Dead Pool 12th December 2021

Let’s begin by awarding some points!!! With the passing of Bob Dole, Julia and Dave get 52  points each, well done! Things are quite tight at the top of the league table, one death could upset the whole lot. Let me remind you that you are not allowed to murder anyone to win the game. 

I’ve already received a list for 2022, so if any of you would like to send in yours, I’m ready! Either email your list to or fill in the 2022 Webform. If for some reason you have forgotten the same rules we have been following for the last thirty years, you can find them here. Mention it to your weird friends and followers, the more the merrier. 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News 

A coffin-shaped capsule that allows occupants to kill themselves has passed legal review in Switzerland, according to its creators. The Sarco machine can be operated from the inside –conceivably just by blinking if the person suffers from locked-in syndrome – and works by reducing the oxygen level in the pod to below a critical level. The process takes less than a minute and death occurs through hypoxia and hypocapnia, which is intended to allow a person to die relatively peacefully and painlessly. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and roughly 1,300 people used the services of euthanasia organisations Dignitas and Exit last year. Both firms use ingestible liquid barbiturate drug to induce a deep coma within two to five minutes, followed by death. The suicide pod is the creation of Dr Philip Nitschke, dubbed ‘Dr Death’, who serves as the director of the non-profit organisation Exit International. The Sarco – short for sarcophagus – is designed to be towed to a location of the users’ preference, such as an idyllic outdoor setting, and then the biodegradable capsule can detach from the base in order to serve as a coffin. Dr Nitschke has faced opposition from opponents of euthanasia, in part due to the method used. “Gas may never be an acceptable method for assisted suicide in Europe due to the negative connotations of the Holocaust, some have even said that it’s just a glorified gas chamber.” It has also drawn criticism due to its futuristic design, which some say glamorises suicide, as well as a corresponding virtual reality app that allows people to “experience their own virtual death”. This VR experience was displayed in Westerkerk church in Amsterdam at the 2018 Funeral Expo, prompting worries from the church’s board. “Westerkerk will never support people by offering equipment as promoted by Dr Nitschke and we seriously wonder whether this contributes to a thorough and careful discussion around the issue,” Jeroen Kramer, president of the Westerkerk church board, said at the time. “We will not and cannot support any suggestion of using such equipment.” Only two Sarco prototypes currently exist, but Exit International is 3D printing a third machine that it hopes to be ready for operation in Switzerland next year. Dr Nitschke told local media last week that “there are no legal issues at all” and that discussions are ongoing with various groups in Switzerland with a view to provide the capsule for assisted suicide. “Barring any unforeseen difficulties, we hope to be ready to make Sarco available for use in Switzerland next year,” he said. “It’s been a very expensive  project so far but we think we’re pretty close to implementation now.”  

Former GB News Chairman Andrew Neil shared an update on his beloved dog, Molly, who he says is “seriously ill”. The renowned journalist promised his 1.1 million followers that he would keep them updated on Molly’s condition as fans sent in messages of support. Andrew, 72, broke his “bad news” to his followers, who seemed heartbroken to hear that Molly was ill. The news legend shared a sweet picture of Molly curled up on a chair with her eyes closed and her head resting on a cuddly, owl-shaped cushion. He wrote: “Bad news. Ms Molly the Dog, the one and only star of BBC 1’s much missed This Week is seriously ill. “She is, of course, getting the best possible care and we hope she’ll pull through. “We will keep her many fans posted,” he confirmed. The star then retweeted the picture with the caption: “We take her back to the vet tomorrow. “Tonight she’s decided to forego her several comfortable beds and lie on the floor. “So my wife has placed a pillow on the floor and is now lying beside her. “Whatever Molly’s problems she will not lack for love,” an emotional Andrew concluded. Andrew and his wife were then inundated with support during their difficult time. Andrew announced he was stepping down as Chairman of GB News on 13th September 2021 despite masterminding the launch of the channel and has since referred to  his time there as “the single biggest mistake” of his career.  

Mark Wright has had a huge 12cm tumour removed from his armpit following a terrifying cancer scare. The former TOWIE star, 34, took to Instagram to share his story in the hope that speaking out could help save lives. Mark opened up after undergoing surgery to remove the lump, which was clearly visible on his body before the procedure. And he’s still waiting on results to find out whether or not the lump was cancerous. Sharing a topless picture of himself that showed the lump in his armpit, he penned: “Ok, it’s been a tough call whether or not to speak about this. “One part of me wants to keep something like this private and the other part is thinking, if I can help/potentially save 1 person, well…. this is the right thing to do. So here goes. I discovered a lump in my breast/armpit area. Not very big, but enough to cause concern and to be cautious enough to get it checked. I saw a doctor who passed it on as “a fatty lump that doesn’t need any treatment” so I just left it. After some time the lump grew and began to bother me. I am someone that when it comes to life in general, I leave no stone unturned. When it involves health, this idiom quadruples.” Mark, who went under the knife and also shared a graphic image of the lump, added: “I saw another specialist who happens to be a breast consultant for a second opinion. He was certain after seeing an ultrasound scan that it was a Lipoma (a benign soft tissue tumour) however with it being rather large, he had a tiny  bit of concern that it has/could turn in to a Sarcoma (a cancerous malignant tumour) However he was not 100% either way so to be more sure I had an MRI. From the result of the MRI, still this consultant did not want to rule out the worst because of the speed and the size of the growth. At this stage I moved on to a Sarcoma specialist. This specialist saw the scans around 10 days ago and today I was in theatre having this little git removed.” Mark continued: “His fast and incredible turn around was due to the fact he did not want to leave it any longer and wanted it out to prevent the rare risk of a Lipoma turning into a sarcoma overtime. He also could not 100% confirm by the MRI that this was definitely a benign tumour and not something more sinister. The tumour will be sent off for further testing just to be 110% sure but this top doctor is certain from his incredible experience that we have done the job and there is nothing sinister to worry about. So I’m all good! Moral of the story: If you notice anything that doesn’t look or feel quite right. Don’t leave it. Nothing in life is more important than your health and well-being. Get checked, check yourself and make sure you take good care of yourself.”

On This Day

  • 1866 – Oaks explosion: The worst mining disaster in England kills 361 miners and rescuers.
  • 1988 – The Clapham Junction rail crash kills thirty-five and injures hundreds after two collisions of three commuter trains—one of the worst train crashes in the United Kingdom.
  • Turns out this day in history has next to nothing to show for 2000 years of humanity.


The Real Black Widow

For more than a century, Mary Ann Cotton was the most prolific serial killer in UK history, until Harold Shipman surpassed her victim count in 2000. She was described as beautiful, charming and ultimately deadly. Gaining her the nickname Black Widow. 

It has been suggested that Cotton killed at least 21 people, many of these were her own children or husbands. Records show that she had at least 13 children during her life, only 2 of these outlived her. Similar to Mary Ann Bateman, a serial killer 100 years before, her weapon of choice was arsenic poisoning. Her main motive for the murders was to collect the insurance money that each death provided her with.

Cotton was born into a mining community, in Sunderland. Her father Michael Robson was a collier sinker. She had two siblings, but only her younger brother survived. When Cotton was eight the family moved to County Durham. Like many families of the time, they travelled where the work was. She was a good student and a friendly girl. Her Sunday school superintendent would describe her as: a most exemplary and regular attender, a girl of innocent disposition and average intelligence.

In 1842, Cotton’s father was killed, he fell down a 150ft mine shaft. Times were very harsh and his body was delivered to the family in a sack, with the news that they’d need to vacate the mining property they were living in. This situation did not last long as Cotton’s mother went on to remarry in 1843, to another miner. At sixteen, Cotton left her home to become the nursemaid to the manager of Murton Colliery, she cared for his children. When the children grew up she returned to her step-fathers home for a short period, whilst she trained to be a dressmaker. It would not be long before she would start working her way through her husbands. 

Cotton married her first husband, William Mowbray, when she was 20. Like her father, he was a colliery labourer. During her time with Mowbray she would go on to mother many children, estimations suggested nine, of these children only one survived. No records exist, even though registration was compulsory at the time. It is hard to establish what they died of or the exact numbers. In Jan 1865, Mowbray died of what was noted as intestinal problems. Cotton collected £35 on his death, which was the equivalent of six months wages.

Cotton went on to start working in a local infirmary after Mowbray’s death. It was during this time that she met husband number two. George Ward was an engineer and patient at the time. Entranced by his nurse, he married her in August 1865. His health was poor at the time and was about to become worse. Cotton, who did not want a child living with them, sent her daughter to live with her mother. It is unclear why she chose this course of action, rather than killing her. Ward would die in October 1866 of intestinal problems, leaving Cotton to collect the insurance money.

The next man on Cotton’s radar was James Robinson who was a Shipwright. He hired Cotton as a housekeeper shortly after his wife died. When his son died one month later of gastric fever, he turned to his housekeeper for comfort. Whilst helping Robinson deal with his grief, Cotton fell pregnant.

At this point in her life, Cotton received notification that her mother was ill, so she went to look after her. Her mother made good progress and started recovering, only to fall ill of stomach pains. She died nine days after Cotton arrived at the age of 54. Cotton returned to Robinson, with her daughter who had been staying with her mother. Shortly after returning to Robinson her daughter became ill with a stomach complaint and died. Two of Robinson’s children suffered the same fate. Cotton went on to collect the insurance money.

After these events, and with a child on the way, Robinson married Cotton, and the happy couple went on to have two children. Only one of these children would survive. Cotton was eager after these unfortunate events to get her husband insured. It is this insistence that raised the suspicion of Robinson. Whilst checking his bank, he found that Cotton has run up a huge debt in his name and had pawned many of the families valuables. He threw her out, keeping custody of their son.

After this, Cotton was forced to live on the streets. When her friend Margaret Cotton introduced her to her brother, a pitman and recent widower, Cotton was only too happy to help. Margaret had been acting as a surrogate mother to her brother’s children. When Margaret died in March 1870 from stomach problems, Cotton was there to comfort Fredrick Cotton. Shortly after this, she found out that she was pregnant, with her twelfth child.

The marriage to Cotton was not to be a faithful one. Cotton heard that a previous lover Joseph Nattrass was living close by and rekindled her romance with him. In December the same year, Fredrick died from gastric fever and Cotton collected still more insurance money. After the death of Fredrick, both his sons also died of gastric fever and then Cotton’s son would suffer the same fate. The last person to die of gastric problems was Nattrass.

After these latest deaths, Cotton went to work for Thomas Riley a parish official. She complained to him about her son being a problem and asked if she could have him committed to the workhouse. When Riley informed her this would only be possible if she accompanied him she replied: I won’t be troubled long. He’ll go like the rest of the Cottons.

Five days later, Charles Edward died and Riley went straight to the police. The boy was examined and showed clear evidence of arsenic poisoning. The decision was then made to exhume both Nattrass and some of Cotton’s children. They all showed signs of arsenic poisoning. 

The papers latched onto the story of the Black Widow. During their research, they discovered how much Cotton moved around the country. They also noted the number of people she had lost to stomach fever. Dr William Byers Kilburn, who was Charles’ doctor, had kept samples from his patient. When these were tested it showed arsenic poisoning.

Cotton stood trial on 5th March 1873, the trial having to be delayed so that she could give birth to her final child. After deliberating for 90 minutes, the jury found her guilty on all charges. Out of the 13 children she was believed to have had, only two went on to survive. The son that Robinson claimed custody of and the daughter, Margaret Edith, born in jail.

Cotton was hanged in Durham jail on 24th March 1873, in a strange twist she didn’t die of a broken neck, but rather strangulation. The executioner had rigged the rope too short, so a broken neck did not occur. Whether this was on purpose or not was never established.

In the 1990s Durham jail was modernised and Cotton’s remains were removed amongst others. Her bones were found with a pair of her shoes, they were later cremated and laid to rest in an undisclosed location.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Jennifer Connelly (51), Mädchen Amick (51), Mayim Bialik (46), Bill Nighy (72), Sarah Douglas (69), Kenneth Cranham (77), Dionne Warwick (81), Ben Browder (59), Kenneth Branagh (61), Judi Dench (87), John Malkovich (68), Michael Dorn (69), Beau Bridges (80), Donny Osmond (64), Kim Basinger (68), Teri Hatcher (57), Dominic Monaghan (45), Nicki Minaj (39), David Harewood (56), Nicholas Hoult (32), Jennifer Carpenter (42), C. Thomas Howell (55), Jeffrey Wright (56), Ellen Burstyn (89), Kristofer Hivju (43), Tom Hulce (68), Colin Salmon (59), Noel Clarke (46), and Nick Park (63).

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