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THE 1950s

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Introduction

The media coverage of Louisa May Merrifield's case is often compared to the Ellis and Christofi cases.

The Case Details

Lousia Merrifield, at the age of 46, had been married three times and already served a prison sentence for fraud. With her third husband, 71 year old Alfred, she had had 20 domestic jobs in almost 3 years.

On 12 March 1953 the Merrifields accepted a position as resident housekeepers and companions to Mrs. Sarah Ann Ricketts, an elderly woman who owned a modern bungalow in Blackpool. Friction soon arose, with Mrs. Ricketts complaining that she did not get enough to eat and Louisa boasting to various friends that she had worked for an old woman who had died and left her a bungalow worth GBP 3000 (in 1953 money). When asked who had died, Louisa Merrifield replied "She's not dead yet, but she soon will be".

On 9 April 1953 Louisa asked a Doctor to certify that Mrs. Ricketts was fit and sane enough to make a new will. On 14 April 1953, Mrs. Ricketts died. Her post-mortem revealed that she had died from phosphorous poisoning. The police searched the bungalow and its garden, with the Merrifields still in residence, although they found no poison. Lousia Merrifield requested the local Salvation Army band to play "Abide with Me" outside the bungalow.

Lousia and Alfred Merrifield were both tried together with murder at Manchester in July 1953. The prosecution's case was that the Merrifields had murdered Mrs. Ricketts with phosphorous in the form of a rat poison, and that they would benefit financially from Mrs. Ricketts' death. Witnesses also testified to the earlier remarks made by Lousia Merrifield about her wealthy old women who had not died yet.

Louisa Merrifield was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The jury failed to reach a verdict on Alfred Merrifield. He was released and inherited a half-share in the late Mrs. Ricketts' bungalow. He died, aged 80, in 1962.

Lousia Merrifield was hanged at Manchester's Strangeways Prison on 18 September 1953.

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