We all know famous people who were murdered by poisoning from ancient times till today. I am not interested in this, I am more interested in average people killing their spouses, relative (maybe friends, enemies) with poison.

Up till early-mid 20th century poisoning was the perfect murder:

  • no obvious sign;
  • many poisons were very hard to detect even when suspected;
  • easy access even for the common people as many household chemicals contained them.

Unfortunately, I have found very few documented cases (most probably because of the difficulty of study it retrospectively). The most famous one is maybe the AngelMakers of Tiszazug after WWI, where wives murdered their husbands and other relatives in large number. There are some interesting differences between the English and Hungarian version of the wiki, including the estimated number of victims (50ish vs 300ish), and Hungarian wiki clearly mentions that similar (less famous) cases happened in the neighborhood and other part of the country, too. Authorities generally tried to hide these cases, to avoid scandal, which I guess makes their research even more difficult.

So the question: do we have any estimation, how common form of domestic murder poisoning was?

  • 2
    I'm not sure this is something answerable (though that doesn't mean someone hasn't researched it). But, as you say, if there are "no obvious signs" then it's quite likely there wouldn't be much to base any research on except for rumours and statements of dubious quality.
    – gktscrk
    Nov 22, 2020 at 18:39
  • 2
    I think it's pushing things to say that "poisoning was the perfect murder". Some poisons (such as arsenic) were detectable post-mortem and some (such as cyanide and strychnine) had distinctive symptoms.
    – Steve Bird
    Nov 22, 2020 at 18:40
  • 3
    Citation needed that many poisons are hard to detect. If that were true (I am skeptical) then we're very unlikely to have any records of poisonings. The only way we'd have records is if either (a) there were unsuccessful attempts or (b) the perpetrators confessed - which would be astonishing. This may be an unanswerable question.
    – MCW
    Nov 22, 2020 at 18:43
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    I'm not sure if this is answerable as is, but the ease of murder by poison was something that historical society seriously grappled with. So that might be an indication that it is not, at least, very rare. @Greg I mean if you put it like that, for most of history you could just feed a corpse to a pig or dump it in the sea / wilds and no one would know. Poisoning may not be immediately incriminating but all it takes is one person getting suspicious: see for instance how Mary Ann Cotton got busted.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 22, 2020 at 19:21
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    Downvoted because - as with pretty much all crime statistics - it is unanswerable. We can only know about cases where poisoning was detected, and even then we have in general no way of knowing for sure whether deaths were deliberate poisonings, or accidental (e.g. picking the wrong mushrooms, or including foxglove leaves in your salad).
    – jamesqf
    Nov 23, 2020 at 1:09


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