Ghost Stories

Twisted Sisters

Here is another one of Tom Slemen's storys out of his book called WICKED LIVERPOOL.

In 1889, Florence Maybrick achieved international notoriety as a ruthless schemer when she was found guilty of murdering her husband, James Maybrick, by arsenical poisoning. While Florence was very lucky to escape death by hanging, two sisters in Liverpool were not so fortunate after they were found guilty of ending four lives with the aid of arsenic.

In 1880, Irish widows, Catherine Flannagan and Margaret Higgins, lived at Skirving street in Liverpool. The other occupants of the house were: Catherine's son, twenty-two-year-old John Flannagan, lodger Patrick Jennings and his sixteen-year-old daughter Margaret, another lodger named Thomas Higgins and his eight-year-old daughter Mary.

In the December of that year, consumption claimed the life of John Flannagan - or so people thought. His mother, Catherine, collected a sum of insurance in excess of seventy one pounds because of his death.
Just a year after the death of John Flannagan, Margaret wed Thomas Higgins, and by November of 1882, his teenager daughter, Mary Higgins was also dead. Margaret Higgins collected twenty-two pounds insurance money on this occasion.

The neighbours of Flannagan and Higgins took the deaths of John and Mary to be coincidental. The gossiping superstitious Irish Liverpudlians in the Skirving Street area claimed deaths occurred in threes, and they were right. Within a mere two months after the death of Mary Higgins, Margaret Jennings died. Once again, insurance money was collected. In fact, none of the deaths were due to illness at all - they were the result of murder by poisoning. On each occasion, Catherine Flannagan and Margaret Higgins had patiently waited until their victims were ill before giving them 'the send-off dose' of arsenic. This made it so much easier to obtain the necessary death certificate from the doctor for the insurance claim.

Suspicions started to get aroused in the sisters neighbourhood, so the women thought it wise to move house and they went to 105 Latimer Street. No deaths occurred there, but in September 1883, Flannagan and Higgins moved to 27 Ascot Street, where Thomas Higgins was to meet his end in October of that year as a result of their dirty work. He was insured for almost one hundred pounds and the sisters stood to gain an extra fifty pounds on a supplemental policy, but the attempt failed when the intoxicated Thomas Higgins refused to undergo the mandatory medical examination.

After the death of Thomas, his brother Patrick paid a visit to a number of insurance societies and discovered that the money had already been drawn. Patrick thought this was questionable, so he approached a physician and told him of his suspicious regarding the two sisters. The doctor and Patrick went to a coroner for advice. The police were notified and the funeral of Thomas Higgins was halted so that a post-mortem could be carried out. Margaret Higgins was subsequently arrested, and Catherine Flannagan managed to flee from the house, but was captured and taken into custody days later.

Flannagan and Higgins were charged with murder on 16 October that year when the coroner revealed that arsenic had been found in the corpse of Thomas Higgins. The three other victims were then exhumed, and traces of arsenic were found in each of the bodies. After a trial that lasted three days, the jury found Catherine Flannagan and Margaret Higgins gulity of the murders within a mere forty minutes. The sisters were sentenced to death, and were hanged at Kirkdale Gaol on 3 March 1884.