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Elizabeth "Lizzie" Tilford

The only woman to be hanged in Oxford County, Elizabeth (or Lizzie, as she was known by her family) Tilford was convicted of poisoning her third husband, Tyrell Tilford, and sent to the gallows on December 17, 1935.

Born in Leeds, England in 1885, Tilford slowly began poisoning her husband for almost a year before he met his death, with a tasteless, odorless substance known as salts of lemon. When she found this method too slow she ordered arsenic from the apothecary. Although she maintained her innocence and blamed Tyrell’s family, whom did not approve of her from the start, witnesses came forward who confirmed it was Lizzie who ordered the arsenic from Keith’s Drug Store in Woodstock. In addition, police learned that two days before Tyrell’s death, Lizzie had contacted the Insurance Company to check on the value of his life insurance policy.

After Tyrell’s death, his family pushed to have his body exhumed and the contents of his stomach inspected. His stomach was placed in a jar and sent to Professor Joslyn Rogers, the Head of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Toronto, who confirmed that he was poisoned. Lizzie was arrested and four days later the body of her second husband (who passed away after a long illness), was also exhumed and checked for poison, of which they found none. Her trial lasted ten days, ending with Lizzie being found guilty and sentenced to death.

Following her execution, what remained of the arsenic was found in its original drugstore package, wrapped in an oilcloth in a jar of    mustard pickles in her cellar. She was buried in the Baptist Cemetery in Woodstock, next to her second husband William Walker, and was survived by four of her nine children. Tilford is one of only eleven women to be executed in Canada.