George Henry Lamson.

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he was called upstairs as soon as the unfavourable symptoms began
to present themselves. At the same time Dr. Little was sent for,
and both gentlemen remained with Mr. Malcolm John until he died
in great agony at half-past eleven o'clock the same night.

Before his death the deceased made a statement which has caused
grave suspicions.

The coroner for the western district of Surrey, Mr. J. H. Hall, of
Kingston-on-Thames, has been communicated with, and will open an
inquest on the body of the deceased to-day or to-morrow.

On inquiry having been made of the police at Scotland Yard last
night, it was stated that an order had been issued for an arrest,
which, however, was subsequently countermanded.


Dr. Lamson.


(From Daily Telegraph, 10th December, 1881.)

At the close of the business at Wandsworth, yesterday, Mr. Glad-
stone, instructed by Mr. A. W. Mills, applied to Mr. Paget to admit
Dr. Lamson, who was in custody on suspicion of poisoning Percy
Malcolm John, a student at Blenheim House School, at Wimbledon,
to bail.

He said he did so on the grounds that the accueed was in a delicate
state of health, and that he willingly surrendered himself at Scotland
Yard, where there was not any warrant or charge against him. His
father, who was at present in Florence, was expected in England, and
would be able to provide bail.

Mr. Paget said he did not think it was his duty to admit the accused
to bail.

Mr. Gladstone It is in your discretion, I know.

Mr. Paget I am quite aware of the power, but it is a charge of
extreme gravity, and I don't think it would be consistent with my
duty to grant bail.

Mr. Gladstone then called attention to the fact that the accused
willingly came over from Paris to surrender.

Mr. Paget said there was no question about that.

Mr. Gladstone observed that if the accused had been anxious to
avoid the charge he would have remained in Paris, and it would have
taken a long time to put the Extradition Act in force.

Mr. Paget said if the accused had not surrendered it would have
afforded strong evidence against himself.

Mr. Gladstone thought the magistrate would admit that by the
accused surrendering it was strong evidence in his favour.

Mr. Paget You must not ask me that question.

In dealing with the application, Mr. Paget said it was always with
great reluctance that he refused the application of a prisoner, but he
did not think he ought to go beyond the Act of Parliament and incur
responsibilities which he ought not to do. He refused bail.

Mr. Gladstone then applied for a copy of the depositions, with a
view of making an application in Judges' Chambers for bail.

Mr. Paget said the prisoner was not entitled to a copy of the de-
positions until they were completed. However, the magistrate read
over the whole of the depositions taken before him on the previous
day for the information of Mr. Gladstone, who took notes of the
important points, particularly of those contained in the medical

Mr. Gladstone then asked for the actual charge.

Appendix III.

Mr. Paget read out the charge, which was to the effect that he
(the accused) did kill and murder Percy Malcolm John. He eaid it was
murder or nothing.

Mr. Gladstone said he was much obliged to the magistrate for the
information, and he was sorry for detaining him so long.


(From Daily Telegraph, 21st December, 1881.)

The demand of the chemist who has charge of the analysis in the case
of the death of Percy Malcolm John, at Wimbledon, for a delay in
order that he may obtain a licence to experiment on animals, is some-
what remarkable, the more so as a great number of authorities have
written upon the action of aconita, traces of which were found in Mr.
John's stomach, and a great deal of information as to its effects and its
antidotes is readily obtainable. As is well known to every student of
the materia raedica, aconita is an alkaloid expressed by the formula
C33 H43 N012, obtainable from the root of aconitum napellus (monks-
hood), where it exists in large quantities according to Taylor on
Poisons, twelve to thirty-six grains in every Ib. of root. It is to be
found in the leaves and stem of the plant, but the greatest quantity
ie in the root. Its effects are of so deadly a nature that in the opinion
of various authorities from one-third to one-tenth of a grain would
prove fatal to human life ; even while in the root it is so potent that
Dr. Taylor is able to cite a case in which a man died at Bristol in
1853 from having eaten as much of the root in mistake for horse-radish
aa could be put on the point of a knife. Here, it may at once be
remarked, is one of its chief dangers. Its leaf may easily be mistaken
for parsley, its root for common horse-radish. So great is the chance
of this, indeed, that Professor Bentley some time ago thought fit to
give in the Pharmaceutical Journal the exact points of difference.
He mentioned that, while monkshood was conical in form (something
like parsnip), tapering perceptibly to a point, and coffee-coloured, or
more or less brownish externally, has a merely earthly odour, and
tastes at first bitter, though afterwards producing a tingling and burn-
ing sensation, horse-radish is but slightly conical at the crown, then
cylindrical, or nearly so, and always of the same thickness for some
inches ; that it has a white or yellowish tinge ; and that the odour is
especially developed upon scraping, when it is very pungent and
irritating bitter and sweet, according to circumstances. Still, although


Dr. Lamson.

it is not difficult to detect monkshood when it and horse-radish are
side by side, experience has shown that it may easily be mistaken,
and with fatal results. Besides the case already quoted, Dr. Taylor
mentions one at Dingwall, in Scotland, in 1856, when three persons
died from making the blunder. Dr. Tardieu, in his celebrated work,
cites several instances ; while Dr. Pereira, in his valuable book on the
elements of the materia medica, gives a case which is so interesting
as to require at this moment some attention. He states that in
December, 1836, one Mr. Prescott, living then in the City Road,
planted some horse-radish in his garden. On 5th February following
he and his wife and child ate, as they thought, some of the roots thus
set. But he died in four hours from the effects of aconite poisoning,
and the others narrowly escaped with their lives. The f..cts are de-
tailed at length, and it will be seen on reference that in each instance
the symptoms were exactly the same as those noted in ordinary cases
of poisoning by aconita, namely, burning sensation in the stomach,
numbness of extremities, dilation of pupil, continued clearness of in-
tellect to the last, great prostration of system, enfeebled action of the
heart and pulse, great inclination to vomiting and purging, and a
sensation of choking at the throat. Dr. Pereira goes on to say that the
leaves of monkshood are also very virulent, his view of the matter
being supported by Dr. Taylor, who says that on two or three
occasions death had ensued upon their consumption by mistake. These
facts are interesting for the reason that, supposing a small quantity
of monkshood had by any chance been mixed with any horse-radish
on the table at the Wimbledon school, or a leaf of the plant been
accidentally mixed with any parsley used for decorating dishes, death
from aconita might ensue, and the traces of aconita be found in the
stomach of the deceased person.

Aconita is but rarely administered in England in any form but as
an ointment. There are cases, notably one given in Naphy's " Medical
Therapeutics," in which an American doctor strongly recommends
for headache of all kinds an Internal application of this drug, mixed
in certain proportions with bromide of potassium ; and Dr. E. Seguin
used to advocate the use of Duquesnal's aconita in doses of from
l-80th to l-200th of a grain for tregeminal neuralgia. But it is more
frequently as an unguent that it is applied. Then it is rubbed in
externally upon the seat of neuralgic pain with, according to many
medical men, amongst them Dr. Headland, Dr. A. Turnbull, and Dr.
H. W. Fuller, good effects. For internal use the tincture or extract
of aconite is generally used more frequently the tincture, and this is
employed by allopaths and homoeopaths as well, in different ways, of
course. Aconite is itself crystalline in shape and appearance, very
bitter to the taste, and produces almost immediately after being used
a sense of tingling and burning in the mouth and throat. Its effects are
exceedingly rapid, and, according to " Momet's Note Book on Materia
Medica," paralyses the sensory nerves, sets up the symptoms before
mentioned, reduces the pulse to about 40, and renders it hardly dis-

Appendix III.

cernible, lowers the action of the heart, first dilates and then contracts
the pupils of the eyes, covers the face of the patient with a careworn
expression, and then suddenly kills him. It operates on the heart
and its contained ganglia, paralysing them and the muscles of respira-
tion as well as the motor nerves. There are several antidotes, notably
an injection of atropia (such as was used in the case of Mr. John),
but, according to Momet, more effectively an injection of digitalis,
this being a physiological antidote to the action of aconita on the heart,
a case being quoted in point. Drs. Taylor, Naphys, Tardieu, Momet,
and, indeed, all authorities seem to be agreed upon the symptoms
which poisoning by this essence of monkshood brings about, and its
use in medicine, while in Beasley's prescriptions the opinions of all
are summed up in the following words : " It is anodyne, sedative,
diuretic, and diaphoretic. It produces a sensation of tingling and
numbness in the mouth and throat and the parts to which it is applied ;
it is used to relieve neuralgia and rheumatic pains ; it is also occasion-
ally administered in hypertrophy of the heart, dropsy, consumption,
gastralgia, tetanus, &c. It is invaluable in all cases of inflammation
with high temperature and quick pulse. Administered in the form
of a tincture, in doses of one minim to a drachm of water every hour,
it soon reduces the heat of the body, produces a gentle diaphoresis, and
lowers the action of the heart. It must be administered with great
caution, and the state of the pulse ascertained before a dose is repeated.
Aconita from the root is not used internally. In the form of tincture
it forms one of the most highly-prized homoeopathic remedies. Dr.
Hahnemann, in his book, especially dwells upon this, lauding its quali-
ties and giving a long list of the symptoms it produces, and that it
meets. In his opinion it is so potent that globules soaked in the
proportion of 1000 to a drop of saturated spirit or tincture, 300 of
these globules weighing only a grain altogether, are of the utmost use
when administered only at the rate of two or three at a time ; while
he claims for a single globule kept in a small glass bottle the power
of instantly relieving headache by the simple process of olf action. " Dr.
Taylor, too, as an allopath, while classing aconite, aconitine, and
aconitia all under the head of cerebro-spinal poisons, testifies to their
excellent effects when carefully administered, while an endless array of
medical men using them frequently could be easily adduced did space
allow. It is noteworthy that originally the medicinal properties of monks-
hood were discovered in Vienna by Dr. Strock, and that to Dr
Fleming, of Birmingham, belongs the credit of first extensively using
it here. The letter from the Chemical Laboratory of Guy's Hospital
would almost indicate that but little was known of the action of
the drug on the human frame ; but Dr. Taylor mentions that between
the years 1861 and 1873 upwards of nineteen cases of poisoning by
aconite in some form or other occurred in the Punjab alone, and the
evidence required should not, therefore, be difficult to obtain. It is
to be noted meanwhile that the active principle is found in great
quantities in the root and leaves of the plant from which it is obtained ;
L 161

Dr. Lamson.

that the root may be easily mistaken for that of horse-radish, and
the leaf for parsley ; that in cases where it has been taken inadvertently
in this raw state the symptoms have been exactly the same as those
which have been noted when poisoning by the crystallised form or the
tincture has taken place, and that, consequently, in order to die and
leave traces of aconite in the stomach is not necessarily to have been
poisoned by other than accident. Another fact is established, and
it is that, while in some cases death has resulted upon the incautious
taking of the tenth of a grain of aconita, there are instances in which
a much larger dose has been given without fatal injury, as instance a
case cited by Dr. Taylor in which a man recovered after taking upwards
of 2 grains ; and that though not frequently used in this country as
internal medicine, aconita is given both in America and on the Con-
tinent in email quantities for a great number of complaints, amongst
them affections of the spine and paralysis of the extremities of the
body. One other point will possibly prove of interest in connection
with the Wimbledon inquiry, namely, that aconita, though dissolvable
in fifty parts of hot and fifty parts of cold water, is more readily
soluble in alcohol, and that in such a medium as a glass of sherry
might be given either as a medicine or otherwise without much diffi-
culty. For the rest it is a singular fact that as now so at the period
when the celebrated Rugeley poisoning case was first under investiga-
tion, the action of a poison, at that time only partially understood, was
especially matter for consideration, Sir Alexander Cockburn, then
chief counsel for the prosecution, himself making a series of experi-
ments in the effects of strychnine upon the lower orders of animals.


(From the Daily Telegraph, Saturday, 31st December, 1881.)

It would be difficult at any time to attempt to divine why the
majority of people who fill police courts when any notable case is
under consideration are there, but the throng which struggled for
places yesterday morning in the upper court of Bow Street perhaps

the most extraordinary that ever attended such a hearing. In the
dock sat a medical man charged with a mysterious act of poisoning.
It would, therefore, have been easy to understand the presence of a
large number of medical practitioners or students. Had half the
amateurs of forensic medicine that London possesses been in the Court
no one would have had any right to be surprised. The action of
aconitia upon the human frame, although never a mystery before, has

Appendix IV.

been made so strange a thing now that, had every man whose aid
could by any possibility be called in to a poisoning case been anxious
to get a place in Court, there would have been fair reason for the
eagerness displayed. More than this, Dr. Lamson is no ordinary
doctor, but a man of some fame and reputation. He has travelled
abroad, served in several ambulances, though how he came to obtain
the Fifth Class of the Medjidieh for attending sick Servians is not
very clear ; and he would naturally have a large acquaintance. People
who move from capital to capital, and visit various scenes of action
particularly in war time do vastly enlarge the circle of those they
know, and Dr. Lamson's friends might also have been expected to
share the space of the Court in great force. Then, again, there is
that large and curious class in London, the respectable, independent
people who, apparently, have nothing else to do, and who, for the
mere sake of killing time, ettend weddings, funerals, notorious police
examinations, coroners' inquests, and railway accident inquiries. Of
them it was fair to expect a certain contingent. So that had the
room none too large, by the way, though the inquiry has been
moved thither for better accommodation been filled with them, the
audience would have been what one might fairly have expected. But
that was by no means what was to be seen. Every inch of the Court
was taken up ; but the audience that seemed so eager to hear what
took place belonged neither to the medical profession nor to the
circle of Dr. Lamson'e acquaintances, nor to thoughtful people anxious
to be informed as to the action of aconitia, nor to the common class
before mentioned ; but to the street arab contingent, the waifs and
strays of London, and the rough element known as the tag-rag and
bobtail. There they were, gathered together for no visible reason,
and yet all as intent upon what was happening as though the story
unfolded before Sir James Ingham was of the greatest possible interest,
and as easily comprehensible as a nursery tale. Youths in fustian,
and youths that would have been very glad to have possessed fustian
in place of the rags and tatters they wore ; men who loaf about the
streets and do nothing but ask for alms or drink ; odd people on
whose appearance " no employment " was as clearly written as though
it had been printed in conspicuous letters all over them ; these made
up the crowd which the policemen in charge of the Court willingly
admitted, to the exclusion or discomfort of many persons who had
business there, and were obliged to choose between going away or
staying to be inconveniently pressed or crowded.

But if the composition of the audience was strange, the appearance
and demeanour of the prisoner were stranger still. A man verging
upon the middle age, of a sallow complexion, with a moustache and
beard that had been allowed of late to run a little wild, dark hair,
of slight stature, clothed in a rusty suit of black, and wearing such
shoes, socks, and necktie as to indicate a certain impecuniosity such
was the principal actor in the scene at the Court. The dock was
evidently not intended for comfort, and was so narrow that a chair,


Dr. Lamson.

in order to be properly placed, must needs stand sideways therein;
and so it came about that Dr. Lamson was to be seen seated not
facing the magistrate at all, but rather looking at the door, with
his legs crossed and his feet resting on the bars or on
the rails of the dock, leaving his ankles well exposed to the view of
all present. The attitude was peculiar, the prisoner's behaviour
still more so. He literally paid no attention whatever to what was
going on, during the greater part of the time at least. He did not
even look at the magistrate or at the prosecuting counsel ; was, in
fact, spending his time in criticising the crowd more than attending
to the witnesses, and might have been, for all the emotion he
exhibited, the most unconcerned spectator in the Court. This was
the more extraordinary, for the evidence which was given after that
which had been tendered at Wandsworth had been gone through,
was hardly of the kind to put him strictly at ease. The story of his
friend Tulloch, who changed a valueless cheque for him ; the deposi-
tion of the proprietor of Nelson's Hotel, from whom he borrowed
money, and to whom he wrote an extraordinary letter ; the informa-
tion respecting his wanderings and his purchases of sweetmeats, and
his account of Mr. John's condition at Wimbledon were none of
them precisely the kind of statement which would conduce to placing
the prisoner more at his ease; but he paid no attention, and simply
contented himself with looking at the throng as though he had no
interest whatever in the proceedings. These were interesting, how-
ever, to all else in the Court, to the motley throng even, for they
threw into the case that element of doubt which is inseparable from
all such charges as the one now being investigated. The presence
of aconitine in some of the quinine powders was not viewed alike
by all who looked intelligently into the matter, the near resemblance
between the two drugs being so notable as to suggest the inquiry
whether they might not have been used by mistake ; while, when
the mention of morphia was made, and the injection administered by
the doctors who attended Mr. John in his illness dwelt upon, the
recollection that this was really the very last drug that should have
been exhibited in a case of aconite poisoning was powerfully present
to many minds. It now remains, however, for the analysts to justify
the assertion made by Mr. Wontner, namely, that Morson's preparation
of aconitine has been found in the stomach of the deceased. The fact
that animals have died from the effects of that poison in a similar
manner to those who ate a portion of the intestines of the deceased proves
nothing. The action of aconite in any form is to all practical pur-
poses the same, if the observations of Pereira, Taylor, ISaphys, and
Tardieu, with many another authority, be of any value, so that the
proceedings at the next examination may be looked forward to with
great interest. Aconite is a drug much affected by American doctors
for many cases of sickness in which it would never be administered
by English medical men, and, of course, its presence in the powder
and pills may be satisfactorily accounted for. At any rate, the case,

Appendix IV.

as watched by Mr. Montagu Williams, is at present replete with
interest and full of strange possibilities.

George Henry Lamson, M.D., was yesterday morning brought up
at Bow Street, before Sir James Ingham, for further examination
on the charge of wilfully murdering Percy Malcolm John, his brother-

Mr. St. John Wontner appeared for the prosecution, and Mr.
Montagu Williams and Mr. Gladstone (instructed by Mr. A. W.
Mills) for the prisoner.

The witnesses examined at Wandsworth Police Court were again
called, and severally reaffirmed their depositions, which they formally

Dr. Little, who with Mr. D. W. Berry, surgeon, attended the de-
ceased, wished to add to his evidence that the vomit submitted for
analysis was not collected solely from the floor of the water-closet,
but principally from a basin into which the deceased had vomited.
A portion of the vomit, however, was taken from the water-closet
floor and the bath.

Mr. W. R. Dodd, the chemist's assistant who sold the prisoner a
quantity of aconitia, having been called,

Mr. Wontner said I wish to say in regard to this witness that at
the time he was called, and indeed up to yesterday, neither he, nor
any one else, could have known the nature of the poison, if any,
actually taken by the deceased. He, when examined, gave an
opinion as to what it was he sold the prisoner, but it is only now
that he knows the poison found in the deceased was aconitia. Up
to the present he could not have known what poison would be found
in deceased's body.

In reference to the evidence of Mr. Charles Oscar Betts, assistant
to Messrs. Hanbury, chemists, one of the two who served the prisoner
with aconitia,

Mr. Wontner said I may explain for your worship's information
that this witness wae examined at the inquest. The two assistants,
on reading an account of this case in the papers, were struck with
the name, and the following morning they looked in the " Medical
Directory." They put their heads together, and, whereas they at
first believed it was atropia they sold the prisoner, they subsequently
found it was aconitia. They communicated with Mr. Hanbury,
their principal, and he communicated with Mr. Hux, the solicitor to
the firm, who went at once to Scotland Yard. That is what led
to these proceedings. As I said before, no one at the time could have
known what sort of poison would be found in deceased's body.

Mr. George Edward Stirling, assistant to Messrs Bell & Co.,
chemists, of Oxford Street, repeated the evidence given by him on the
previous day, that in November he made up a prescription of morphia
and atropia for the prisoner. Two other prescriptions were produced


Dr. Lamson.

by Mr. Wontner, who asked witness whether they were the same
as those made up for the prisoner. Witness replied that they were
they were written by the prisoner. One was signed " G. H. L.," and
the other " G. H. Lamson, M.D."

Mr. Wontner, handing up to the magistrate a copy of the " Medical
Directory," said I wish to call your worship's attention to the
rather remarkable alleged qualifications of the prisoner. The entry
was as follows: "Lamson, George Henry, ' Hursley/ Poole Road,
Bournemouth, Hante M.D. Paris, 1870; L.R.C.P. Edin. and L.M.,

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