Thursday, April 23, 2015

Letter T : The Choose Your Poison #AtoZChallenge

It was discovered in 1862, and like so many other poisons was first used to kill rodents. After several accidents the use as poison was banned in the United States in 1972. It is, however, still used in the electronics industry, as well as for certain medical scans.

A spate of murders gained this element the moniker of "poisoner's poison", as it is colorless, tasteless and odorless, and causes symptoms in the victims which can easily be attributed to other causes.  It featured in an Agatha Christie novel, The Pale Horse;  a major clue was hair loss, a distinctive side effect.

Have you guessed today's poison?  It's Thallium.

During 1952-1953 several successive murder trials featured thallium poisoning in Australia; chronic vermin infestations, the easy availability of thallium rat poison and the human propensity to "copy-cat" probably led to the cluster of killings.  There were 5 different murder cases during that time period.  The most sensational was probably that of Veronica Monty in 1952; she was tried for the attempted murder of her son-in-law and rugby player Bob Lulham, and the trial revealed that she had been involved in an intimate relationship with him. Veronica was found not guilty, but committed suicide - using thallium - in 1955.

Other noted cases include:

  • 1957  Nikolai Khokhlov, a former KGB assassin, was poisoned with thallium. (Oh, the irony.) He was eventually flown to the US and recovered.
  • 1971   Graham Frederick Young used thallium to poison around 70 people in the English village of Bovingdon. Three died.
  • 1988   George J. Trepal, later known as "The Mensa Murderer", was convicted of poisoning his neighbors the Carrs by placing Coke bottles laced with thallium nitrate in the residence. The mother, Peggy Carr, died; the rest of the family was sickened but survived. It seems that George was annoyed with his neighbors, especially because they were too loud.  He may have been brilliant and a member of Mensa, but he made two very stupid mistakes.  He couldn't keep his mouth shut;  he drew suspicion when he attended a Mensa group murder weekend and said something about "neighbors needing to watch what they eat/drink around the house". And, he didn't get rid of the evidence; a vial containing traces of thallium was found in his garbage.

10 comments:

  1. I thought it was called Fluoride and we drink it every day. Oh, you did that one already. LOL Seriously, this is such a neat idea and I'm such a mystery fan that I enjoy learning about all the poisons.

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    1. I've dug up some fascinating case studies while doing this theme. Glad you're enjoying it!

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    1. Especially since there were so many copycat murders with the stuff!

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  3. Hi Lisa. Sorry it took me a little while to get back here. I fell a little behind in my postings and had to play catch up. :) I have a ton of comments on my blog I need to respond to, but I wanted to visit everyone first.

    I just finished reading all the posts I've missed since the last time I visited. Gawd, these are amazing! Great story material right here. I so appreciate that you took the time to come visit me back.

    Once the challenge is done, expect me here a lot. :D Hugs. Eva

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    1. I have a lot of catching up to do as well! Thanks for dropping by. I have found lots of story ideas, although by the time the challenge is over I'll be wanting a break from scary and dismal tales for a while.

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  4. I vaguely remember the Agatha Christie novel, The Pale Horse; another interesting post Lisa.

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    1. Thanks Helen. I read A Pale Horse in high school, but had forgotten about it until I read about hair loss as a major warning sign of thallium poisoning.

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  5. I knew of the poison but haven't heard of the cases.

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