A set of desperate letters penned by a 19th Century poisoner known infamously as the 'Black Widow' before she was executed will be sold at auction next week. Serial killer Mary Ann Cotton was hanged in March 1873 for murdering her seven-year-old stepson Charles with arsenic.

Cotton, who married four times, was suspected of poisoning 21 people in total, including her own children, husband, lovers and mother. At the time of her death, three other murder charges and an accusation of bigamy were left to lie on file.

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