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Stephen Bates enthrals us with his latest book, The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s most Notorious Doctor

24th April 2015
Venue: St Peter’s Church, Oundle PE8 4AL
Time: 19.45

In 1856, a baying crowd of over 30,000 people gathered outside Stafford prison to watch the execution of a village doctor from Staffordshire.

One of the last people to be publicly hanged, the ‘Rugeley Poisoner’, the ‘Prince of Poisoners’, ‘The greatest villain who ever stood trial at the Old Bailey,’ as Charles Dickens described him, Dr William Palmer was convicted in 1856 of murdering his best friend, but was suspected of poisoning more than a dozen other people, including his wife, children, brother and mother-in-law – cashing in on their life insurance to fund his monstrously indebted horse race betting and gambling habit.

Palmer was a new kind of murderer, respectable, middle class, personable, and consequently more terrifying. He became Victorian Britain’s most infamous figure until the arrival of Jack the Ripper. Even Queen Victoria avidly followed the trial, as her journal shows.

The first thoroughly documented account of one of the most notorious, but now largely-forgotten, modern serial killers and prolific medical murderers in British history, The Poisoner  takes a fresh look at Palmer’s life and disputed crimes, ultimately asking ‘just how evil was this man?’               

Stephen Bates presents not only an astonishing and controversial revision of Palmer’s entire story, but takes the reader into the very psyche of a killer.

Bates is a journalist whose career includes the BBC, Daily Telegraph, and Daily Mail. He worked at The Guardian for 22 years, reporting from more than 40 countries. He is the author of God’s Own Country: Religion and Politics in the USA and A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

‘Bates tells the story vividly, offering a glimpse into the mind of a sadistic killer’
History Revealed

‘Meticulously researched, cleverly written and, even better, a wonderfully entertaining read’
Judith Flanders, author of The Invention of Murder


Tickets £8 (£6), £1 off early bird tickets bought before 17th April, available from the Oundle Box Office, 4 New Street, Oundle.

Open hours: 10.00am – 1.00pm Mon to Fri Tel 01832 274734, online at www.oundlefestival.org.uk

Any queries call Helen on 07743 988181 or email oundlelitfestival@hotmail.co.uk