True Crime Sunday: The Mysterious Death of Edwin Bartlett

Welcome back to True Crime Sunday! This week we’re taking a look at a case that may or may not be as straightforward as it seems.

Edwin Bartlett lived in London with his wife Adelaide. He was in poor health and suffering from a number of conditions, including painful and rotting teeth from a botched dental procedure years before. On January 1, 1886, Mrs. Bartlett woke her maid to have her get Dr. Leach, Edwin’s physician. She said he was unresponsive and claimed she poured brandy down his throat to bring him around, but it didn’t work.

When an autopsy was performed, a lethal dose of chloroform was found in his stomach. Authorities weren’t sure how it could have gotten there. Chloroform should have caused burns in his throat, but there were none present.

An investigation revealed that Adelaide Bartlett had chloroform in her possession. She requested that George Dyson purchase it for her. Dyson was the couple’s pastor and friend, and may have been Adelaide’s lover. Edwin was likely aware of and behind the relationship since his health issues made intimacy difficult. There was a clause in his will that, upon his death, Adelaide would marry Dyson.

Following an investigation, Adelaide was arrested. George Dyson was also arrested, but charges against him were dropped before the trial.

Mrs. Bartlett was acquitted. The jury found that the prosecution didn’t provide enough proof to convict her. However, the jury and others thought she likely did it. Surgeon Sir James Paget reportedly said, “Now that she’s been acquitted for murder and can’t be tried again, she should tell us in the interest of science how she did it.”

While the popular belief is that Edwin Bartlett was murdered, there are other theories regarding his death. One theory is that he committed suicide. Authorities say that it’s possible he drank the chloroform so quickly that it didn’t get a chance to burn his throat. Another theory is that it was an accident. Perhaps he grabbed the wrong bottle when he was reaching for medicine.

It was clear how Mr. Bartlett died, but how the chloroform got there was not so clear.

What case will we look at next week? As always, there’s one way to find out…

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