Catherine Kinrade - a Manx love triangle.

Nineteen year old Catherine was having an affair with her brother in law, John Camaish, who was nine years her senior. She was described as having “uncommonly interesting and rather handsome features  John had married Catherine’s older sister, but had always harboured feelings for Catherine. They plotted to murder Mrs. Camaish, who was pregnant at the time, so as to get her out of the way and allow their relationship to become permanent.  To this effect Catherine put some of the arsenic powder into her sister’s porridge, which although it caused vomiting and severe stomach cramps did not have the desired result.  John then purchased some more arsenic from a shop in Ramsey, telling the chemist that he intended to use it to kill vermin.  He persuaded his wife to take the arsenic on the basis that it would cure her of some unspecified illness.  She died very quickly after this second dose.  It should be noted that arsenic is a cumulative poison and builds up in the body, so that there would still have been a residue present from the previous attempt.


Suspicions were aroused as to the cause of the untimely death of Mrs. Camaish, due to the behaviour of Catherine and John. An inquest was therefore held which found she had died from arsenic poisoning, rather than a severe attack of gastro-enteritis that had similar symptoms and was a common cause of death.  Catherine and John were arrested and charged with the killing, he as principal and she as an accessory to murder.  They came to trial in late March 1823, before the Deemster, as Manx high court judges are known at Castle Rushen, Castletown. The jury returned a verdict of guilty and the pair were sentenced to be hanged and their bodies to be dissected afterwards and not to be permitted a Christian burial, in accordance with Section 53 of the Manx Criminal Code of 1817. They were returned to the island’s then main prison within the Castle to await their fate.  The prison within the castle had been substantially upgraded in 1815 to provide accommodation for both debtors and criminals.


In the Isle of Man the Coroner of the Sheading in which the crime occurred was responsible for carrying out death sentences, whereas in England it was the sheriff of the county.  As in England it was normal for him to appoint a hangman, but no one volunteered for the job and so the Coroner of Ayre Sheading, John Cowley, ended up having to perform the execution himself.  (Ayre is one of the six Sheadings, which are administrative areas, this one forming the northern tip of the island. Each one has a Coroner whose role nowadays, might be likened to that of the leader of a council.)


It was reported that Catherine was so poorly educated that she was unable to pray when she was first committed to prison and had to be taught how to do so by the Chaplain.  Once she had mastered prayer she spent many hours doing so and was judged to be fully penitent by the time of her execution.  This, of course, was considered to be most important for her spiritual salvation.  She also confessed to her part in the murder.

John, in contrast showed no remorse until four or five days before he was to die.  He then began to become increasingly desperate, shaking constantly and refusing food.  He made a confession on the morning of his death and admitted buying both lots of poison.


Catherine asked to see John on that morning and this was allowed.  She told him that they should forgive each other which they did and then they shook hands before being returned to their cells. This is quite unusual, often when a couple were to be executed for the same crime their was animosity and rapprochement between them at the gallows, each blaming the other for their fate. 

On the morning of Friday the 18th of April they were brought out from their separate cells to be pinioned and have the nooses placed around their necks before being loaded into the cart for the journey from the Castle to the place of execution near the water’s edge. They were accompanied by ministers of religion to the execution ground.

An immense crowd of spectators had gathered around the gallows to await the arrival of the prisoners.  It was reported that every vantage point was covered with people of both sexes and all ages, as hangings were rare events on the island.


The cart was backed under the gallows, similarly to Tyburn executions in London, and the ropes tied up to the beam.  The Reverend Mr. Kewley than recited prayers for the condemned couple for several minutes and when he had finished he embraced Catherine and shook hands with John.  He and the other officials got down from the cart and the order was given for the horse to move forward, leaving the prisoners suspended, at least in John’s case.  Catherine was less fortunate because the rope slipped and her feet were able to touch the ground.  As a consequence of this, while John expired very quickly, Catherine struggled for some time before succumbing. 

They were left hanging for half an hour before being taken down and placed back into the cart to be taken back to the Castle, prior to being sent to Douglas for dissection.  It appears that this part of their sentence was not actually carried out and their bodies were returned to their friends for burial.  A broadside was published by John Muir of Glasgow and sold widely at the execution and afterwards, both on the Isle of Man and on the mainland.

These hangings were two of only seven to be carried out on the Isle of man in the 19th century. Catherine Kinrade was the only female to be hanged there in the 19th or 20th centuries.

The Isle of Man is a self governing British dependency which did not finally abolish the death penalty until 1993.


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