Bitter coffee



A poison mystery of Dalkeith was resolved in March 1911 by the accused committing suicide.

Mr Charles Hutchinson and Alexander Clapperton died after drinking coffee found to contain large quantities of arsenic.

Twelve others were also taken seriously ill. The incident occurred at a party on February 3rd.

Suspicion naturally fell to the son of one of the deceased, James Hutchinson, who attended the party but did not partake of any of the coffee.

He worked as a chemist dispenser at his uncle’s shop in Musselburgh. Upon further investigation the uncle’s shop was searched, and it was discovered that a jar of arsenic and some prussic acid were missing from the potions cupboard. A warrant for the son’s arrest was then issued.

The Police traced James Hutchinson to a boarding-house in Guernsey and a Sergeant was on the point of arresting him when the accused darted upstairs, drew a phial from his trouser pocket and swallowed the contents. The Sergeant who had chased him upstairs, knocked the phial out of his hand, but he was not quick enough. He attempted to force the man to vomit up the poison by administering a mustard emetic.

However James Hutchinson could not be saved, and died a few minutes after the arrival of a doctor and ten minutes after taking the poison.

The presumed motive for the murder was that James Hutchinson hoped to obtain his father’s money in order to discharge himself of his financial difficulties. He had made the mistake of over-indulging himself throughout his life and was in dire need of financial relief.

This page was added on 22/11/2013.

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