Trial & Execution of Mary Ann Geering

The (London) Times, 30 April 1849; Page 8; Issue 20163; Col. B
(From the Hastings & St Leonard's News)
Yesterday (Friday) afternoon a jury was summoned before Mr N.P. KELL, coroner for the rape of Hastings, at the White Hart Inn, Guestling, near Hastings, to inquire into the circumstances attending the deaths of three persons suspected to have been poisoned.
The circumstances of the case are as follows:- On the 13th of September last a labouring man named Richard GEERING, aged 56, living with his wife, Mary Ann GEERING, on the Green, ar Guestling, after lingering some little while, died, but no particular suspicion was entertained at the time, although the body was observed to be in a very bad state after decease. On the 27th of December following a son named George, aged 21, living at home, also died; and on the 6th ult, a second son living at home, named James, aged 26, likewise died. All three suffered from vomitings, and were attended during their illness by Mr. J.I. POCOCK. Latterly a third son, of about 20 years of age named Benjamin, has been in a state of ill health, accompanied with unnatural hunger and vomitings. Mr TICEHURST, having occasion to attend the latter, was suspicious of something wrong, and had the patient's diet consequently altered, when he soon began to recover. This made the circumstances attending the previous deaths look so suspicious that the coroner issued a warrant for the exhumation of the bodies Richard, George, and James GEERING, which had been interred in Guestling churchyard. Yesterday morning the coffins containing the bodies were dug up and removed into the church to await the disposal of the coroner.
The jury having been sworn, proceeded to the churchyard. The three graves from which the bodies had been taken were on the east side of the church, and were very watery. The coffin containing the body of Richard GEERING was first brought out of the church and placed on a tombstone. The lid was then unscrewed, and on its removal the body was found to be in an advanced state of decomposition, except in the region of the abdomen. The features of the deceased were too much impaired to be recognized, but the identity of the coffin was vouched for by the maker, who was also the sexton at the time of the interment. Mr. TICEHURST, Mr. W. DUKE and Mr. F. DUKE, then proceeded to make a post mortem examination of the body. The effluvium was dreadful, and the body swimming in water. To remove the latter holes were bored in the coffin. The whole of the deceased's intestines were removed and placed in jars. The coffins containing the bodies of the two sons were then brought out and opened. The face of George was but little disfigured, while that of James was far gone. In each case the inscription on the coffin lid was discernible. The intestines of the two sons were also removed and take into the possession of Mr. TICEHURST. In all the bodies it was found that the stomach was in an unusually good state of preservation. From the stomach of George GEERING a small piece of white, gritty matter, resembling arsenic, was produced, and gritty matter was also observable in the case of the father. On the whole, the appearances presented by the different bodies seemed to be strongly indicative of death by poison. The examination being so far concluded, the jury assembled in the church, where they were addressed by the coroner, who stated that Mr. TICEHURST was of the opinion that the analysis of the contents of the bodies could not be complete until Thursday next, and perhaps would not be ready even then.
The inquest therefore stood adjourned until the ensuing Thursday, at 10 o'clock a.m., when the jury would be required to give their attendance at the White Hart Inn, for which they were required to enter into their own recognizances in the sum of 10 (?l) each.
The proceedings then terminated for the day.
At about 6 o'clock in the evening the woman Mary Ann GEERNG was brought into Hastings in custody of the police, and lodged in the watchhouse. One of the grounds of suspicion against her is the alleged fact that her husband and sons were members of a sick club. It has been stated that they were members of a burial club, but this we believe is an error. Some of the matter ejected from the stomach of Benjamin GEERING has been reserved for analysis.
Supposing the suspicions entertained in this case to prove well founded, this will form one of the most appalling circumstances that ever took place in this part of the country, and serve to swell still more the already fearful catalogue of crimes which has been presented to the public during the last few months.
The woman GEERING was apprehended in the course of Thursday morning at her house. She was brought into Hastings in a cart in custody of Superintendent THOMPSON and police-constable JEFFERY. She will be brought up before the county magistrates at the Clerk's-office this morning, at 11 o'clock.

The (London) Times, 7th May 1849; Page 8; Issue 20169; Col. D

HASTINGS, Saturday May 5

Mary Ann GEERING, who is suspected of having poisoned her husband and three sons, underwent a lengthened examination this day at the Town-hall before Mr BRISCOE, Mr STAINES, and other county magistrates.

The bodies, which had been interred in the parish churchyard of Guestling, were exhumed, and the contents of the stomaches sent to Mr TAYLOR, of Guy's Hospital, for analysation. The analysis as yet is not complete in all the cases. In two, however, arsenic has been discovered in sufficient quantities to account for death.
The evidence, as far as it went, afforded strong grounds of suspicion, and the proceedings having lasted till a late hour in the day, the magistrate resolved to remand the prisoner.
The prisoner was then removed to the Hastings gaol.

The (London) Times, 22 August 1849; Page 5; Issue 20261; Col. F

LEWES, August 21

At 12 o'clock this day Mary Ann GEERING, convicted at the last assizes of the murder of her husband at Guestling, underwent the extreme penalty of the law on a drop erected in front of the county Goal.

On Monday evening she made a full confession of her guilt in having poisoned her husband and two sons, and attempted the life of her third son, Benjamin, who was the principal witness against her on the trial; and her penitence appeared to be so sincerely manifested that the chaplain did not hesitate to administer to her the holy sacrament. Having thus disburdened her mind, the culprit slept during the whole of Monday night. She awoke early in the morning and was at once attended by the Rev. B BURNETT, the chaplain of the gaol, who remained with her until the time of her execution.

The spectators were not numerous; not more than between 3,000 and 4,000 made their appearance, and no feeling was manifested when she mounted the scaffold. In about two minutes the necessary arrangements were completed and the wretched criminal ceased to exist.

The body, after hanging an hour, was cut down, very few persons remaining till that time. It was buried in the precincts of the gaol at 4 o'clock.


Transcribed by Joanne Mays Becker

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