File of the Inmate S-138

The Landlady of Walworth

September 7, 1766
Murder by poisoning
Death by hanging
murder weapon of the landlady - poison vial

Matilda’s story

Grown up in the Scottish Highlands, Matilda was used to loneliness. She loved to escape the confines of everyday life in the swampy lands of the MacScouts. The MacScouts were the family her parents worked for – her mother cooked and cleaned, her father cut peat. Matilda hated them all, the MacScouts and her parents. The MacScouts were arrogant, thought they were better than the rest and treated her and her family like second-class human beings. Even more, however, her parents disgusted her. They put up with everything they could and at the same time they kept telling her to show respect and gratitude. She was only happy in two places: in the meadows of the Highlands among all the different smelling heather herbs and in the kitchen, where the smell of crushed pepper and grated nutmeg filled the air, or the pungent sweetness of a fresh onion brought tears to her eyes and the taste of slightly charred lamb hung on her tongue. Often this was enough to make her forget everything around her.

If it wasn’t for Adair, the MacScouts’ youngest son. He was six years older and two heads taller than Matilda, but dumb as an old goat. As the offspring of the family, he could get away with anything and Adair knew that only too well. He had a diabolical way of torturing any living thing that came his way. His favourite victim: Matilda, he bullied her where and when he could.

It was a slightly rainy afternoon in May, when Adair’s harassment was once again particularly bad. All day long he had been getting on her nerves and even in the kitchen he wouldn’t let her go. She noticed how her rage increased with every grain of pepper that he threw at her head. To Adair’s displeasure, Matilda managed to suppress her anger. But when he slapped a dead mouse on her back, Matilda’s patience tore and she threw a large, heavy spoon at him. The spoon hit Adair in the nose and fell to the ground with an ugly rattling sound. Shortly after the clang of the spoon had died away, the horror on Adair’s face turned to hate. Matilda clenched her fists and prepared herself for a painful fight. But contrary to her expectations, he did not attack her, but ran out of the kitchen. Would he tell on her? If he did, she was in for an unprecedented beating. Matilda rushed after him.

She searched the main house and the outhouses. The last possibility was the barn. Carefully, she opened the door and peeped inside. Adair sat on the floor and tore at an unrecognizable dark something with his right hand. Gently, she took another step further into the barn. Still she could not see what lay on the floor in front of him.

Slowly he turned to her and looked at her with the same hateful look. Only now did she see that his hands were full of blood. With his right hand he clasped one of the kitchen knives convulsively. At that moment she recognized what was lying on the floor: it was her dark brown cat Elisha. Her belly was slit from top to bottom and her stomach was hanging out of the gaping wound. Her gaze wandered towards her head, but there was nothing there! Where she had looked at the trusting face of her cat before, there was only a huge pool of blood. She stared at Adair in horror. He jumped towards her in one leap, pushed her to the ground and held the knife to her throat. At the same time, with his other hand, he rubbed the severed head of her cat in her face and bellowed horribly. Matilda felt the still warm blood dripping from the skull down her cheeks and he moved his mouth closer to her ear. Full of hatred, he gasped, “You’re next!” With a loud gurgle he let go of her. Matilda ran for her life.

The blood still clung to her cheek as she told her parents what had happened. But they didn’t want to know. Instead, they threatened her with beatings if she said a word to the MacScouts. There she stood: in front of parents who didn’t seem to care about her, her face covered in the blood of her cat and the threat that she would be the next one whose guts were stuck to the floor of the barn.

But the despair did not last long. An unaccustomed determination gripped Matilda. Never again would she put up with anything from anyone! She ran out of the house towards the meadows, where she didn’t have to search long to find what she needed – monkshood. If any advice from her mother had been useful, it was that this beautiful but highly poisonous purple plant should never be swallowed.

She cut off a few stems of the plant and hurried to the kitchen where her mother was already preparing dinner for the MacScouts. Carefully and without her mother noticing, she cut the wolfsbane into small pieces and stirred it into the soup pot. For a moment she was afraid that her mother might have noticed something, but she just snorted at her as she left the kitchen with the plates in her hand.

Adair and the entire MacScout family died that very night from the poison of blue monkshood. The same night that Matilda disappeared and left for England on her own. Wonder if her parents ate the soup. Matilda didn’t know it, but she didn’t care.


The tortured women