The Rugeley Poisoning and Other Crimes
A CASE THAT CREATED enormous public interest in December 1855 was the poisoning of a young racing man, John Cook, who was taken ill at the Raven Hotel, Shrewsbury, on the day after the Shrewsbury races. He had won money on Pole Star. His companion at the races, a Rugeley surgeon, a Mr. William Palmer, had given him a drink on their return to the hotel, but had declined to have one himself. Cook complained to a man named Fisher that the grog "burned his throat awfully" and that he was sure that Palmer had "dosed" him. A few minutes later he was violently sick; he repeated to another acquaintance, a man named Herring, that he had been "dosed." Herring expressed his surprise that Cook should have subsequently arranged to breakfast with Palmer, and Cook replied, "Ah! You don't know all." In some way he seemed to be in Palmer's power.
As he seemed to be feeling no better, Palmer carried him off to Rugeley and settled him in a hotel there; he and other doctors being in attendance. Cook complained of some pills which Palmer described as "morphine," and the other doctors advised him to change them as they seemed to be causing the patient severe pain and attacks of rigidity. Palmer then administered two pills which he said contained ammonia. Soon after taking them Cook was seized with violent pain and convulsions and died on December 20.