DiscoverLady Killers with Lucy Worsley11. Christiana Edmunds - Chocolate Cream Killer
11. Christiana Edmunds - Chocolate Cream Killer

11. Christiana Edmunds - Chocolate Cream Killer

Update: 2023-03-203
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Lucy Worsley looks at the crimes of Victorian women from a contemporary, feminist perspective.

In the first case in her new series, Lucy explores the story of Christiana Edmunds, a respectable spinster who embarks on a mass poisoning spree when the man she loves fails to return her affection.

Lucy is joined by Dr Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has worked for many years at Broadmoor Hospital. Gwen offers fascinating insights into one of the most remarkable, and bizarre, cases of the Victorian era, a story of thwarted passion, lethal confectionery – and a very dangerous Lady Killer indeed.

When Christiana Edmunds and her elderly mother move to Brighton after a series of family bereavements, Christiana develops a dangerous romantic obsession with her doctor, Charles Beard, bombarding him with love letters. Happily married with small children, he asks Christiana to leave him alone, and she takes drastic action: she tries to kill his wife Emily with a chocolate she has poisoned with strychnine. Emily survives but to cover her tracks Christiana comes up with a devious, clever and deadly plan.

Rosalind Crone, Professor of History at the Open University, visits Brighton to explore how Christiana Edmunds procured her poison and presided over a reign of terror in the town in the early 1870s; and she goes to the Sussex County Archive to find out how the case gripped the public imagination and sent the press into a frenzy.

Lucy wants to know what might have caused Christiana to become a stalker and a poisoner? Was she driven mad by the boredom of her middle-class spinster life or was she just clever and devious? What would a psychiatrist, and a court of law, make of her today?

What does the case of Christiana Edmunds tell us about the lives of Victorian women, and about the lives of women today?

Producer: Jane Greenwood
Readers: Clare Corbett and Jonathan Keeble
Sound Design: Chris Maclean
Series Producer: Julia Hayball

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

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11. Christiana Edmunds - Chocolate Cream Killer

11. Christiana Edmunds - Chocolate Cream Killer

BBC Radio 4