Documents arranging hanging of serial killer Mary Ann Cotton to go under the hammer

A telegram from the Deputy Governor of Durham County Prison arranging the hanging of Mary Ann Cotton. Credit: Tennants

Documents relating to the execution of the UK's first serial killer Mary AnnCotton are set to be auctioned.

The four documents detail arrangements for the hanging of Cotton at Durham Prison in 1873 after she left a trail of death across the North East in the Victorian era.

This bundle has an estimate of between £400 and £500.

They will go under the hammer at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn, NorthYorkshire, as part of a specialist book sale on January 4th.

The auction comes after the recent airing of ITV's hit two-part drama DarkAngel starring Joanne Froggatt about the killer's life.

Cotton was convicted and hanged for the murder of her stepson, CharlesEdward but it is widely understood she killed as many as 21 people, including three of her four husbands and 11 of her 13 children.

She murdered her victims by adding arsenic to cups of tea, which she brewed in a small teapot.

- Telegram from James Young, Deputy Governor of Durham County Prison, to John Milnes Favell the Coroner for Chester Ward, Co. Durham, dated 22nd March 1873: 'Mary Ann Cotton is to be executed on Monday morning at the usual hour please make arrangements to Credit: Tennants

Among the documents is a telegram from the Deputy Governor of Durham County Prison, James Young, to John Milnes Favell the Coroner for Chester Ward, County Durham, dated March 22, 1873, is included in the lot.

It reads:

"Mary Ann Cotton is to be executed on Monday morning at the usual hour please make arrangements to hold inquest."

Telegram from James Young to John Milnes Favell, 1873

Also included is the official Crown warrant: a single sheet filled and signedin ink by the Coroner dated March 22, 1873, authorising the Constables ofElvet to assemble a jury. It also names the 13 male jurors including the Foreman.

Five signed witness statements recorded by the Coroner, from the DeputyGovernor, Surgeon and Wardens of Durham Prison, identifying Cotton's body and the 'Inquisition' death certificate in a neat clerical hand on a singlelarge sheet of parchment, signed by the 13 jurors plus Favell, each having made their mark on the wax seals beside their signatures, will also go to the highest bidder.

Cotton was born Mary Ann Robson in 1832 in Low Moorsley near Hetton-le-Hole.

The murderess moved to West Auckland with her fourth husband, FrederickCotton, three years before her trial and subsequent death by hanging at Durham Prison, on March 24, 1873.

Tennant's book specialist, Jasper Jennings, said the documents were put upfor auction by a County Durham couple and have generated interest because of the notoriety of Cotton.

A private couple have come forward with these four documents which are the formalities that needed signing like the death certificate and the telegram to the coroner which is rather cold saying she is to be executed.

Jasper Jennings

They follow a successful previous lot of eight letters written by Cottonfrom her prison cell together with her King James Bible which were sold for£2,200 in 2013 and a collection of Letters to the killer, along with a contemporary portrait of her which made £1,500 in September.