Charlotte Bryant was an illiterate 33 year old Mother of 5 children who poisoned her husband. She had met her husband, Fredrick Bryant, while he was serving as a Corporal in the Military Police in Ireland during the period known as ‘The Troubles’; which referred to the guerrilla warfare which occurred in 1920-21.
After being brought back to England with her husband, their initially happy marriage soon lost its charm. During this period, unemployment was high. Also following the end of World War One and the division of Ireland, soldiers were no longer wanted or need.
In 1925 Frederick (or Fred) Bryant became a farm labourer and moved with his family into a tied cottage on a farm located on the Dorset-Somerset border. Charlotte Bryant quickly acquired a local reputation for illicit affairs and several derogatory nicknames. Charlotte Bryant neglected her husband and five children for extra-martial affairs.
In December 1933 a peddler and horse-dealer called Leonard Parsons, began lodging at their cottage as a paying guest. However, in 1934 Frederick Bryant was dismissed from his position as a farm labourer. Following this dismissal, the Bryants moved east to Coombe, and carried on their life as before.
In May 1935, Frederick Bryant, who was 39 years old, was taken ill. Their family doctor diagnosed his illness as gastroenteritis, and after a few days Frederick Bryant returned to work. However, on 11 December 1935, he was taken ill with severe stomach pains. Again he recovered, but on 22 December 1935 he again suffered severe stomach pains and died aged 39 years’ old.
The post mortem found 4.09 grains of arsenic in Frederick Bryant’s body. On 10 February 1936, Charlotte Bryant was charged with the murder of her husband. During a search of the Bryant’s cottage, the police found a tin on a rubbish tip located at the rear of the Bryant’s cottage. Later analysis of the tin found that it had been used to contain arsenic-based weed killer. Also traces of arsenic were found in the pockets of one of Charlotte Bryant’s coats.
On 27 May 1936, the trial of Charlotte Bryant for the murder of her husband opened at Dorchester. The trial judge was Mr Justice Mackinnon, the prosecution case was presented by the Solicitor-General Sir Terrence O’Connor and Charlotte Bryant was represented by Mr J.D. Casswell. Charlotte Bryant did not seem to follow what was going on during her trial. The prosecution case was that she poisoned her husband by lacing his Oxo drink with arsenic. After several attempts, she finally succeeded in killing her husband. It was also claimed that she had become with her husband’s indifferent attitude to her, and so she took a lover. Charlotte Bryant was found guilty of her husband’s murder and sentenced to death.
On 15 July 1936, Charlotte Bryant was executed at Exeter Prison. She was aged 33 years’ old.