Any discussion of the world’s most prominent serial killers would be completed without mentioning Mary Ann Cotton, an Englishwoman who murdered her husband, a lover, and many children. Her reign of terror lasted 21 years, and she killed the same number of people. Her weapon of choice was poison, specifically arsenic, which gave her symptoms akin to an upset stomach and allowed her to hide from the law for two decades. She had a slew of husbands over the course of her life, and she was usually killed for the insurance money. She enticed men with her charm and beauty, marrying usually the wealthy. When she’d had enough of them, she’d sneak poison into their food or drinks and flee with the insurance money without raising suspicions. Her heightened overconfidence caused her to shamelessly kill more people in the later years of her killings, and ultimately, someone became suspicious of the fact that people were dying of the same cause everywhere she visited. After the murder of her stepson, Charles Cotton, from her previous marriage, she was sentenced to prison, and when the public learned about her bizarre past, they were horrified and appalled. She was hanged until 1873 when she died.
Childhood and Adolescence
Mary Ann Cotton was born on October 31, 1832, in a small village in North England, to a miner father who died when Mary was just eight years old. The woman was responsible for three children while also suffering from depression as a result of her husband’s death.
A few years later, Mary’s mother remarried, but Mary despised her stepfather. Mary had no choice but to flee her family at the age of 16 due to her stepfather’s regular abuses.
Her destination was the nearby community of South Hetton, where she began working as a nurse at the home of a manager named Edward Potter. She returned to her stepfather’s house a few years later and began working as a dressmaker with aspirations of becoming wealthy, and she married for the first time at the age of 20.
Marriages and assassinations
At the age of 20, Mary Ann married William Mowbray, a laborer, and the couple went to South West England, where she gave birth to her first child, a girl called Margaret Jane. Two years later, another daughter was born, and Margaret, her first daughter, died in 1860 after another two years.
Over the next few years, Mary gave birth to two more children, a boy and a girl. William, her spouse, died of sickness in early 1965. He died of stomach fever, according to doctors.
William was properly covered, and Mary received 35 pounds from the British and Prudential Insurance Company upon his death. Following her husband’s death, Mary relocated to Seaham Harbour and began a relationship with Joseph Nattrass.
Mary went to Sunderland, where she began working in an infirmary when her daughter Margaret died of illness a few months later.
Mary’s attractiveness helped her attract the notice of George Ward, who was a patient at the infirmary where she worked as a nurse. After dating for a while, the pair married in August 1965. George died about a year later from an illness that included paralysis and intestinal infections.
Doctors determined that English Cholera was the cause, stating that he had been suffering from the illness for a long time, but that his abrupt death was unexpected, and that no concerns were aroused. Mary Ann used the insurance money to establish a relationship with James Robinson, a widower.
Mary was hired as a housekeeper by James, who had a son from a previous marriage, John Robinson. James was deeply broken when his sister’s son died of stomach fever. Mary went ahead to console him and ended up becoming pregnant as a result.
In 1866, she learned that her mother had been extremely ill with hepatitis, and despite the fact that she was healing, Mary went to see her. In the spring of 1867, her mother’s stomach aches became unbearable, and she died.
Mary married James in a church a few months later and gave birth to a daughter Isabella Margaret, who died in 1868. Mary had another child the next year, this time a boy named George.
James became skeptical of his wife’s ill intentions, and after having his suspicions confirmed, he pushed her out of his house and refused to let her take custody of their son, George.
When one of Mary’s acquaintances, Margaret, connected Mary to her brother, Frederick Cotton, who was also newly widowed, Mary got destitute and began living on the streets. He had two sons, Charles and Frederick Jr., who were being raised by Margaret, their aunt, who died of stomach sickness.
Mary assumed responsibility for comforting Frederick Sr. and fell pregnant with his child as a result. They married, and Mary gave birth to George, his son.
Mary learned that one of her old boyfriends, Joseph Nattrass, resided only a few kilometers away, and she convinced her husband to accompany her to the area where Joseph lived in order to resume their connection.
Frederick afterward became ill with ‘gastric fever’ and died. Mary used the insurance money to establish a relationship with Nattrass, who died of stomach fever a few months later!
Thomas Riley was the first to notice something odd about her background, and one day, overconfident from her previous wins, she assured him that the last living kid from the Cotton family, Charles, would die from ‘gastric fever,’ just like his relatives.
Riley was forced to go to the local police station when Charles died, and he demanded that the death certificate not be issued until his death was fully examined. When Mary called the insurance office instead of the doctor’s clinic, she sparked a new probe.
Downfall of Mary
Following an investigation by several local media, it was discovered that Mary had lived in a variety of locations throughout northern England and that anyone she married, along with their children, died of the same disease. A complete post mortem was performed on Charles Cotton, and arsenic was discovered in his body, which was alleged to be the cause of his death.
Many of her earlier victims’ bodies had a certain quantity of arsenic in them, according to samples taken from their bodies. In 1873, Mary Ann was finally apprehended, and her trial began in March of the same year.
Mary maintained her innocence until the very last, but the evidence eventually turned against her, and she was sentenced to death by hanging.
The Execution of Mary
Mary Ann Cotton was hung at Durham County Jail on March 24, 1873, and only two of the 13 children she gave birth to survived her lifetime: Margaret Edith and George Robinson.
In the Field of Popular Culture
Several books, stories, and poetry have been published on Mary Ann, and in 2016, ITV aired a television play called “Dark Angel.” The episode was based on the novel ‘Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer’ by crime novelist David Wilson.
Estimated Net worth
Mary is one of the wealthiest criminals and one of the most well-known. Mary Ann Cotton’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.