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Oct 12

The Rainhill Lunatic

By the turn of the last century twenty-nine-year-old Mary Grainger had already been an inmate of three different mental institutions suffering from rigorous episodes of depression and paranoia. In March 1900 she was removed from the Toxteth workhouse and placed under the supervision of staff at Rainhill Lunatic Asylum.  Mary’s progress there appeared most favourable and she was seen to be practically convalescent by attendants closest to her. On the morning of August 1 at about half-past eight, Mary was carrying out some domestic work for the superintendent  Dr. Wigglesworth along with fellow patient Hannah Hancox, a former tailoress. For a short while the pair where left alone unsupervised to clean and tidy when suddenly the silence of the asylum was broken by terrific screams for mercy.  Dr. Wigglesworth came running into the room and found Hannah down on the floor with blood spewing out from the pierced veins of her neck. Above her sat Mary Grainger and in her grasp she held a small breadknife stolen from the matron’s kitchen. Hannah’s head lay to one side as Mary sawed away with great violence only relinquishing her fury when dragged physically to the floor and restrained by mortified asylum attendants. Dr. Wigglesworth set about stemming the flow from Hannah’s deeply mutilated oesophagus but with so much blood already amassed upon the floor, death was the only outcome. Mary stated quite coherently that upon waking that morning she felt an irresistible urge to kill, to kill anybody. It was pure misfortunate that her victim was the forty-nine-year-old Hannah Hancox and her murderous mental relapse was a shock to all. Later that week Mary stood trial before magistrates but it appeared to her that she was assisting in some sort of marriage ceremony, singing, whistling and asking bizarre questions to anyone present. The young woman was clearly insane but for a crime such as murder she would have no choice but to stand trial before a Crown Court and face the highest of penalties. News of the grisly affair reached the office of the Home Secretary Sir Matthew White Ridley who ordered a halt to the proceedings and had Mary admitted to Broadmoor. She was to be officially locked away for fear of public safety allowed only to reside with fellow criminal lunatics for the rest of her days.

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