British Executions

Edward Bell

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 25 Jul 1899

Crime Location: Weston Marsh, Spalding

Execution Place: Lincoln

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


Edward Bell was convicted of the murder of his 30-year-old wife Mary Eliza Bell and sentenced to death.

He administered poison as medicine to her between 22 and 26 April 1899, the poisoning being mercury and strychnine.

He had been seeing another woman and wanted Mary Bell out of the way so that he could marry her.

Edward Bell and Mary Bell had been married for about seven years and had six children, although at the time of the murder only two were surviving, they being 5 and 2 years old.

They had removed to Weston Marsh on 6 April 1899, Edward Bell getting work as a yardman for a well-known farmer in the area. They lived in one of two cottages standing by the side of the road on the farm, but situated in Weston Marsh, about five miles from Spalding.

By 26 April 1899 Mary Bell was dead.

After Mary Bell died she was buried, but when Mary Bell's mother received a strange letter she contacted the police and Mary Bell's body was exhumed and her organs examined and it was found she had been poisoned.

Edward Bell denied having written the anonymous letter.

It was then found that he had purchased three lots of poison, each time giving the false address of Holbeach Hurn, Holbeach. Mary Bell's organs were also then examined and later found to contain both mercury and strychnine.

Diary Of The Case

  • 6 April 1899: The Bell family remove from Gedney, near Long Sutton, to Weston Marsh, Spalding.
  • 22 April 1899: Edward Bell purchases poison (laudanum and perchloride of mercury) at Talbot's Drug Stores, Spalding.
  • 23 April 1899: Doctor summoned to Mary Bell at 6pm and bottle of medicine sent home by Edward Bell.
  • 24 April 1899: Edward Bell purchases more poison (mercury and strychnine) from Talbot's Drug Stores in the morning, and in the evening fetches another bottle of medicine from the doctor and some soda water from the chemist.
  • 25 April 1899: Doctor summoned at 6am. Another bottle of medicine. Mary Bell's mother telegraphed for from Orby, and arrived at 5.30pm.
  • 26 April 1899: Edward Bell again summonses the doctor. Purchases more poison (strychnine) from Talbot's Drug Stores. Administers a powder to Mary Bell (said to have been the strychnine previously purchased), which he said had been sent by the doctor to soothe her, at dinner time, and she dies in agony ten minutes after. In the evening the doctor gives Edward Bell certificate that Mary Bell had died from acute enteritis and collapse, Edward Bell representing that Mary Bell had passed quietly away.
  • 27 April 1899: Mary Bell's mother returns home to Orby, and arranges for funeral at that place.
  • 29 April 1899: Mary Bell's body removed to Orby for burial. Edward Bell telegraphs Other Woman (with whom he had carried on a correspondence) to come and keep his house at Weston Marsh.
  • 1 May 1899: Edward Bell goes to Barton-le-Clay, Bedfordshire, sees the Other Woman, and becomes engaged to be married, the wedding to take place in three months. The Other Woman's father writes to his daughter warning her against having anything to do with Edward Bell.
  • 2 May 1899: Neighbour of Edward Bell sees the doctor and learns he sent no powder.
  • 4 May 1899: Other Woman writes to Edward Bell, telling him she will come and keep his house the following Tuesday.
  • 6 May 1899: Other Woman again writes to Edward Bell agreeing to come over to Weston Marsh.
  • 8 May 1899: Anonymous letter, stating the doctor did not send the powder received by Mary Bell's mother and handed to police. Mary Bell's mother believed it came from Edward Bell.
  • 9 May 1899: Edward Bell arrested at Weston Marsh by Superintendent, and Other Woman's letters discovered. Edward Bell told the police the powder he gave was magnesia, bought at the chemists. Police found this to be untrue. Edward Bell makes important statement to Inspector, 'Tis is all through being led away, she has caused me to do this'.
  • 10 May 1899: Edward Bell brought before the magistrates at Spalding on charge of wilful murder by poisoning. Purchase of poison proved. Edward Bell remanded. Police afterwards discover broken medicine bottles and part contents on Edward Bell's premises. One supposed to have had poison added to it.
  • 12 May 1899: Body of Mary Bell exhumed by Coroner's order, and removed to Red Lion at Orby, where post-mortem conducted. Inquest opened, and body then re-interred.
  • 13 May 1899: The medicine bottles found, and Mary Bell's viscera delivered to doctor at Guy's Hospital, London, for analysis. Edward Bell visited by his father at Spalding Police Station.
  • 17 May 1899: Resumed magisterial hearing. Edward Bell denies writing anonymous letter. Doctor states he sent no powder. Other Woman admits intimacy with Edward Bell and gives sensational evidence. Edward Bell remanded and removed to Lincoln gaol.
  • 26 May 1899: Edward Bell brought back to Spalding. Sale of his furniture in Spalding Market Place.
  • 27 May 1899: Adjourned magisterial hearing. Evidence of neighbours at Gedney as to unhappy married life of Edward Bell and Mary Bell, and statements that in consequence of ill-treatment, and Edward Bell's intrigues with the Other Woman, Mary Bell had meditated suicide. Edward Bell removed to Lincoln.
  • 28 May 1899: Adjourned inquest at Orby. Chemist criticised by jury. Woman states she has no knowledge of anonymous letter.
  • 6 June 1899: Edward Bell further remanded at Spalding Petty Sessions.
  • 13 June 1899: Re-opening of inquest at Orby when doctor gives his damning evidence as to finding poisons in the body of Mary Bell. Verdict of murder against Edward Bell.
  • 13 June 1899: Edward Bell again before the Spalding magistrates, when the doctor, having arrived from Orby, gives evidence against Edward Bell, who was then committed for trial to the Assizes.
  • 3 July 1899: Edward Bell appeared at the Lincolnshire Summer Assizes at the Castle, Lincoln.
  • 4 July 1899: Edward Bell found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
  • 25 July 1899: Edward Bell executed at Lincoln Prison by William Billington.

Mary Bell's mother arrived at Weston Marsh on 25 April 1899 after being told that Mary Bell was ill.

Mary Bell's mother said that whilst Mary Bell had been ill in bed that Edward Bell had come in after a visit to the doctor and told her that he had a powder from the doctor to give to Mary Bell and that he then went upstairs and gave it to her. She said that he then came downstairs and told her that Mary Bell had taken it 'capitally'.

She said that Mary Bell seemed to have been resting quietly and that those in  the house then sat down for dinner. However, she said that they then heard screams and when she went upstairs to see her daughter she found her dying in agony.

She said that after her death that Edward Bell showed great distress and was crying and saying, 'Oh, Polly, you have died and left me, what am I to do?'.

The doctor then provided a certificate stating that Mary Bell died from inflammation of the bowels and she was buried at Orby, her native place.

However, a week later Mary Bell's mother received a letter that she thought to have been in Edward Bell's handwriting which ran, 'I cannot bear it any longer. I am miserable. The doctor did not give me the powder. Going away tomorrow'. However, the letter was unsigned.

It was also noted that Edward Bell had however, been paying attention to the Other Woman before Mary Bell's death and that he had told Mary Bell that the Other Woman was much better than she and that he wished she was dead.

After receiving the letter Mary Bell's mother made enquiries and the police were informed. The doctor confirmed that he had not given Edward Bell any powder and it was then found that Edward Bell had been to a place called the Talbot Herbal Remedies Company that carried on business as a chemist and druggist in Spalding. It was determined that he had been there first on 22 April 1899 and made some excuse and asked for some laudanum, saying that he wanted it for toothache or something of that kind.

He then asked for an ounce of white mercury, and upon the chemist asking him what he wanted it for, Edward Bell replied, 'For poisoning rats'.

The chemist then asked him if he knew anyone in town and Edward Bell replied that he didn't, but mentioned that his employer, the farmer, came to market every Tuesday.

The chemist then proceeded with the request, supplying an ounce of chloride of mercury, and asked Edward Bell for his details, for which Edward Bell gave his correct name, but a false address.

Edward Bell made three purchases over the next four days. The entries in the chemist's Sale of Poisons Register Book read:

  • Date: April 22. 99.
  • Name of Purchaser: Mr Edward Bell.
  • Name and Quantity of Poison Sold: 1oz perchloride of mercury.
  • Purpose for which it is required: poisoning rats.
  • Signature of purchaser: Edward Bell.
  • Address of purchaser: Holbeach Hurn.
  • Signature of person introducing purchaser: Holbeach.
  • Date: April 24. 99.
  • Name of Purchaser: Mr Edward Bell.
  • Name and Quantity of Poison Sold: 1oz perchloride & 3 strychnine.
  • Purpose for which it is required: poisoning rats.
  • Signature of purchaser: Edward Bell.
  • Address of purchaser: Holbeach Hurn.
  • Signature of person introducing purchaser: Holbeach.
  • Date: April 26. 99.
  • Name of Purchaser: Mr Edward Bell.
  • Name and Quantity of Poison Sold: 3 strychnine.
  • Purpose for which it is required: poisoning a dog & rats.
  • Signature of purchaser: Edward Bell.
  • Address of purchaser: Holbeach Hurn.
  • Signature of person introducing purchaser: Holbeach.

After making the first purchase on 22 April Edward Bell returned on 24 April and asked for another ounce of mercury and when he was asked whether he had used all the previous mercury, Edward Bell told him that he had killed some rats, but asked for something stronger and the chemist mentioned strychnine and made him up a drachm.

Edward Bell then went again on 26 April and told the chemist that he had got a dog run over and wanted to kill it quickly. The chemist then recommended prussic acid and asked Edward Bell whether he could bring the dog in, but Edward Bell told him it was too far and the chemist then advised him to use some strychnine which he had previously bought with the result being that the chemist supplied him with more strychnine.

Following Mary Bell’s death, the doctor was called and it was noted that Edward Bell had said to him, 'She passed away quietly, about an hour after I had got home'. It was later heard at the trial that Mary Bell had in fact died screaming in agony, and noted that Edward Bell had told the doctor that she had died peacefully in order that he should provide a certificate, knowing well that if he told him she died screaming that he might not have given him a certificate at all.

The three medicine bottles that Edward Bell had got from the doctor were found by the police in a thorn heap near the house at Weston. When Edward Bell was asked about them he said 'When I came back, I caught my foot as I was going down the bank, and slipped and broke the bottle'. It was noted that whilst the two whole bottles had been empty, that the broken bottle had contained traces of a sediment that upon analysis was found to contain ten grains perchloride of mercury.

It was claimed that Edward Bell had first attempted to murder Mary Bell with the perchloride of mercury but that when that had not worked and her mother had arrived and was close by her side that he realised that he needed something stronger and went off for the strychnine so as to put the matter beyond all doubt.

A neighbour, who lived under the same roof as Edward Bell said that she had known Mary Bell since she moved in on 6 April 1899. She said that on Sunday 23 April 1899 that Mary Bell complained of illness and that she did what she could for her.

She said that on the Monday morning Mary Bell knocked at the wall for her, and that when she went in she found Mary Bell sitting on the landing. She said that Mary Bell had been violently sick and purged, and had been in dreadful pain. She said that she gave her some brandy and put her to bed and did the best for her and that Edward Bell came in between 7pm and 8pm and asked her what she thought of Mary Bell and said that she told him that she didn't know what to think.

She said that Edward Bell told her not to give Mary Bell any more of the doctors medicine as it was too strong for her and that he would go to the doctor that night and ask him to change it. The neighbour said that Mary Bell seemed very bad all day and had been in pain, but that the sickness stopped after she had some brandy.

She said that Edward Bell later went off to see the doctor and that she was still there when he returned home between 10pm and 11pm. She said that when she asked him what the doctor had said about the bottle of medicine that he had said that as he had been going along the bank, that he had caught his foot and stumbled and broke the bottle in his pocket.

The neighbour said that the following morning, Tuesday, that she was knocked for again about 3.45am, and that when she went in she saw Mary Bell, noting that Edward Bell had been downstairs. She said that Mary Bell was very much worse, and suffering from sickness, purging, and in pain and vomiting a large quantity of blood.

She said that she continued to attend to Mary Bell during the day, and that under the doctors’ orders she gave her a teaspoonful of medicine every hour, which was out of the second bottle that he had sent.

She said that Mary Bell was full of pain all day and that she remained in attendance until Mary Bell's mother arrived, having been brought there by Edward Bell.

She said that on the Wednesday morning that she didn't go into the house until about 7am and that the doctor came in directly afterwards.

She said that Mary Bell had been full of pain and violently purged.

She said that she was later knocked for around 12.25pm and that Edward Bell ran to her window and said, 'Oh, missus, do come'. she said that she then ran in and went upstairs to Mary Bell's bedroom where she found Mary Bell very bad and convulsed and in dreadful pain.

She said that Mary Bell threw her head back and was rigid and drawn and that she repeatedly asked those present to rub her legs and her back, and said, 'Oh, it has got right up to my neck, rub me there. Oh, pull my head'. She said that Mary Bell's mother then said to Edward Bell, 'Ted, it must be that powder', to which he replied, 'Nonsense', or something of that sort.

She said that Mary Bell collapsed and died about 1pm in the presence of her, her mother and Edward Bell.

The neighbour noted that after Mary Bell died that he asked Edward Bell whether she had had any of the powder to which he replied 'yes'. She said that she also remarked that it was strange that the doctor had not said anything about sending a powder when he had arrived there that morning and that Edward Bell replied, 'He sent the powder to rest her'.

The neighbour said that she saw the doctor the following day at his surgery and had a conversation with him.

The neighbour later noted that Edward Bell did not keep a dog to her knowledge.

Mary Bell's mother said that she got a telegraph from Edward Bell on 25 April 1899 to the following effect, 'Come to Spalding at once, wife ill, Bell'.

She said that she went by the first train she could get by and got to Spalding about 5.30pm where she was met by Edward Bell who had a horse and cart.

She said that on the way that Edward Bell told her that her daughter was very ill and that she was in great pain and passing gall stones.

She said that when she got to the house that Mary Bell said to her, 'Oh! Mother, I am so ill. I don't know what can be the matter with me. I've lost the use of all my limbs'.

She said that her lips were dry and parched and she asked her to wet them with soda water. She said that Mary Bell was frequently purged with blood in her stools and that she complained of constant thirst and of her throat being swollen inside.

Mary Bell's mother said that she watched by Mary Bell's side during the night and that she later complained that the pain had returned in her stomach and that she put on a mustard poultice.

She noted that Mary Bell was purged during the night many times, every ten minutes, and that her stool and vomit was like blood.

She said that on the Monday morning Mary Bell was very bad and she asked for a doctor to be fetched and that she called for Edward Bell to get up and that he then went off for the doctor on horseback.

She said the doctor arrived about 6am at which time Mary Bell was still in constant pain and that he injected morphia into her arm, after which she said Mary Bell seemed much relieved. She said that the doctor then told her that she was to send for medicine and that Edward Bell went to Spalding for it and didn't get back until after 12 o'clock when he brought back some medicine that was to be taken with the medicine that she had already been taking every alternate hour.

She sad that she blamed Edward Bell for having been so long away whilst Mary Bell had been in such pain and that Edward Bell then told her, 'the doctor has sent a powder to rest her. I have it in my purse'. She said that he then said, 'I'll go upstairs to her myself and give it to her at once.

Mary Bell's mother said that Edward Bell then went upstairs by himself whilst she stayed downstairs and that he came down after a few minutes and said, 'She has taken it capital, and half a glass of soda water after it'.

She said that she then sat down with Edward Bell to have some dinner, believing that Mary Bell was resting comfortably. However, she said that about ten minutes or less later Mary Bell started screaming, 'Come come, I have got the cramp, oh rub me, rub my legs, rub my back and my neck, hold my head'.

She said that her legs and arms were stiff and that her eyes were set and that she died a few minutes later.

She said that Edward Bell had been in the room when she died and that he had helped them rub her and that when she died he cried, 'Oh Polly, you've left me, and what am I going to do now?', noting that he appeared to be very much distressed.

Mary Bell's mother said that on the Monday morning, 8 May 1899 that she received a letter that appeared to be in Edward Bell's writing, through written badly, as if disguised, which read, as far as she could remember:

I can't keep it any longer. The doctor never sent that powder, and I am miserable about it. See the doctor and he will tell you the same. I am going away. I can't stop here.

She noted that Mary Bell had previously complained to her that Edward Bell had been unkind to her and neglected her and had continually been with another young woman. She added that she had been over more than once and tried to reconcile them, and that Edward Bell had written to her several penitent letters and had promised to do better.

After Mary Bell's body was exhumed her intestines and other body organs were sent away for examination, and they were found to contain both mercury and strychnine.

When the police searched about the house, they found the remains of a bottle of medicine with the top broken off which still contained some liquid and from which it was stated that Mary Bell had previously taken from, after which she had complained of a burning sensation. The bottle and its contents were then sent off to a doctor at Guy's Hospital in London for analysis.

The doctor that had prescribed for Mary Bell denied that he had included mercury or strychnine in his medicine, stating that the first bottle that he had prescribed had included opium and hemataxylum, the second bismuth, pepin and chloroform and the third opium and hemataxylum.

A doctor of medicine and a scientific analyst to the Home Office said that he received from the Lincolnshire County Constabulary, four jars of viscera, all duly secured and sealed with unbroken seals and marked 1, 2, 3 and 4. He said that he also received a number of other items, they being 5, a broken medicine bottle, 6 a sealed bottle, 7, a parcel containing broken glass, the fragments of which fitted into item 5, 8, a second medicine bottle and 9, a third medicine bottle.

The contents of the jars were:

  1. No 1 jar contained the stomach of an adult person, tied at each end, with a small hole in the front surface, a rupture made post mortem. It weighed, with its fluid contents of half a fluid ounce, 8½oz. The organ showed signs of extensive inflammation, as if from the taking of a corrosive irritant poison, haemorrhages, and commencing ulceration. It was noted that the contents contained no solid food.
  2. No 2 jar contained 40½oz of the bowels of an adult, tied at each end, with their appendages. They contained no solid excrement. They showed inflamed patches, haemorrhages, and the peculiar green contents met with after the use of mercury salts.
  3. No 3 jar contained the whole of an adult’s liver, weighing, with the gall bladder, in which there were no gall stones, 33½oz. the liver showed no signs of disease.
  4. No 4 jar  contained the viscera of an adult, the heart and appendages, weighing 9¼oz, the spleen weighing 3¼oz, and two kidneys weighing 4½oz and 5oz respectively. It was noted that none of the organs showed signs of disease, except that the kidneys were congested, an appearance which is met with in acute mercurial poisoning.

The doctor stated that all the jars of viscera contained two poisons, a metallic poison, mercury and a vegetable alkaloid, strychnine.

The quantity of mercury was:

  • In the stomach and its contents: 0.04 grain.
  • In the bowel contents: 0.14 grain.
  • In the liver: 0.13 grain.

The total amount of mercury was 0.31 grain, or the equivalent of 0.42 grain of perchloride of mercury or corrosive sublimate in the organs.

The quantity of strychnine was:

  • In the stomach and its contents: 0.60 grain.
  • In the bowel contents: 0.69 grain.
  • In the liver: 1.68 grain.

The total amount of strychnine was 2.97 grain.

The doctor concluded that the result of his examination and analysis of the viscera pointed to inflammation of the stomach and bowels due to taking of a poisonous salt of mercury some hours at least before death, and to the administration of a quantity of strychnine in more than fatal quantity. The doctor noted that  indeed, more than a fatal dose, which was about one grain of strychnine, was found absorbed in the liver. He added that he thought that such a large quantity of strychnine as he found absorbed into the body would have proved fatal within an hour.

He detailed the nature of the other items as:

  1. No 5 bottle contained a deposit in which were crystals of perchloride of mercury or corrosive sublimate. No strychnine was present.
  2. No 6 bottle contained more than one fluid ounce of liquid, an astringent liquid with traces of opium and over 10 grains of corrosive sublimate in a fluid ounce. No strychnine was present.
  3. Item No 7 consisted of fragments of broken glass that had on them a deposit like that in No 5 bottle, and containing corrosive sublimate, but no strychnine.
  4. No 8 bottle was empty but had a deposit around the cork. The deposit contained a bismuth, evidently from a bismuth mixture. No mercury or strychnine was present.
  5. No 9 bottle was empty, except that there was a coloured stain on the shoulder inside. The stain was that of an astringent medicine and opium. No mercury or strychnine was present in it.

It was noted that the post mortem showed no signs of external violence and all the organs appeared to have been otherwise healthy although with some congestion.

The post mortem also revealed that Mary Bell  was also again about to become a mother.

Edward Bell had spent the previous four years working for a man at Pulvertoft Hall in Gedney. He had been a native of Irby in the Wainfleet district and before coming to South Lincolnshire had been employed in the neighbourhood of his home in the capacity of a groom, although he had at one time, though unsuccessfully, tried to enter the service of the vicar of Orby. His parents were labouring class and had lived in Irby.

Mary Bell was spoken well of in the Orby district, which was her native place. Her father had been a signalman with the Great Northern Railway Company and her parents had resided at a gatehouse at the Orby Crossing. They had been respected in the locality and Mary Bell herself had formerly been a dressmaker at Burgh.

The farmer at Gedney, whose service Edward Bell had been in for four years prior to Lady Day last, said that Edward Bell and Mary Bell often used to quarrel and that he had had to frequently caution him. He further observed that Edward Bell had been on very friendly terms with the Other Woman, who had lived with her father next door.

The farmer said that one day in August 1898 that Edward Bell  had been missing and that he had gone in search of him and ultimately found him about 9am, fully dressed, but with his boots off, with the Other Woman in her bedroom, the Other Woman being downstairs at the time.

A farmer and builder of Gedney said that one night in December 1898 that he had found Mary Bell in an excited state near a large and dangerous pit not far from her house. He said that she was crying and told him that owing to the treatment that she had received at the hands of Edward Bell that she was tired of life and had gone there with the sole intention of putting an end to her existence.

He said that he then took her home and that in the presence of Edward Bell she said that the Other Woman was the cause of all the unpleasantness between them. However, he said that he persuaded them to try and live differently and that they promised that they would do so.

A hay trusser who had lodged with Edward Bell and his wife for a week said that Mary Bell had then a black eye which she complained had been caused by Edward Bell. He said that on one occasion that he had heard Mary Bell say to Edward Bell, 'You have been there and had your cocoa again then', referring to Edward Bell's visits to the Other Woman and that Edward Bell had replied, 'If you don't hold your noise I'll crack you one'. He said that nothing more was said between them then, but that Mary Bell complained that Edward Bell was always going there.

Several letters relating to the relationship between Edward Bell and the Other Woman were also presented at the trial.

It was noted that on the day that Mary Bell was buried, 29 April 1899, that Edward Bell sent the Other Woman a telegram telling her to come to Gedney that night and that he would meet her at Spalding station.

Of the letters, the first bore an Ampthill postmark and was dated 2 May 1899 from the Rectory, Barton-le-lay and was as follows:

Just a few lines. Hope you arrived home safely. I must tell you my life is anything but pleasant just now, but let's hope better days are in store. I must tell you that she (meaning her aunt) didn't say much when I got home, but about nine o'clock, she just let me have it a treat, and she said, this morning, that if I meant having you, I need not think any more of her. So I said, 'I have always got on, and I think I shall again'. She told me I should end my days in the Workhouse, and I said, 'All right, I will then'. She asked me what I wanted walking on the road four hours with you.

As you may guess, I am pretty lively just now. I have had a letter from father, though I cannot tell you what he says. Have you seen or heard anything of him. How are you getting on, old boy? Cheer up now. I should think she will not speak to me when I come away. Did your mother take either of them (the children) with her? I hope you will manage until I come and then we shall be all right (just fancy). If all my relations turn on me, I shall have nobody but you. So we will say ta-ta.  - Your loving sweetheart.

A second letter dated 4 May 1899 from Barton-le-Clay, was as follows:

My dearest - Just a line to say I have enclosed father's letter for you to read for yourself, and then you will see for yourself. My word, I have given him a warm one back again. I am sure I shall never go and see him after that. Tell me when you write what he said to you, and will you please, dear, go to grandma's on Sunday, and tell her all about it. I shall come on Tuesday some time, the train starts from here a little after eleven.

I told father if he cares to meet me at Peterborough he can do so, and if not I suppose by his letter we shall sever all connection. I think I never saw such a letter before. Just fancy, I shall have no relations of my own then, so don't you think I am going through fire and water for you. I trust we shall be all right. I wonder if he will send me my things when I want them. I should think his temper will get cooled down by then.

Don't forget what I said about Sunday, please, as I shall be wondering about it. Tell her all parties, and mind what you say. If you come to Spalding before I come, you might get that oil cloth for round the room. No more now, so will say Ta-ta. - Yours for ever.

The letter, dated 1 May 1899, from her father to her read as follows:

Dear daughter, I received your letter this morning concerning Mr Bell in keeping his house. Well, I shall tell you my mind in brief. In the first place, I shall not give my consent for you to go and keep his house, that is my view of it. If you go, you will be out of my favour at once and another thing, I shall not let you have your mother's ring to go there, so I hope you will give up thinking about it, for I think there will something turn up better than that for you. If you will have your own way do as you like, you will be out of my favour altogether, and you need not think of coming any more where I am.

On the other hand, if you are a good girl to me I shall be a good father to you and of course I should not think of holding anything of your mother's away from you, as regards her ring or wearing apparel, I hope you will make up your mind and not think of going down the Marsh to him. If you do, you will take what follows. You have had my advice in the matter, and I hope you will take the right turn. Your loving father.

The next letter was from the Other Woman to Edward Bell, written from the Rectory, Barton-le-Clay, and dated 6 May 1899, as follows:

My dearest Ted. Just a few lines in answer to yours of this morning. I was pleased to hear from you. Well, dear, all being well, I shall come on Tuesday. I think the train gets at Spalding between twelve and one o'clock. I wish you would enquire. It would be better if we had Florrie at home with us, it would look a little better. So shall you do as I want you, love? Don't you think it would be better?

I don't understand father. What does he mean about 'hearing of it again'? I have written to him a warm letter, I can tell you. I wonder what next he will say. Have you answered it?  I should if I was you, and tell him that you had business to come for me. So if you don't hear anything from me, you will meet me on Tuesday. I reckon I shall have a letter from him on Monday. I told him if he cared he might meet me at Peterborough.

I hope you will do as I say about Florrie, and let Vic stop there. I think it would be better. I will tell you all the news when I see you, and that won’t be long now, so cheer up. Hope you went down to grandma's for me on Sunday, as you know I shall not be able to go yet. Haven't you had a hot dinner? You shall have some next week, if nothing else turns up. - Your loving sweetheart.

It was noted that all three letters from the Other Woman concluded with numerous crosses.

On Monday 8 May 1899 the Other Woman sent Edward Bell a telegram from Barton-le-Clay, which read:

Sorry, can't come. letter to follow.

However, it was noted that the letter was with the police and not produced. However, a letter from the Other Woman's father to Edward Bell was produced, which read:

Mr Bell, I was surprised to hear you had been to Ampthill to see my daughter on an errand like that. Do you call yourself a man. You ain't the shape of one, you own wife not being dead only that time. I should have been ashamed of myself if I had been you. I should like to know who informed you where she was. Mind you don't meet the White Woman. As for your going and saying she was old enough to do as she liked, mind what you are talking about. I should not be surprised if you hear further about that again. You know you have no authority to go to her like that, but my consent will never be granted, and don't come where I am, for if you do I can't say what will be done. You haven’t a man's action about you. No man would do like that. I should settle myself down and think about your poor wife, which was a good wife to you and you did not know it.

It was noted that prior to the trial that a firm of auctioneers sold Edward Bell's household furniture to raise money for his defence. However, it was said that the sale took place without the knowledge of Mary Bell's mother, who afterwards went to Spalding to see if she could claim some memento of her daughter, but found that everything had been sold, including the little things that Mary Bell had treasured, including her wedding gifts. However, it was noted that she did manage to buy back from the purchasers some memento of her daughter.

When Mary Bell's mother went to Spalding after the sale to find mementos, she said:

I have come over to try and find a memento of my daughter. Every article of furniture that belonged to my daughter, every keepsake she treasured, and in fact everything belonging to her, except her clothes, were sold in Spalding Market last Tuesday. We had not the remotest idea that a sale was going to take place, and we had not a chance to secure a single thing as a reminder of our daughter. The little things that she so much treasured, even the couch, brackets, work-box etc, that my sons made for her with their own hands, and presented to her on her marriage, were all sold in the market, and I have come over on purpose to try and find out who were the purchasers, so that I might beg of the buyers to  re-sell me something for my daughter's sake. This is indeed another cruel blow.

She added:

If I had known, though I could not have borne to come to the sale myself, I would have instructed somebody to buy something for me. Through the auctioneers, I learned that a furniture dealer, of Winsover Road, had purchased my daughter's Singer sewing machine. I presented it to my daughter myself a few months ago. It cost me. The furniture dealer was very kind, he let me have it for what it cost him, and I am taking it back to Orby with me.

When she was told that it was thought that the money was to be used to defend Edward Bell at the Assizes, Mary Bell's mother said:

Nothing of the kind, sir. I understand that nobody will be instructed to defend Bell at the Assizes. I should not have minded so much of the money had been put by for the two dear little children, but they have both been taken to Spilsby Workhouse.

Mary Bell's mother then stated that she would fetch them out, and that whatever the circumstances, they would not stay there. She noted that after Mary Bell died that the children were sent to a relative of Edward Bell near Skegness whilst Edward Bell was arranging for the Other Woman to come and keep his house but that after the matters took a terrible turn and Edward Bell was arrested, the relatives refused to keep them and, without informing Mary Bell's mother, sent the children to Spilsby Workhouse.

Edward Bell was tried at Lincoln on Tuesday 3 July 1899. He pleaded not guilty, however, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In passing sentence, the judge stigmatised the crime as the most cruel and deliberate he had ever experienced.

It was noted that when the trial at Lincolnshire Assizes started that there had been a crush of people anxious to obtain a spectator's seat in the court and that during the day a considerable crowd hung round the doors. It was said that when news that the Other Woman was in the city, and that when she appeared in sight in the castle grounds, that she was greeted with many signs of displeasure. The Other Woman was said to have been alarmed at that and sought shelter in the police station and it was understood that she spent the night at a private house near the castle.

Edward Bell was executed on 25 July 1899 at Lincoln Gaol at 9am. He was said to have slept soundly during his last night on earth and to have dressed as usual after rising at 6am and to have eaten a hearty breakfast and to have gone through the ordeal without apparent agitation, it being noted that there were no bead drops of perspiration noticed on his forehead as there had been in Horsford's case a year earlier.

A crowd of people were said to have assembled outside the prison gate from about 8am, with the flagstaff, upon which it was known the black flag would be hoisted, being an object of considerable attention.

After Edward Bell was pinioned he was said to have walked towards the scaffold with a firm step and upon standing on the drop his legs were strapped and a white cap placed over his face, shutting out the light of earth from his eyes forever.  Then, as the prison bell was tolling, the bolt was drawn and Edward Bell's soul stood before the tribunal of God. His death was said to have been instantaneous, for it was noted that the rope was not seen to quiver for even a second after the bolt was drawn.

Exactly two minutes after nine, the black flag was run up and the crowd that had assembled round the prison dispersed.

see National Archives - ASSI 13/29, HO 144/277/A61159

see Lakes Chronicle and Reporter - Wednesday 31 May 1899

see Norfolk News - Saturday 27 May 1899

see Nottinghamshire Guardian - Saturday 03 June 1899

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 31 May 1899

see Liverpool Weekly Courier - Saturday 03 June 1899

see Peterborough Advertiser - Wednesday 26 July 1899

see Thetford & Watton Times - Saturday 08 July 1899

see Lakes Chronicle and Reporter - Wednesday 17 May 1899

see Spalding Guardian - Saturday 17 June 1899

see Weekly Dispatch (London) - Sunday 28 May 1899

see Fully Booked 2017