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On 3rd May, 1859, Miss Isabella Banks died suddenly after an obscure illness, and the doctors in attendance came to the conclusion that she had been poisoned with arsenic.
Dr. Thomas Smethhurst was arrested and charged with the death of the lady, whom he had bigamously married shortly before. He was tried at the Old Bailey, found guilty, and sentenced to death. The verdict was denounced in the medical press as unjust.
The Home Secretary took an unprecedented course, submitting all the facts to a well-known surgeon for an opinion as to the justice of the verdict. As a result Smethurst was reprieved and subsequently received a free pardon. Later he was tried for bigamy, and convicted.