Notes for Who Killed Vera Bates

This story was a real roller coaster from the start. Here are some thoughts on the story. It had less research than some of my other stories but took 21 chapters to figure out. I hope you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun writing it.


I tried to make the characters have realistic personalities, as real people are not perfect.

Tom Branson, very bright but has a temper, works too hard to try to prove himself and argues with Sybil over nothing.

Matthew, is in my opinion too nicey, nice. Where is the ambition and drive for his career?

Mary, if the story of Pamuk was out there she would be devastated. She would have to build a new social circle despite the fact that she is a snob.

Lord G is stuck in a world of transition and is doing a balancing act between the old ways and the new.

Sybil is determined to have her own way and as a youngest daughter was probably a little spoiled.

Mrs. Branson wants the best for her family and would gain a grudging respect for her daughter-in-law eventually.

Some things that bug me about the Bates trial in the actual show.

Why was the trial held in York? In my country our laws are based on the British system so I would assume the law is the same. Trials are held in the district or county where they are committed unless there is just cause to believe the defendant's life is in danger from doing so. So how did the trial get moved? Bribery? Which leads to the question, why?

Who wrote the letter? All Bates says is she wrote to a friend. What friends. Vera was a total hag?

Sir Richard and Bates share a ride to the station on the morning of Vera's death providing Sir Richard with equal opportunity. Too obvious, Julian Fellowes wouldn't be that transparent would he?

Rat poison Bates purchased months before the death as the cause of death. Ho hum a little research answers that one. You would have to eat the entire box! Come on a dose of arsenic laced rat poison would probably make you blind and really sick but not kill you. It doesn't add up. Besides who keeps the packet when there are rats in the cellar, she would have used it on the rats.

The only person called for the defense is Lord G. Is the barrister totally inept? Let's answer that one. YES!

Some of the Research

Salversen really is a treatment for syphilis and it really is arsenic in suspension. Syphilis carried a huge stigma with it during the time period and was a massive public health issue with soldiers returning from France after contracting syphilis from prostitutes. Despite the fact the disease was spread throughout every class, there was a public perception that only the worst type of person had the disease. All symptoms mentioned are based on research.

Victorian women did actually drink a concoction of arsenic, chalk and vinegar to whiten the skin. Is it really worse than people today running for botox and collagen injections? Yuck, poison is poison.

The medical description of the effects of arsenic exposure are based on fact. It can cause cancer, blindness and skin discoloration to name a few.

University College London had produced three Nobel Prize winners before 1920. All three medical schools mentioned in the last chapter are in the top twenty-five ranked medical schools in the world today.

King's College was established in 1829 and contains the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery in London.

The Alvis two-seater was in fact in production in the time this story was set. Alvis set the speed record in 1924 at 104 mph. So even then it was a very fast car. I was going to use an MG in the story but they were not in commercial production until 1923.

If you have any questions about other points in the story, feel free to drop me a private message. I made up some stuff, other things are based on what I think would be a logical situation. Thanks for reading and please take the time to review.

Questions from Readers

Was forensic science that advanced in the 1920's?

The answer is yes. The Marsh test was first published by James Marsh in 1836. If you look up the Marsh test on google you will find a long description of how it was actually used to convict a woman who killed her husband with arsenic in 1840 in France. The test is not as sensitive as what is used today as it would not differentiate isotopes but is a definitive test for the presence of arsenic in a corpse. The drug described was in use for the treatment of syphilis and the compounds used in it would have been easily detectable to someone trained in chemistry.

If they had the forensic evidence showing that it was accidental self-poisoning, would they have needed the testimony from the others?

Yes you would still need testimony from other witnesses to establish the victim's character and that she was in fact a victim of her own vanity. The argument could still be made that John purchased the skin whitener and poured too much into her tea or laced it with more arsenic. No guarantees in a murder trial and people have been acquitted and convicted in the real world falsely. Better safe than sorry.

Am I planning to write a story about Sybil and Branson's life from landing in Ireland to returning to England.

No. I just don't know enough about Irish culture to write something authentic. Most of what I write about their culture clash is based on my own life. Things like the girls coming over and trying to get between Branson and Sybil have really happened to me. I am English Canadian from as far west as you can get, married to an Acadian (French Canadian that dates back to the first landings on the East Coast not Quebecois it is totally different). I would assume the Irish/English culture clash is somewhat the same but I don't know for sure. I can do justice to Yorkshire culture in Becoming T. Branson as my grandparents on one side were from there and immigrated in the early 1920's. I have eaten many Yorkshire puds in my life and a number of other very specific dishes although there is no way I will eat tripe!