Author makes plea from Down Under over mystery death

AN author from Down Under is appealing for information about the mysterious poisoning of a young woman 135 years ago.

Pauline Connolly, who lives in Sydney, has written a fascinating book with connections to St Leonards called the Water Doctor’s Daughters.

The book is a true crime story and psychological drama examining the death of a lady called Rosa Marsden.

Pauline was researching the extended family of the New South Wales colonial governor Lachlan Macquarie.

His daughter-in-law became stepmother to the Marsden children in 1852.

The Marsdens were the daughters of the Doctor James Loftus Marsden who had a thriving water cure practice in the Worcestershire town of Great Malvern.

While researching their story, Pauline discovered that two of his girls died at the hands of their French governess in 1853.

She also located Rosa Marsden’s death certificate. It revealed that she died from poisoning at her home at Number 1, St Margaret’s Terrace, St Leonards, on December 21, 1877. She was just 34 years old.

An inquest into Rosa’s death was held in St Leonards’ Norman Hotel over Christmas 1877 and a detailed account of the proceedings was published in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer on December 29.

Pauline wanst to hear fro many descendants of the main players at the who may still live in the area. The physician who attended the young woman in her final hours was newly qualified Dr Heath, of Warrior Square.

The coroner was Mr Davenport-Jones from Hastings and the highly respected Chief Constable was Mr William Glenister. The most vocal of the jurymen was James Haisell, proprietor of dining rooms in Pelham Street. The Hastings chemist whosupplied the poison and came under intense but unfair scrutiny was James Alfred Bell.

Speaking from Australia, Pauline said: “The book has consumed me for several years.

“Rarely is a writer presented with such a remarkable story.

“It is a true crime story involving the prudishness and moral hypocrisy of the Victorian era.

“I hope local people may come forward with some family connections. I am sure it will stir some local interest.

“I don’t have personal links to St Leonards but have visited several times during my research.

“I will be in the UK in the Spring and plan to visit to promote the book.”

The book will be published at the end of February next year and available through Amazon.

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