Arsenic was also found in her hair and nails and it was noted that her body was well preserved which was stated as being usual in such cases.

The doctor then concluded that he was confident that Elizabeth Barrow had died from acute arsenical poisoning with the fatal dose having been administered within 48 hours of her death.

The police report then dealt with Frederick Seddon's behaviour after Elizabeth Barrow's death.

It was heard that Frederick Seddon went to the doctor at 7am who, without inspecting Elizabeth Barrow's body, gave him a certificate stating that her death was due to epidemic diarrhoea. Then at 11am, Frederick Seddon went to see an undertaker and bargained with him for a funeral in a public grave to cost £4, telling him that £4.10 was all that Elizabeth Barrow had left to pay for her funeral and the doctors expenses. It was further noted that Frederick Seddon actually paid £3.7.6 for the funeral but took a receipt for £4.0.0 and entered it at £4 in his executor's account.

It was noted that Elizabeth Barrow actually had a place in a vault and also had a paper to that effect which the police report noted that Frederick Seddon would almost certainly have found when he had gone through her things before going to the undertaker. It was noted that Elizabeth Barrow's cousins who she had had the disagreement with only lived a quarter of a mile away from 63 Tollington Park but Frederick Seddon never went there, and a letter he said that he had addressed to them, for which he had a copy, never reached them.

Elizabeth Barrow's body was removed to the undertakers on the same day as her death and was buried two days later on 16 September 1911.

On 20 September 1911, Elizabeth Barrow's cousins enquired after her, at which point Frederick Seddon told them that she was dead. Frederick Seddon told them, and had also communicated in his letter to them, which they had not received, that Elizabeth Barrow had left nothing as she had sold all her property to purchase an annuity, noting that it had all been done in order and through solicitors and stock-brokers.

It was also noted that on the day that Elizabeth Barrow had died, Frederick Seddon had taken a gold ring that had belonged to Elizabeth Barrow and had had it altered to fit him and had also taken a gold watch that had belonged to her and had the metal dial substituted for a white one and had the name E.J. Barrow on it erased.

It was further noted that on the evening of Elizabeth Barrow's death, Frederick Seddon was seen by two assistants counting over a large quantity of gold, about £200 and that on the 18 and 19 September 1911 he had invested £190 in gold in the purchase of Building Society Shares and made other large cash payments.

At the trial, Frederick Seddon's main defence was that the actual administration of the arsenic by either him or his wife was not proved and added that the identification of his daughter as having purchased the fly-papers on 26 August 1911 was unreliable. He further claimed that if Elizabeth Barrow's death was due to arsenic poisoning then it was the result of Elizabeth Barrow accidently swallowing water in which fly-papers, said to have been bought by his wife, had been left lying.

The police report concluded by saying, 'The trial lasted 10 days and it is impossible to do more than indicate the strength of the case against the prisoners, which in my opinion was overwhelming. The prosecution was conducted with conspicuous fairness by the Attorney General and the prisoners were well defended. The verdict I think illogical. Frederick Seddon's wife should, and before a less emotional and sentimental judge, would have been rightly convicted'.

see Evening Telegraph - Thursday 14 March 1912

see National Archives - CRIM 1/129/2, MEPO 3/215, HO 144/1199/221205-1to22, HO 144/1201/221205-Notes, HO 144/1200/221205-25to107

see Wikipedia

see Murderpedia

see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 20 February 2014), February 1912, trial of SEDDON, Frederick Henry (40, insurance superintendent) SEDDON, Margaret Ann (t19120227-48).