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The Most Extraordinary Trial of William Palmer

Book Overview: 

John Parsons Cook was a 28 year old bachelor, from a good family but not in robust health. He studied to become a lawyer, but instead of following that career, turned to raising race horses. In November 1855, during a visit to the Shrewsbury races, he was taken violently ill. He was attended by the 80 year old local doctor Dr. Bamford, and Cook's friend and sometimes partner, Dr. Palmer. William Palmer was a physician and surgeon, a widower and father. His appearance instilled confidence and invited trust. But were appearances deceptive? Was he, in fact, a cool, calculating and vicious serial murderer, who used his knowledge and skill for evil ends, to escape the effects of an addiction that was destroying his life? There are numerous references to this case in fiction, by Dickens, Sayers, Hitchcock and others; and the familiar salutation "What's your poison?" is believed to date from the events of this case. This is true courtroom drama, more gripping than fiction and it will have you guessing until the end.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I did not tell the coroner that Mr. Cook was beating the bedclothes on the Monday night. I did say that he sometimes threw his head back, and then would raise himself up again, and I believe I also said that he could hardly speak for shortness of breath. I did not say that he called “Murder!” twice, and I do not remember saying that he “twitched” while I was rubbing his hands. I did not say anything about toast-and-water being given to Mr. Cook, by order of Palmer, in a spoon; or that he snapped at the spoon and bit it so hard that it was difficult to get it out of his mouth.

The Lord Chief Justice here interposed and intimated his opinion that it would be a fairer course to read the witness’s depositions.

The other judges concurred.

The Attorney-General said, he should have interposed, but it was his intention to adduce{21} evidence to show the manner in which the case was conducted by the coroner, and that he was . . . Read More