Are you hoping for chocolates under the tree this Christmas?
After all, who doesn’t like chocolate?
Well, chocolate has been used as a weapon before.
New Zealand had three cases of poisoned chocolates being sent through the mail and one of poisoned chocolates as a Christmas gift.
In Blackball, on the West Coast in September 1934, Ethel Bragg and Jean Clark, both 20, received an exciting and unexpected gift. A box of chocolates with a note signed from Jim. It was addressed to both of them.
A friend of theirs, Maggie Smith, worked next door at Dumpleton’s Bakery in Blackball’s main street.
When they offered her chocolate she took it. In fact more than one.
It would prove fatal. While Ethel and Jean both tasted the chocolates, they complained they were bitter and spat them out.
Maggie later collapsed and died within an hour.
The chocolates had been tampered with, with strychnine crystals added to them. Several of the chocolates had little holes on the bottom.
John Skikelthorp Page - a miner, was charged with murder and attempted murder. But it was clear he was insane and he was committed to the Seacliff Mental hospital.
Less than a year later in Hawke’s Bay Alma Keith received a box of chocolates. With it was a note that appeared to be from a farmhand she was friendly with, Jack Masters.
Alma’s mother was suspicious and they took the box to the police station.
The poison this time was arsenic.
Two months after that in 1935 Phyllis Marshall, 18 was charged with attempted murder. Masters had been paying attention to both the women. Marshall denied it, saying she just wanted to give the other woman a good scare.
She was found not guilty when her defence pointed the finger at Masters as the mastermind.
But the strangest case came from Blenheim, when Alma Rose confessed to sending herself strychnine laced chocolates. She could not offer a proper explanation but the Magistrate at the time thought it was “a morbid yearning for sensationalism.”
A copycat perhaps, after a year of publicity about similar poison chocolates.
She was put on a good behaviour bond for a year.
The last case in 1951, James Mayo was found not guilty of poisoning chocolates with strychnine resulting in the death of Harold Palmer. Rita Osbourne had gone to the police when she became aware of the death to say that Mayo had given her poison to kill a dog at one point.
Police also used hand writing analysis to prove the writing on the Christmas label on the chocolates was Mayo’s but it was discredited by the defence lawyer who instead pointed the finger at Rita Osbourne. It worked and the jury acquitted him.
Still want those chocolates?