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Misjudged Murderesses (Paperback)

Female Injustice in Victorian Britain

True Crime P&S History Social History Women of History Victorian Era

By Stephen Jakobi
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781526741622
Published: 5th August 2019

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Lacing tea with poison and slipping arsenic in to soup, this is what comes to mind we talk of murderesses of the Victorian age. Fuelled by a rumour-driven press and cases of notorious killers like Marry Ann Cotton, the Angel of Death, or Christiana Edmunds, the Chocolate Cream Killer, death by poisoning was a great anxiety of Victorian Britain.

But what about those women who were wrongly convicted? What about the suspects who fell victim of a biased jury and unrelenting press? What about these suspects who fell victim to domineering judges controlling complacent juries and the unrelenting press? In Misjudged Murderesses, Stephen Jakobi takes a forensic approach to examine the lives and trials of these eight women who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. With the aid of primary sources, and in three cases the ready assistance of descendants and local journalists, Misjudged Murderesses demonstrates the unfairness of their convictions even by the standards of the time. Highlighting common factors in poisoning cases that led to these miscarriages of justice, Stephen Jakobi shines a light on the hypocrisy of a legal system that in practice was wholly unfit for purpose.

There has recently been a BBC TV series in which QCs examine evidence presented in murder trials, many of them have been from Victorian times, and this book examines further and in greater detail some such cases involving women. If you find modern day forensic science fascinating, and the whole business of murder trials grips you, then this terrific book will be one you will want to read.

Books Monthly

I'm certainly glad that I read it.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

Filled to the brim with testimony from the various trials, it often makes for tough but fascinating reading. No doubt many of the egregious errors would have been challenged in a modern court or at the very least appealed. No such opportunity existed. It make the reader grateful to live in a different era where the scales of justice are not so heavily weighted in favour of the prosecution.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

This book was a fascinating account of the legal system with its middle-class, male bias. In all cases, there was a lack of evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the women accused were guilty, but with biased press reporting and lack of access to adequate legal representation, they were all found guilty by juries. Even more alarming was that at this time defendants in criminal cases were not allowed to give evidence in their own defence. Furthermore there was no right to appeal from the trial verdict. For anyone interested in true crime and history this is a compelling read, extensively researched and incredibly detailed.

NetGalley, Lou Barber

This book really makes you think, it was well researched and I was never bored when reading it. I think the author does a very good job in doing the research.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

Interesting cases and make dominating Victorian culture. I found the premise of the book very interesting and the historical aspect fascinating.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

This is a very well researched and presented book. The writing is informative and the topic well discussed.. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Victorian crime and/or the history of law.

NetGalley, Beverley Adams

As featured in

The Bookseller 10/5/19

About Stephen Jakobi

After Cambridge, Stephen Jakobi began a career in industry. His strong belief in justice led him to become a solicitor, working in private practice. In 1992 he founded the Human Rights organisation Fair Trials International and was adviser to the European institutions on subjects ranging from Guantánamo to the European arrest warrant. He was awarded an OBE in 2005. Author of In the Mind of a Female Serial Killer (2017) Misjudged Murderesses is his second true crime book.

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Wayward Women Female Offending in Victorian England (Paperback)

We most often think of the Victorian female offender in her most archetypal and stereotypical roles; the polite lady shoplifter, stowing all manner of valuables beneath her voluminous crinolines, the tragic street waif of Dickensian fiction or the vicious femme fatale who wreaked her terrible revenge with copious poison. Yet the stories in popular novels and the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the day have passed down to us only half the story of these women and their crimes. From the everyday street scuffles and pocket pickings of crowded slums, to the sensational trials that dominated national headlines;…

By Lucy Williams

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