"He didn't want me there" - a not unfamiliar explanation trotted out to detectives investigating a domestic trauma, but Rhoda Stoodley's pitiful confession, which brought her before Hampshire Assizes in 1941, was a little unusual. Her intended target was not a deserting lover but her father who she planned to kill with disinfectant.

However, it did end in the way she could have imagined.

The teenager worked as a maid but after cutlery began disappearing from her employers, she was questioned by the police as part of their inquiries. Fearing her good name would be forever ruined, her protective father, George, naturally urged the police sergeant not to charge her. Instead, he bizarrely begged: "Please, find her another job."

But the 17-year-old strangely formed the impression he resented her remaining at home and was overheard saying she wanted to do "the bastard in."

But how she was going to achieve it? The answer lay in her father's nightly habit of drinking cider.

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"What would happen if you mixed it with disinfectant?" she asked her mother with whom she got on well.

"It wouldn't do you any good, that's for sure" she replied, unaware of her daughter's deadly motive.

Her father had a rare throat complaint that restricted him to drinking cider from a bottle and that evening he instructed his son-in-law to take a couple to the local pub to be replenished, but as he was doing so, landlord William Hill thought one smelt of disinfectant which - according to the prosecution - she had deliberately placed in front of others in the kitchen, knowing it would be picked up.

Fortunately, the contents were never drunk and no harm was caused, but such were the suspicious circumstances, the police once more questioned her. During the interview, she admitted that after being asked about the missing cutlery on the previous occasion, her father later shouted at her and she should go without her dinner.

But she insisted: "I had no intention of poisoning my father. I must have picked up the wrong bottle and someone must have moved it since I last used the disinfectant."

Her denial however did not convince detectives who charged her with attempted murder, their belief endorsed by pathologist Dr L H D Thornton who told magistrates at the committal proceedings at the potential consequences of drinking it.

"Two ounces of this disinfectant might be lethal," he stated. "The sample of cider brought in the bottle to me contained about three ounces. To drink any appreciable part of this mixture would give rise to illness and probably collapse. Perhaps death."

On that basis, she was committed for trial, the maid telling the hearing she would plead not guilty and reserved her defence.

Some six weeks later, she appeared before Mr Justice Charles at the Assizes where her father, a farm worker, spoke of his astonishment that she wished ill of him.

"I have never heard Rhoda say anything against me. She has always been a good girl. I am sorry such a thing has happened. She is my baby - you see."

Stoodley once more maintained she had never harboured any ill-feeling towards her father, re-iterating she had used the disinfectant solely for cleaning and the replaced bottle had been accidentally taken and filled with cider.

In his summing-up, the judge savaged the prosecution's case.

"If this was done with the intention of murdering or causing injury to anyone, it was a ludicrous attempt. No one in his right senses would drink cider that was the colour of mud and which stank of disinfectant."

Jurors took little time in returning an acquittal but after discharging her, the judge expressed concern about the potential impact on the father and daughter relationship, commenting: "I think she should be found accommodation elsewhere so she need not return home unless she wishes to do so."

And with that, the family and lawyers left the court for the judge to attend to other business. But then came an unexpected twist as the defence barrister shortly re-entered the court room.

"Yes, Mr Wiltshire, how can I help you?" the somewhat puzzled judge asked.

"Well, Mr Lord, it is with good news," he explained. "All the members of the family have shaken hands and are now quite happy."

"Good," the judge remarked.


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