Listener discretion is advised, this episode features discussions of murder, medical conditions and malpractice. We advise extreme caution for listeners under 13.
When someone is drowning, most experts advise not getting too close. Instead, they say throwing a lifeline to the person in distress is the best option because the person in distress will do anything to save themselves. This includes pushing any would be rescuers below the surface just for the chance at another gasp of air in the 50s.
Dr. William Palmer was sinking under the weight of growing debt. Unfortunately, his family and friends didn't realize how deep William was in when they tried to help. He repaid their kindness by dragging them under and taking their lives. This is Medical Murders, a Spotify original from podcast, every year, thousands of medical students take the Hippocratic Oath. It boils down to do no harm. But a closer look reveals a phrase much more interesting. I must not play it God.
However, some doctors break that oath. They choose to play God with their patients, deciding who lives and who dies each week on medical murders. We'll investigate these doctors, nurses and medical professionals. We'll explore the specifics of how medical killers operate not just on their patients but within their own minds, examining the psychology and neurology behind heartless medical killers. I'm Alastair Madden and I'm joined by Dr. David Kipa, M.D..
Hello, everyone. I'm Dr. Kipper, and looking forward to assisting Alistar with some medical insight into our final episode of Dr. William Palmer.
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Just open the app and type medical murders in the search bar. This is our second episode on William Palmer, one of the most famous poisoners in the history of the United Kingdom, while he was only convicted of murdering one person. Some estimates suggest that he killed as many as 14 more. Last week, we tracked Williams early life, including his medical background and history of gambling. This week, we'll uncover more about Williams secret deals, enormous debts and sinister solution, using his understanding of medicine to poison the people closest to him.
Or this and more coming up. Stay with us. In 1855, creditors were breathing down 31 year old William Palmer's neck. They wanted their money back. And if William didn't cooperate, he'd likely be thrown in a debtor's prison. So perhaps William didn't feel any guilt when he fed his horse racing acquaintance, John Parsons, cook two pills containing the potent poison strychnine. When Cook died, William's debt would be even closer to disappearing. Poisoning seemed like the only way out.
By that point, William had already explored several other options.
Several months before, in late December 1854, William walked all over the small town of Rugeley, thinking of a suitable plan. The insurance from the untimely death of his wife nearly a month before had wiped out half of his debt at most, but with over 10000 pounds worth nearly one point five million dollars today still lingering, William was still in deep. So he turned his attention to his remaining relatives, primarily his siblings, they lived in different parts of the country and had varying levels of success.
However, one stood out.
His older brother, Walter, the 32 year old, flamed out even faster than William five years earlier. Walter went bankrupt after his factory closed down. Then Walter turned to drink. A few years later, Walter's wife left and Walter kept drinking. When William met his brother in Rugeley, he found Walter at the bottom of several bottles of liquor. William later noticed that when Walter went too long without alcohol, he experienced severe tremors in his arms.
When people who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol stopped drinking, they can experience withdrawal into shakes or tremors. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it slows us down and has a sedating effect. Over time, the brain compensates for this chronic sedation by upping its production and release of activating or excitatory neurotransmitters. This is the brain's adaptive way of combating the effects of alcohol, its attempt to keep us alert and awake. However, when a heavy drinker stops using, suddenly their brain continues to release those activating neurotransmitters that excite and stimulate the central nervous system.
In other words, the brain keeps fighting against alcohol's effect, even though there's not in the system. This, in turn, creates severe agitation that leads to tremors and shakes and can appear as little as six hours after an alcoholic last drink. Tremors and shakes are also a common symptom of delirium tremens, a severe type of alcohol withdrawal that requires medical monitoring and observation.
Delirium tremens are treated with medications that sedate the central nervous system. The most common and effective being Librium. Without intervention, delirium tremens can be fatal.
Any physical sign of alcohol withdrawal should be considered a major red flag. And without an alteration in its lifestyle, Walter was inching closer to death with each drink. After seeing his brother's tremors, William believed that within a handful of years, Walter would succumb to his addiction and William was always a betting man. So he conspired to get a life insurance policy on Walter. But there was a problem.
William had no rights to a life insurance policy for his brother.
An insurance company needed Walter's signature to approve William as a beneficiary. That's when William told Walter that he'd pay 400 pounds for his signature on an insurance policy.
William also promised to take care of Walter by putting him up at Talbot Arms and in across the street from his home. Walter hesitated for a moment, understanding the morbid implications. But he needed the money and agreed to sign whatever his brother needed. William's mouth spread into a wolf's smile exactly what he wanted to hear.
Walter inquired about the money, and Williams said the most he could give right away was 60 pounds worth more than 8000 dollars today. The rest would have to wait. Walter looked at the smallest sum in his hands and seemed content with the promise of more. He believed his brother, the doctor, was good for it and signed the appropriate paperwork. To make sure his plan was foolproof, William ensured that Waltz's stayed sober for a brief period, just enough time for his most significant tremors to vanish.
William knew that insurance companies wouldn't hand out a policy on someone with visible signs of addiction. But even with Walter momentarily sober, most of the insurance companies William went to denied his request outright. Only one of the half dozen companies William visited, Prince of Wales Insurance, agreed in principle to the policy. They were the same company that had covered William's late wife, Ann Palmer's, life insurance. The insurance company only requested that a local physician take a look at Walter first.
Dr. John Holland, a local acquaintance of William, supposedly gave Walter a clean bill of health.
Despite his history with alcoholism and some lingering tremors, tremors from alcoholism are not easily missed. And it's odd that Dr Harlan gave Walter the thumbs up. This seems like it was a major failing of Dr. Harland's medical knowledge. However, it's possible that a long term relationship with William made Dr. Harlan willing to overlook any problems with him.
Maybe he was aware of William's intentions.
He may have even been compensated somehow for his complicity. It's also possible that William gave Walter a mild sedative before his physical exam. This would have calmed Walter's central nervous system enough to reduce or eliminate his tremors, hiding the symptom from Dr. Harlan.
William may have even given Walter a drink of alcohol prior to Harland's examination, as this would have also temporarily relieved Walter's withdrawal symptoms.
Either way, William felt ecstatic about the decision a few days later, William had a deal for a 13000 pound life insurance policy, more than enough to cover most of his remaining debt.
He only needed to pay the first annual premium of just over 700 pounds, worth about 100000 dollars. Today, it was a lot of money, but William was sure his bet would pay off to increase his odds of a payout. William opened a bar tab at the end, which supplied Walter with a continuous stream of liquor.
Walter took William up on his generosity and drank several bottles a day, tacking on to William's enormous debt. No one thought he wouldn't pay, even as several months passed with no extra payment. Walter trusted William to come through with the remaining 340 pounds he was owed his younger brother, the physician, wouldn't let him down. On August 16th, 1855, patrons of Talbert arms in watched as William came inside looking for his brother. They observed William urgently climbing the stairs to Walter's room, allegedly a few moments later.
William quietly emerged and headed back to his failing medical practice without acknowledging anyone.
William later wrote in his private journal that Walter appeared very ill that afternoon. He didn't list what he believed ailed Walter or anything he did to fix the problem. Two hours later, a housekeeper found Walter dead in his bed. Within minutes, someone sent word to William about his brother's passing. William quickly returned to the inn. He wanted control of the situation. William believed if the insurance caught wind that Walter's death wasn't of natural causes, they wouldn't pay out on their policy.
So William deliberately hurried the burial process. Within a few days, the local undertaker had handed Walter's body over to William. No autopsy was performed, and at least one doctor listed his cause of death as apoplexy to make sure the insurance company couldn't easily get to Walter's body. William ordered the casket be led lined. William buried Walter without a respectable funeral. Walter never lived to see William pay him for his signature. After the burial, William was ready to collect his own payment, but he ran into complications that sent him over the edge.
Coming up, Williams attempts to collect Walter's insurance only lead to more despair. Hello, it's Alistaire, and I'm excited to tell you about a phenomenal podcast show, I Know Your Love, that dives deep into some of history's most notorious leaders. It's called Dictators. And every Tuesday, it examines the reign of a real life tyrant, exploring the unique conditions that allowed them to seize control. Dictators have a never ending thirst for power. Some seize this power through force, others through deceit.
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Hello, it's Alistaire, and I'm excited to tell you about a phenomenal podcast show, I Know Your Love, that dives deep into some of history's most notorious leaders. It's called Dictators. And every Tuesday, it examines the reign of a real life tyrant, exploring the unique conditions that allowed them to seize control. Dictators have a never ending thirst for power. Some seize this power through force, others through deceit. And all of them won't hesitate to eliminate anybody who stands in their way.
We've covered North Korean dictators like Kim Il Sung, militant African dictators like Jean Bedel Bokassa, female dictators like Mary, the first of England, and many more. There are over 40 episodes available to binge right now that I know you'll find fascinating. Discover the governments that fell, the lives that were destroyed and evil at its highest level followed dictators free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Now back to the story. The moments after the Prince of Wales Insurance Company received Dr. William Palmer's life insurance claim for his brother Walter. Alarm bells went off. A 13000 pound policy payout was huge, especially for William, who less than a year before collected the same amount of money in the fall of 1855. They immediately wrote back to William, saying they disputed the claim and was sending investigators to Rugeley. William had banked on Walters' life insurance money and now, without it in hand, was back where he started over 11000 pounds in debt.
Before long, his creditors were going to come knocking and he could only imagine what they were capable of. William feared they might harm him with violence or even worse, go to the authorities in Victorian England. If debtors didn't pay, creditors could have the courts placed them in a debtor's prison. They'd remain incarcerated until they paid off their balance. But it was a flawed system. Debtors weren't allowed to leave the prisons, which meant they couldn't find ways to pay off their debts, resulting in quasi life sentences.
With that fear weighing on him, William went back and forth with the Prince of Wales Insurance Company, but they stonewalled him at each turn for weeks. He continued trying to get the policy payout, but nothing ever came of it financially. William was even worse off than before this scheme started. He was out the roughly 700 pounds he paid for the premium on the insurance policy, the 60 pounds he gave Walter and Walters bar tab. William had already been at least 11000 pounds in the hole and felt he was being swallowed by the weight of it.
He fell into depression and soon returned to his last hope, the racetrack.
On November 13th, 1855, William headed 40 miles west to Shrewsbury for a horse race there, he met up with a friend named John Cook.
Like William Cook had also inherited a large sum of money. But despite a rather wild lifestyle, he had yet to lose it. And when it came to the track, 28 year old Cook always seemed to leave with more money than he brought.
November 13th was a pleasant, albeit slightly chilly day, William hoped that it was the day his fortunes turned around, it didn't matter that he felt this same optimism hundreds of times before and came up short each time. Today would change everything. The pair arrived at the track early. They surveyed the conditions, looked at the riders and observed the horses. William then went to the board that listed all of the races. While scanning, William had a moment of clarity.
Everything fell in line. He found the afternoon race that would fix his fortunes. William went to the window and placed a bet worth a few hundred pounds on a horse named the Chicken. William had seen this horse and jockey earlier and believed they were unbeatable to make things interesting. Cook placed his bets on another horse in a contest named Polestar that afternoon, as the horses lined up at the starting gate, William's heart pounded. Then in a flash, they were off.
Williams was positioned perfectly as the pack thundered around the first curve. The horse wasn't so near the front where they might burn out by the end or in the back where they'd get left behind. William lost sight of his horse as the group pounded their way across the backstretch. He closed his eyes and hoped that when he opened them, his horse would be in the lead.
William took a breath, opened his eyes and felt his heart sing. The horse he bet his last hopes on was nowhere near the front of the pack, instead, Cook's Horse Polestar led the group across the line. Cook erupted in an enthusiastic cheer, he just won 3000 pounds worth around 420000 dollars today.
Williams thoughts likely turn toward jealousy, Cooke had all the luck and he'd been left in the dust again, with his debts seemingly increasing by the day, William felt helpless no matter what he tried.
He sank deeper. That evening, the pair retired to a local in called The Raven for Cook. It was a celebration and William kept up a happy facade despite his disappointment. As the night wore on, the pair continued to drink.
But with each passing hour, William grew increasingly frustrated when William couldn't stand it anymore. He left their table and retired to his room.
Early the next morning, William headed back to Rugeley, dejected. Unfortunately, when he made it home, more bad news awaited him.
A creditor had left a note.
William needed to pay a designated sum of money immediately, or they go to the authorities that would all but seal William's fate.
Debtor's prison. William, already at his lowest and feeling the waters rising, reached a breaking point, he grabbed his medicine bag and headed back toward Shrewsbury. That afternoon, William reunited with Cooke, they attended a handful of other races before going back to the Raven, where they ate dinner with a few acquaintances, including a wine merchant and a law stationer.
Everyone seemed jovial, but inside, William stewed. He excused himself for a moment when he returned to the table. He had a round of brandy for everyone.
According to some accounts, William carefully handed Cook his glass first before distributing the rest.
William made a toast to cook success, and the group drank.
Cook coughed and said his brandy burned as it went down. William looked at the table in amazement. He grabbed Cook's glass and slipped down the little bit of liquid left. William laughed and said he didn't taste a thing. The group brushed off the incident as they continued eating late into the night.
Eventually, William excused himself and retired to his room. The rest stayed at the table, enjoying the spirited occasion. But the good nature of their celebration didn't last. A short while later, back in his room. Cook felt ill, his stomach burned, and he doubled over in pain. Moments later, he vomited uncontrollably. His two friends looked over him as he closed his eyes and prayed for the pain to pass.
Basically, cook symptoms look like the result of some kind of poisoning, but they were too general to be attributed to anything concrete at this point, cooks out of control, vomiting, could have even look like food poisoning, especially if it started around three hours after his last meal. However, with food poisoning, sharp stomach pain usually isn't an initial symptom. Sometimes it'll come, but only after a long period of vomiting and retching due to the protracted battle and abdominal strain.
If we're considering Poison's one likely candidate would have been arsenic. This deadly chemical was in a variety of products in Victorian England and was a common weapon of murder at the time. On top of this, it mimicked the symptoms of cholera, the bacterial disease we talked about in part one of our story that was so prevalent at the time, the sudden onset and nature of his symptoms also lined up with those of Palmer and Leonard Bladen, who both died several days after getting sick.
Arsenic causes the abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea that all three of these people experienced.
To cook, the answer seemed obvious in between bouts of vomiting, he turned toward his friends and said William poisoned him. The two exchanged questioning glances but didn't think much of it to them. These were the words of a man in distress and not to be taken seriously. Cook finally fell asleep early the next morning when he woke up, he still felt unwell, but for the most part, his symptoms subsided. William went back to the track that morning while Cook lay in his bed.
William wanted one final shot at making the money he owed his creditors, but he wasn't so lucky. He left the races empty handed yet again. When William returned to Cook's room at The Raven, he found his racing friends sitting up in bed looking slightly better. That afternoon, the pair headed for Rugeley. When they got to town, Cook booked a room at the Talbot Arms in the same place Walter Palmer had died just three months before. Cook still felt lousy, so he went to lay down.
On Sunday morning, William went to his friend, Dr. Bamford, and asked for two sedative pills, he pocketed the drugs and headed back to the game where he ordered soup for Cook. Cook happily accepted the food, but minutes later vomited again. The pain he felt in his gut returned, and he lay in bed clutching his stomach.
The chambermaid, Elizabeth Mills, took the half eaten bowl back down to the kitchen. Mills curiously took a sip, but didn't taste anything odd, however, a moment later she felt ill, mild nausea came over her and she needed to lay down. Cook spent the rest of the day in bed. He experienced fever, aches and more vomiting. All the while, William watched over Cook. He didn't want any intervention.
With Cook incapacitated, William headed towards London early the next morning with his friends accounting ledger. No one suspected a thing and William was about to be several thousand pounds richer. William walk down the cobblestone streets of London before entering into a small pub. The doctor met with one of Cook's associates and collected almost 2000 pounds on Cook's behalf with the cash in hand. William quickly left the city and headed back to Rugeley there. William paid off his most urgent 800 pounds debt.
He was still at least 11000 pounds in the hole. But it was a start with Cook's ledger in his possession. William hoped to make an even larger dent, but he wasn't done spending yet. According to another Rugeley physician, Dr Salt. William allegedly walked into his practice and bought two pills worth of strychnine that afternoon.
This is a really dangerous chemical in mammals. Strychnine works by interrupting the nerve signals to control muscular function. This causes intense pain for muscle spasms, and that ultimately prevents contracted muscles from relaxing. When this happens to the muscles of the respiratory system, the body's oxygen supply gets cut off, leading to death from asphyxiation or a strychnine induced death to occur, human's only need to ingest about 30 to 60 milligrams, which is a pretty small amount. For comparison, 30 to 60 milligrams of strychnine would look like a capsule of common medications like Advil or Tylenol.
If Cook had been given a dose around this size, he would have likely been dead in under an hour.
Despite its deadliness, however, strychnine was often used medicinally in the past in very tiny doses. It was used to increase appetite, speed, digestion and treat stomach issues like nausea and diarrhea. Given this time in history, it wouldn't have looked odd if William purchased this poison for treatment purposes, but he probably didn't plan on using it to help cook in any way. With Cook's ledger and the strychnine pills in his possession, William headed back to Talbot Arms to see Cook.
Cook had stopped throwing up, but pain radiated from his stomach for 28. He looked awful when no one else was in the room. William allegedly handed Cook the two pills, claiming they were sedatives given to him by Dr. Bamford. He advised Cook to only take them when the pain was too much to bear. Cook gazed up at his friend, who was there for him.
Now, in his lowest moment, William smiled down at Cook, assuring him it wasn't a problem. As a doctor, he felt strongly that he should be there to help others.
He did cooked farewell and returned to his home across the street.
But while William had a pleasant evening, Cook did not. He tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable because of the pain.
Cook survived the night, but he looked dreadful when William came to visit the next afternoon in a bid to cover his tracks.
William called on the local physician, Dr. Jones, to stay with Cook.
Dr. Jones watched over Cook late into the night while his condition further deteriorated. Sometime that afternoon, it's believed Cook may have taken the pills William gave him, and Jones didn't intervene. Jones appeared to wholeheartedly believe in William's medical opinion and let the sinister plot pass right under his nose. To be fair, beyond testing the pills on himself. Jones wouldn't have been able to see what they contained anyway. John Cook was completely at Dr. William Palmer's Mercy just past Midnight Cook's muscle spasms, and he howled in pain.
His heart beat wildly and sweat covid his body slowly coaxed back, arched, painfully backward, completely out of his control. He called out for William in desperation, but his friend was nestled in his bed across the street. At 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 21st, 1855, John Cook suddenly went still. Nothing Dr. Jones did could bring Cooke's pulse back. Coming up, authorities come calling while William makes a final attempt to get out of debt. Now back to the story.
On the morning of November 21st, 1855, 31 year old Dr. William Palmer went to check on his friend John Cook when William entered Cook's room. He found Dr. Jones standing next to a body frozen like a bow in the condition known as opposite Totnes Apostol. Sadness is a rare condition that causes somebody's body to arch backward. It's characterized by a state of major hyperextension and spasticity, which causes the muscles to stiffen and become rigidly tight. It's also caused by poisoning, and strychnine is one of the main culprits here.
The toxicity of strychnine causes the muscles to spasm and lock, and people who are dangerously exposed often become physically contorted and unable to move. If someone dies in a contorted position like Cook, rigor mortis will maintain that position for a good while after death. Given what we know of the circumstances, it seems very likely that Cook's apass sadness was a sign of strychnine poisoning. Still, William acted coy as Dr. Jones explained how Cook died. In the middle of the night, William moved quickly to square away Cook's body and estate.
The elderly. Dr. Bamford, Williams close friend and supposedly unbiased third party, handed over a death certificate for Cook that stated he died of apoplexy. The same diagnosis Dr. Bamford gave Williams mother in law, who died in his home six years before.
Well, it's impossible to fully comment on someone's medical expertise. One hundred and fifty years later, Dr. Bamford's analysis seems suspect. Without an autopsy, it wouldn't have been possible to see if someone died from apoplexy, internal bleeding and stroke showed no physical or external signs.
So it's strange that Dr. Bamford made this conclusion. It's also bizarre that he ignored Cookes obvious Apostol sadness. This kind of severe contortion isn't consistent with a death from hemorrhage or stroke. People who die from apoplexy do sometimes die in awkward positions, but this wouldn't likely be the case for someone who was bedridden. Also, these awkward physicians would never be as dramatic looking as those found in abstainers sadness victims.
Shortly after Dr. Bamford handed over Cookes questionable death certificates. Dr. Jones reached out to Coke's stepfather two days later on November. Twenty third, they arrived in Rugeley. William met with Cookes stepfather, a Mr. Stevens, and in a bid to receive more funds, claimed Cooke owed a debt of four thousand pounds. Stevens hesitated. He knew Cooke well and had never heard of any such debt. Upon further investigation, Stevens found his stepson's ledger to be missing and couldn't locate any trace of Cook's recent 3000 pounds track winnings, both Dr.
Jones and Stevens thought Cook's death was suspicious. And as it turns out, so did many Rugeley locals. While William was given the benefit of the doubt with his wife and brother, a third person close to him dying signaled it was all more than just coincidence.
Authorities launched an inquiry into Williams involvement in Anne Palmer's, Walter Palmer's and John Cook's deaths. On November 26, five days after Cook's death, local doctors performed an autopsy on his body, allegedly. The coroner wasn't present instead to local doctors, performed the examination in a room full of observers. One of those observers was William Palmer himself as the procedure got underway. The doctors stated their intention of trying to get samples of Cook's stomach contents. Those would be sent to the coroner for additional testing to see if there was any poisoning cooked system.
If Cook's post-mortem exam had been conducted a day or two after his death instead of five days, his stomach contents would have been invaluable evidence. However, when it comes to Cook's autopsy, an examination of his stomach wouldn't likely have shown traces of strychnine.
This is because strychnine is rapidly absorbed in the stomach and is dispersed through the bloodstream and as little as 15 minutes, the poison then gets passed through the urine within six hours and after 24 to 48 hours, there's no trace of it in the body.
Unfortunately for all involved, William Palmer had other plans shortly after the physicians extracted the majority of Cook's stomach contents and put them in a jar.
William took them out of the room for what he said was safekeeping, according to one version of events after the procedure was over. The other doctors convinced William to return the jar. However, when he brought back the stomach contents, the jars seal had been cut open, potentially compromising the evidence. What little contents remained from Cook's stomach was sent to the coroner for testing. Unfortunately, with such a small sample, they weren't able to tell if there was any poisoning cooked system.
When he died, though, William thought he could breathe a sigh of relief. His troubles weren't over. The authorities were still curious about the deaths of Ann and Walter Palmer.
Later that week, authorities exhumed their bodies for examination. The results of an autopsy were limited. Her body was buried for over a year and much of her remains had decomposed. Walter's corpse wasn't in much better shape for autopsy purposes when, after much effort, examiners finally punched a hole in the thick, lead lined casket, the room filled with the smell of death. His body was bloated and falling apart. Little information was gathered about Walter's cause of death.
Much to the delight of William, who still held out hope for an insurance payment. But this lack of evidence didn't mean he was in the clear. Investigators went around Rugeley asking questions about William.
In the process, they ran into many residents who had suspicions about the local doctor.
One of them was Dr. Salt, who described the day William picked up the strychnine. The investigator's ears perked up. It was just the information they needed. On December 15th, 1856, the inquiry stated that they believed William had killed John Cook with strychnine, poison and suggested he be brought up on charges shortly after William was arrested. He was caught by surprise. He had truly believed everything was about to turn around. Authorities placed William in a local jail while he awaited his day in court.
In May 1856, William finally faced a trial, but not in Rugeley. His defense team argued that William couldn't receive a fair trial in the small town. So the trial was moved to the Old Bailey Courthouse in London, where the jury wouldn't have any preconceived notions of Dr. William Palmer. While the trial started quietly, that didn't last long. Once the local press got wind of the story, Williams image was plastered all over town. Nearly everyone in London heard of the Rugeley poisoner.
Every detail of Williams life was exposed from his early education to the deaths of his wife and children. Meanwhile, inside the walls of the Old Bailey, the prosecution made their case.
There was little physical evidence, but the prosecution had a compelling tale.
They discussed Williams gambling addiction and staggering debts still worth upwards of eleven thousand pounds. William professed his innocence in court, but the coincidences stacked up.
His racing partner, Leonard Blaydon, dying in his home with his ledger missing and Palmer's death only months after a life insurance policy was handed out Walter's death under similar circumstances. And now, finally, John Cooke, then Dr. Solt from Rugeley came to London and testified that William bought strychnine from him. That sealed the deal after 12 days of testimony. The trial ended.
The jury didn't even deliberate for a full day before convicting William of John Cooke's murder, the judge sentenced William to death.
William remained stone faced, all of his scheming had landed him at death's door, and now no amount of strategy or legal maneuvering was getting him out. William found himself sitting in a jail cell, but it was only punishment for the death of one person when it's possible he killed many more. I personally believe he killed more than one person. And this comes from the extreme measures we saw him take to avoid being sent to debtor's prison. I also feel the coincidence behind these deaths is far too overwhelming, especially when coupled with the life insurance policies he took out on his wife and brother.
However, I can't say for sure after 150 years, it's impossible to pin down the true extent of William's actions. It's fascinating that he had an addiction to gambling at the horseraces, something that was largely due to his neurochemistry. This is interesting because it's the same neurochemistry and associated behavioral tendencies that motivated him to gamble and gambling on getting away with murder.
We'll never know for sure how many deaths. Dr. William Palmer caused, however, what happened next was indisputable. On June 14th, 1856, guards grabbed 31 year old William out of his cell. They marched him towards the gallows outside of Stafford Prison. William heard the sounds of a large crowd as he made his way to the platform as he mounted the steps. A truly remarkable sight unfolded in front of him. There were tens of thousands of people crowding around waiting for his death.
Authorities asked William if he had any last words. To the audience's dismay, he had no speech prepared, though he meekly maintained his innocence as William walked over the trap door. Legend has it that, he asked, is it safe? Authorities placed a cover over Williams head before the noose came down in the darkness, the crowd noise swelled to William. It must have sounded like he was at the horseraces.
Minutes later, William Palmer was pronounced dead. He was only convicted of killing one person, but his legend grew over the years. The Rugeley poisoner is one of the most famous murder cases in UK history. Famous author Charles Dickens said William was the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey.
Dr. William Palmer was never able to get out from under the dire situation he brought upon himself. Unfortunately, those closest to him were dragged down to. Thanks for listening to medical murders and thanks again to Dr. Kipa for joining me today. Thank you, Allaster. You can find all episodes of medical murders and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify, not only to Spotify, already have all of your favorite music, but now Spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy all of your favorite podcast shows like Medical Murders for Free from your phone desktop or Smart Speaker to stream medical murders on Spotify.
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Medical murders is a Spotify original from past. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Trent Williamson with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden, Kristen Acevedo, Jonathan Cohen, Alexandra Trick, the daughter, and Bruce Kaktovik. This episode of Medical Murders was written by Robert Tyler Walker with Writing Assistants by Maggie Admi, Fact Checking by Bennett Logan and research by Chelsea Wood. Medical Murders stars Dr. David Kepa and Alistair Murden.
Don't forget to check out dictators every Tuesday, we go deep into the minds of some of history's most despised despots. You'll get insights into their rise to power and the impact of their downfall. Search for dictators and the Spotify app and listen free today.
Don't forget to check out dictators every Tuesday, we go deep into the minds of some of history's most despised despots. You'll get insights into their rise to power and the impact of their downfall. Search for dictators and the Spotify app and listen free today.