Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Type: Journal article
Title: 'Innocent victim of circumstance' or 'a very devil incarnate'?: the trial and execution of Elizabeth Woolcock in South Australia in 1873
Author: Plater, D.
Duncan, J.
Milne, S.
Citation: Flinders Law Journal, 2013; 15(2):315-380
Publisher: Flinders University, Flinders Law
Issue Date: 2013
ISSN: 1838-2975
Statement of
David Plater, Joanna Duncan and Sue Milne
Abstract: This article considers the trial and execution of Elizabeth Woolcock in 1873 for the alleged murder of her husband by poison. In examining the evidence adduced against her, notably the inconclusive scientific evidence, it is argued that Elizabeth was not the callous murderer presented by the prosecution but an 'innocent victim of circumstance' who was convicted and condemned to death, as much upon speculation and stereotype, as upon the tenuous strength of the prosecution case. Both Elizabeth's trial and her eventual fate can be viewed in a wider context and illustrate the often polarized perception and treatment of female capital offenders during this period. Elizabeth's already heinous crime in murdering her husband, further aggravated through her use of poison, and her purported liaison with another man, combined to brand her as 'a devil incarnate' and served to forfeit any claims to mercy on her behalf. Despite the real doubts as to her guilt and the strong mitigating factors that existed in her favor, Elizabeth Woolcock was destined to be the only woman in South Australia to ever suffer 'the ultimate penalty of the law.'
Keywords: Victim of crime; stereotype
Rights: © School of Law, Flinders University
RMID: 0030043445
Published version:;dn=338490686292192;res=IELHSS
Appears in Collections:Law publications

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
RA_hdl_108685.pdfRestricted Access429.79 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.