Mini Mystery

Mini Mystery #2

A Murderous Affair

In March 1855 well-to-do Madeleine Smith, aged 19, met a humble clerk, Pierre L’Angelier, aged 31 and, against her father’s wishes, entered into an affair. The couple exchanged a stream of passionate love letters. However, because of the gap in their social status they found it difficult to meet.


In an effort to keep their affair secret, Madeleine burnt Pierre’s letters, but he kept the 198 epistles she sent to him. The letters reveal that the couple consummated their affair on 6th May 1856. Madeleine’s father, James, found out and forbade any further contact.

Madeleine asked Pierre to return her letters. Besotted with her, he insisted that the affair should continue, or he would send them to her father. Then, on 23rd March 1857, L’Angelier died of arsenic poisoning. The letters were discovered and Madeleine was arrested.

At her trial, Madeleine admitted that she bought arsenic, but insisted it was for cosmetic purposes, not for murder. The evidence placed the Scottish jury in two minds and they returned a verdict of ‘not proven’. Madeleine walked free. Later, she began a new life in America, where she died, aged 93.

Hannah Howe, author of the Sam Smith and Ann’s War Mysteries.



True Crime

The Big Cheese

In 1906 two Carlisle colliers, John Torrance and James Miller, were down on their luck. However, they came up with a plan: burgle the local Co-operative Society store. The men planned their burglary and slipped into the store unnoticed. They helped themselves to everything they could carry, though had to leave a great deal behind. One item proved too tempting to leave in the store – a piece of cheese. So they nibbled the cheese, discarded the leftovers and thought nothing of it.


John Torrance and James Miller were feeling pleased with themselves, until they discovered that no two sets of teeth are identical and that a sharp-eyed policeman had noticed the piece of cheese with the bite marks. Despite the villains knocking out teeth stumps to try to avoid identification, a dentist matched the resulting bite marks with a cast of the suspects’ teeth, leading to a conviction at Cumberland Assizes and a sentence of three years imprisonment.

Footnote: teeth marks in a piece of cheese were later used in Agenda For Murder, an episode of Columbo, when Columbo ensnares a ruthless attorney by matching bite marks on chewing gum with bite marks on a piece of cheese.