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A.K.A.: "The Blackpool Poisoner"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - To inherit
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 14, 1953
Date of arrest: April 30, 1953
Date of birth: 1906
Victim profile: Sarah Ann Ricketts, 79
Method of murder: Poisoning (phosphorous)
Location: Blackpool, Lancashire, North West England, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Manchester's Strangeways Prison on September 18, 1953
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Louisa Merrifield, at the age of 46, had been married three times and already served a prison sentence for fraud. With her third husband, 71 year old Alfred, she had had 20 domestic jobs in almost 3 years.

On 12 March 1953 the Merrifields accepted a position as resident housekeepers and companions to Mrs. Sarah Ann Ricketts, an elderly woman who owned a modern bungalow in Blackpool. Friction soon arose, with Mrs. Ricketts complaining that she did not get enough to eat and Louisa boasting to various friends that she had worked for an old woman who had died and left her a bungalow worth GBP 3000 (in 1953 money). When asked who had died, Louisa Merrifield replied "She's not dead yet, but she soon will be".

On 9 April 1953 Louisa asked a Doctor to certify that Mrs. Ricketts was fit and sane enough to make a new will. On 14 April 1953, Mrs. Ricketts died. Her post-mortem revealed that she had died from phosphorous poisoning. The police searched the bungalow and its garden, with the Merrifields still in residence, although they found no poison. Louisa Merrifield requested the local Salvation Army band to play "Abide with Me" outside the bungalow.

Louisa and Alfred Merrifield were both tried together with murder at Manchester in July 1953. The prosecution's case was that the Merrifields had murdered Mrs. Ricketts with phosphorous in the form of a rat poison, and that they would benefit financially from Mrs. Ricketts' death. Witnesses also testified to the earlier remarks made by Louisa Merrifield about her wealthy old women who had not died yet.

Louisa Merrifield was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The jury failed to reach a verdict on Alfred Merrifield. He was released and inherited a half-share in the late Mrs. Ricketts' bungalow. He died, aged 80, in 1962.

Louisa Merrifield was hanged at Manchester's Strangeways Prison on 18 September 1953.


Louisa May Merrifield

Louisa married her third husband, Alfred Edward Merrifield, in February 1953. She was forty-six years old and he was seventy-four. She had spent time in prison for ration book fraud and had had twenty domestic jobs in the previous three years. The pair took up a position as live-in housekeepers to Mrs Sarah Ann Ricketts on 12th March 1953. Mrs Ricketts was a grouchy old woman who was nearly eighty years old. She complained incessantly that her new domestics did not give her enough to eat and that they wasted her money on prodigious quantities of rum.

Mrs Ricketts owned the modern bungalow where she lived in Blackpool. Louisa boasted to various people that she had been lucky and that the old woman that she worked for had died and left her a £3,000 bungalow. When they asked when the woman had died, Louisa had replied, "She's not dead yet, but she soon will be."

Mrs Ricketts died on 14th April but Louisa invited suspicion by not calling the doctor until the following morning, telling him that she did not want to go out at that time of night. When she also tried to hurry through the cremation, the authorities were alerted. A post-mortem revealed that death was due to phosphorus poisoning and both of the Merrifields were arrested.

Their trial opened at Manchester in July 1953. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on her husband but Louisa was plainly guilty and was sentenced to death. She was hanged at Strangeways Prison on 18th September 1953. Alfred was released and inherited a half-share in the bungalow. He appeared in Blackpool sideshows before he died in 1962, aged eighty.


Louisa May Merrifield

12th March 1953, Louisa and her third husband Alfred took job's as domestic servants for the 87 year old spinster, Sarah Ricketts, It would seem that Louisa, who had already served time for fraud had no intention of working too hard for her new employer. Mrs. Ricketts owned a very nice bungalow in Blackpool, and Louisa was heard saying that she was to inherit a bungalow.

9th April 1953, Louisa asked a local doctor to certify Mrs Ricketts was of sound mind. This he did, Louisa administered rat poison to her beloved jam.

14th April 1953, Mrs Ricketts was found dead, suspicion was on the Merrifield's and a post mortem was done, The rat poison Rodine was found in her system, the couple were duly arrested.

20th July 1953, At Manchester Assizes Louisa was found guilty, husband Alfred was acquitted due to lack of evidence. He was released and inherited a half-share in the late Mrs. Ricketts' bungalow. He died, aged 80, in 1962.

Friday 18th September 1953, Louisa was hanged, the last woman ever to be hanged at Manchester's Strangeways prison, by executioner Albert Pierrepoint.


Housekeeper Foretold Death

Visiting a friend, 46-year-old Mrs. Louisa May Merrifield said she couldn’t stay long because she had to go home to lay out an elderly woman. Asked who had died, she replied: “She’s not dead yet, but she soon will be.”

The elderly woman was 79-year-old Mrs. Sarah Ann Ricketts, to whom Mrs. Merrifield and her husband had become housekeepers at her Blackpool home a month earlier in March 1953, subsequently persuading her to change her will and leave them her bungalow.

This, however, was not unusual. Mrs. Ricketts was always talking of changing her will as one beneficiary after another displeased her. But this time, Mrs. Merrifield had decided, the change would be final. Mrs. Ricketts would have no chance to make another will.

Within days Mrs. Merrifield was boasting that her employer was leaving her the bungalow, and this was true. At Mrs. Ricketts’s request, her solicitor had called and drawn up a new will in the Merrifields’ favour.

On April 10th Mrs. Merrifield called Dr. Yule to see her employer, asking him to certify that Mrs. Ricketts had been in a fit state to make a will. She feared the old lady might die suddenly, she explained, and in that event she wished to avoid trouble with Mrs. Ricketts’s relatives.

Three days later she called Dr. Wood, saying that Mrs. Ricketts was seriously ill. He was annoyed to find that the patient was merely suffering from a light touch of bronchitis.

The next morning, APRIL 14th, his partner was summoned. He found that Mrs. Ricketts was dead, and said that Dr. Yule must be called. Dr. Yule refused to sign a death certificate.

Then Mrs. Merrifield’s friend Mrs. Brewer saw Mrs. Ricketts’s death notice in the newspaper. Realising that Louisa had told her that Mrs. Ricketts was dead three days in advance of the event, she phoned the police.

An autopsy found that Mrs. Ricketts had died from phosphorus poisoning, having ingested an ingredient of the rat poison Rodine.

No poison was found when police searched the bungalow. Meanwhile Mrs. Merrifield asked the Salvation Army to come and play “Abide with Me” outside the house.

She was arrested 14 days later, her husband’s arrest following shortly afterwards. Convicted of murder when she was tried at Manchester, Mrs. Merrifield was hanged at Strangeways Prison on September 18th, 1953.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict in respect of her 71-year-old husband Alfred, who was released to inherit a half-share in Mrs. Ricketts’s bungalow. He later appeared in Blackpool sideshows, and died in 1962 aged 80.



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