Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Dorothea Nancy WADDINGHAM






A.K.A.: "Nurse Waddingham"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Killed nursing home patients with morphine for inheritance
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: May 12/September 10, 1935
Date of arrest: January 1936
Date of birth: 1899
Victim profile: Louisa Baguley, 89, and her daughter Ada Baguley, 50
Method of murder: Poisoning (morphine)
Location: Nottingham, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham on April 16, 1938
photo gallery

Dorothea Nancy Waddingham (1899 - 16 April 1936) was a nursing home matron and convicted murderer in the United Kingdom.


Dorothea Waddingham is usually referred to as "Nurse" Waddingham, because the two murders she was accused and convicted of were committed in a nursing home she ran near Nottingham England. In actuality she had no right to the title nurse. Born on a farm near Nottingham, the only medical training she may have been able to get was as a ward-maid at an infirmary near Burton-on-Trent.

She married a man named Thomas Willoughby Leech in 1925. He was twice her age and dying of cancer. During their marriage she served two prison terms, for fraud and for theft. Leech died in 1930, at which time Waddingham was seeing another man named Ronald Joseph Sullivan. Sullivan had fought in World War I and actually won the Military Medal for gallantry and also served in Ireland after the war. They would marry and have four children. While married to Sullivan she began to take in elderly and infirm patients, and turned her home at 32 Devon Drive, Nottingham into a nursing home.


It appears that prior to the arrival of the Baguleys the nursing home was doing fairly well in a small way. A Mrs Blagg, the Honorary Secretary of the County Nursing Association, approved of Waddingham's work, and arranged for a Mrs Baguley who was 89 and her daughter Ada (who had disseminated sclerosis or "creeping paralysis") to become patients. In February 1935 another patient named Mrs Kemp died from an illness which required large dosages of morphine. Plenty of the drug remained on the premises of Waddingham's nursing home.

Ada Baguley had made out a will leaving her estate of £1,600 in trust for her mother after her death, and with the rest to be divided between two cousins, Lawrence Baguley and Fred Guilbert after her mother died. Ada had been informed that it was likely she would precede her mother in death. However, this will was destroyed by Ada in May 1935, and a new will created that left all the money to Dorothea Waddingham and Ronald Sullivan when Ada and her mother both died (it being in recompense for the nurse's care of them). The elderly Mrs Baguley died in the second week of May.

Ada lasted through the spring and summer of 1935. Later it was said that Waddingham was quite attentive to her. In September 1935 Ada received a visit from an old family friend, Mrs. Alice Briggs, who spent an afternoon cheering her up. Mrs Briggs told Waddingham that she would have Ada over for tea at her home in a couple of days. But on September 11 (the next day) Sullivan called Dr. H. H. Mansfield that his patient Ada was in a coma. Mansfield came and found Ada was dead. As this was expected the doctor was not suspicious, and after getting further details from Waddingham he filled out a death certificate that Ada died of cardiovascular degeneration.

Ada had given her permission to be cremated and if the cremation had gone through it is probable that Waddingham could not have been proved guilty of Ada's death. But for the body to be cremated needed two doctors to sign the certificate, and this could only be done after the family of the deceased was notified. Ada, for some reason, had put into her will a request not to notify her relatives. This was odd by itself. Then Waddingham said there were no relatives. This was known to be a lie.

Unfortunately for Waddingham, the man in charge of cremations (known as the "cremation referee") was Dr. Cyril Banks, who was also the Medical Officer for Health in Nottingham. Banks had never thought highly of Waddingham's establishment as a so-called "nursing home", and knew there was no State Registered Nurse on the staff (as there should have been). He became suspicious at the note from Ada Baguley that authorised cremation and ordered a post-mortem.

The post-mortem found no traces of anything connected to Ada's physical conditions that could have immediately caused death. This led to an analysis of the organs of the deceased by Dr W. W. Taylor, Senior Assistant to the Nottingham Analyst. He found considerable traces of morphine (over three grains) in her stomach, liver, kidneys and even her heart.

Suspicions were now raised about the death of Mrs Baguley, and an exhumation ordered by the Home Office occurred. This was handled by Dr Roche Lynch, who found the mother had also died of morphine poisoning. This led to the arrests of Waddingham and Sullivan for the two murders.


Waddingham's trial started on the 4th of February 1936. She was tried by Judge Rayner Goddard in 1936. Her barrister was Mr.Eales, who did the best job he could. But the prosecution was in the hands of Norman Birkett (a rarity, for Birkett was normally handling criminal defence). Birkett brought out much damaging testimony, including how Ada Baguley's last meal was incredibly heavy and rich for a woman in her condition: Waddingham admitted that she gave Ada pork, baked potatoes, kidney beans and fruit pie - and gave her two portions of this. It suggested an effort to disguise the cause of death, and a lack of concern for the patient's welfare.

The result was that Waddingham was convicted of using morphine to poison Mrs. Baguley and Ada. The purported motive behind the murders was to gain the Baguleys' estate. It was also revealed that Waddingham claimed that Dr. Mansfield gave her surplus morphine tablets for Ada Baguley, which that doctor denied.

In trial, Sullivan was discharged for insufficient evidence, despite the fact that the so-called note from Ada Baguley regarding cremation was written by him. Waddingham, however, was found guilty on the 27th of February, and, despite recommendation of mercy, due to her being a mother of several young children, she was hanged on the 16th of April 1936, having confessed to the crime shortly before her execution. Her execution was carried at Winson Green Prison and her hangman was Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by his nephew Albert Pierrepoint.

Waddingham was a mother of five and was still breastfeeding her 3-month old baby at the time of her execution. 10,000 people gathered outside the gaol to demonstrate against the execution, chanting "Stop this mother murder!".

The fiancé of Ada Baguley, the daughter, committed suicide after her death.

Popular culture

The execution is dramatised in the 2005 film Pierrepoint, in which Waddingham is played by Elizabeth Hopley. Although the film shows Timothy Spall as Albert Pierrepoint carrying out the execution, in actual fact the hangman was Thomas Pierrepoint (Albert's uncle); Albert acted as his uncle's assistant. Furthermore, the execution took place at Birmingham's Winson Green prison, not Holloway Prison in London as is implied in the film.


Dorothea Nancy Waddingham - "Nurse Waddingham"

Dorothea was born at Hucknall near Nottingham in 1900 and after leaving school worked in a factory for a while before taking up a post at the Burton on Trent Workhouse infirmary in Staffordshire.  Here she picked up quite a lot of medical knowledge whilst working on the wards and afterwards passed herself off a nurse.  She married Thomas Leech in 1925 and they had three children, Edwin, Alan and Mary over their eight year marriage.  Thomas sadly developed cancer of the throat and died in 1933.

Dorothea now reverted to her maiden name and formed a relationship with their erstwhile lodger, Ronald Sullivan, who was six years her senior. Together they decided to open a nursing home at 32 Devon Drive, Nottingham.  This was recognised by the county authorities who considered Dorothea a competent nurse.  On the 12th of January of 1935 a Miss Blagg of the County Nursing Association asked them to take a couple of new patients for thirty shillings (£1.50) a week.  The newcomers were Louisa Baguley, a widow of eighty nine and her daughter Ada who was fifty.  Ada was disabled by a progressive disease that left her unable to walk and her elderly mother could no longer look after her.  At the time there was one other resident who died in February leaving Dorothea with a wholly inadequate income of just the thirty shillings a week. Ronald helped Dorothea run the nursing home and the couple were to have two children of their own.

On the 4th of May Ada summoned her solicitor, Mr. Lane and told him she wished to change her will.  She was to leave all of her savings, some £1,600, to Dorothea and Ronald on the condition that they would look after both Louisa and herself for the rest of their lives.  It is unclear whether Ada was persuaded/pressurised by Dorothea to take this step or whether she had decided on this course herself.  It had been suggested that Dorothea had threatened to send the two women to the workhouse as she couldn’t afford to keep them.  The workhouse would have been a dreadful threat in Ada’s mind.

On Sunday the 12th of May Louisa died of what was determined to be cardio-vascular problems.  In a woman of nearly ninety her death did not arouse any suspicion and a death certificate allowing her burial was issued.

Ada continued to live happily at Devon Drive through the summer of 1935 and was visited by a friend of hers, Mrs. Briggs, on Tuesday the 10th of September who found her in good spirits.  The following morning Dorothea called Dr. Mansfield, Ada’s doctor, and told him that Ada had gone into a coma.  When he arrived Ada had died and he thought that she had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage.  Dorothea showed him a letter that Ada had written on the 29th of August, expressing her wish to be cremated.  Dr. Mansfield issued a death certificate and also certificate permitting cremation.  The two certificates together with Ada’s letter were sent to the crematorium where they were read by Nottingham’s Medical Officer for Health, Dr. Cyril Banks.  He noted that the words “my last wish is that my relatives shall not know of my death” appeared to have been inserted after the original letter had been written as they were in a cramped style.  Ronald Sullivan had written the letter for Ada but she had signed it.  Dr. Banks was suspicious and decided to order a post mortem.  This revealed that Ada had actually been poisoned with morphine.  Louisa’s remains were therefore also exhumed and morphine was found in her too.

Both Dorothea and Ronald were arrested and charged with the murders.  Dorothea had recently given birth to her fifth child and nursed it in prison. 

The couple appeared before Mr. Justice Goddard at Nottinghamshire Assizes on the 24th of February.  Mr. Norman Birkett led the prosecution and Mr. J. F. Eales the defence.  Ronald was discharged by the judge on the second day of the trial due to a lack of any real evidence against him, leaving Dorothea to face trial alone.  The court heard the forensic evidence of morphine poisoning and the testimony of Mrs. Briggs and Dr. Mansfield.  Dorothea’s defence suggested that Dr. Mansfield had given her morphine tablets for Ada for when she was in pain.  Dr. Mansfield strongly denied having given any tablets to Dorothea for Ada, especially morphine.  Dorothea described to the court the last two days of Ada’s life.  According to Dorothea Ada was depressed and in great pain so she had given her up to ten tablets over two days and in the early hours of the Wednesday morning found her in a coma.  This information was contained in a statement made to the police on the 24th of September, after the post mortem result was known.  Previously Dorothea had told the police that Ada had eaten a large lunch on the Tuesday and appeared to be well.  Dorothea’s evidence was less than convincing as was her general performance in the witness box.

On the third day of the trial the jury took two and a quarter hours to reach a guilty verdict and for whatever reason added a recommendation to mercy.  Mr. Justice Goddard sentenced Dorothea to death and obviously did not concur with the jury’s recommendation, neither did the Home Secretary, John Simon.

As Nottingham no longer had an execution facility Dorothea was transferred to the condemned suite at Birmingham’s Winson Green prison to await her fate.  Her appeal was rejected and the execution was set for eight o’clock on Thursday the 16th of April 1936. Dorothea was the only woman ever to be hanged at Winson Green.

Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by his nephew Albert carried it the hanging. It was to be Thomas’ last female execution and Albert’s first. 

Dorothea was weighed and measured the day before and was recorded at 4’ 11” tall and 123 lbs in weight.  She was thus given a drop of 8’ 5”. Large numbers of people had gathered outside the prison on the Wednesday afternoon to protest the execution of a mother of five, even though she had poisoned two vulnerable people for financial gain. The protest was led by the noted anti capital punishment campaigner, Mrs. Violet Van der Elst. By the Thursday morning the crowd outside the prison had grown to an estimated 5,000 and their hymns could be heard within.

By 8.01 a.m. Dorothea was hanging limply in cell below the gallows and was examined by the prison doctor using a stethoscope to ensure that she was dead. The execution chamber was locked up for an hour.  The Pierrepoints returned at nine o’clock and undressed her and put a rope around her body under her arms, lifting her up with a block and tackle attached to the chain on the gallows beam, for removal of the noose and hood.  Her body was then lowered on to a stretcher and made ready for autopsy.  A formal inquest was held and Dorothea later buried in the prison grounds.


Dorothea Waddingham

In 1935 Dorothea and her lover 39 year old Ronald Sullivan, opened a nursing home in Devon Drive, Nottingham.

Dorothea  had a long criminal record with several convictions for fraud and petty theft.

Waddingham was her maiden name, she had started using it again after the death of her elderly husband.

She was left to bring up five children and opening a nursing home, with her as matron and Ronald Sullivan as a general assistant, seemed a reasonable way of earning a living.

Dorothea’s medical experience consisted of a short time as ward orderly at the Burton-on-Trent Workhouse Infirmary.

January 1935  her first two patients were 89 year old Mrs Baguley, who suffered from senility, and her 50 year old daughter, Ada, who had creeping paralysis.

Mrs Baguley and Dorothea came to an agreement whereby the home would care for the two women, until their deaths, on condition that Mrs Baguley left Dorothea her entire estate.

This came to about £1,600.

6th May 1935, Mrs Baguley rewrote her will to this effect. Six days later she died with the cause of death being given as cerebral haemorrhage (Stroke).

Nobody was particularly surprised and the woman’s death was attributed to old age. Ada followed her mother on 10th September with the cause again being given as cerebral haemorrhage. Dorothea now aroused suspicion by producing a letter, supposedly from Ada, dated 29th August. In it she requested that she be cremated and that her relatives not be informed of her death. Dorothea sent this letter to the Nottingham medical health officer with a request to approve cremation.

Dr Banks was sufficiently alarmed to order a post-mortem. This was carried out by Dr Roche Lynch, who found three grains of morphine in the corpse. After this discovery, the body of Mrs Baguley was exhumed and again a fatal dose of morphine was found. Dorothea and Ronald Sullivan were both arrested and charged with Ada Baguley’s murder.

4th February 1936, Their joint  trial began at Nottingham Assizes. It was quickly decided that there was insufficient evidence against Ronald Sullivan so he was discharged.

Dorothea tried to claim that she had given the morphine on the orders of the clinic’s doctor, Doctor, he denied this but confirmed that he had prescribed morphine for another of the home’s patients, Mrs Kemp.

27th February 1936, the jury found Dorothea guilty but added a recommendation to mercy. The judge and Home Secretary ignored this.

16th April 1936, Dorothea Waddingham was hanged at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham by Tom and Albert Pierrepoint.

Dorothea confessed to the double murder shortly before the hanging.



home last updates contact