But what of real life villainy?
The word villain has many meanings, from the condemnation of the most serious offender to a term of endearment. Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night not only calls maria his “metal of India” but “the little villain.” The police call anyone with a criminal record a villain, so the word can be applied to the steadiest and most skilled of sale-blowers, the sort of man who votes conservative or Republican, organizes oceanside trips for deprived children, and wouldn’t step on an ant. The world of the small-time thief, the burglar, and the purse snatcher doesn’t seem to have changed much since Charles Peace showed himself so uncannily adept at entering premises at night and making friends with guard dogs. Such men are not really the enemies of society, nor do they seek to overturn the social order. They wish society to prosper, live by strong monetarist principles, and are certainly against the closed shop because they want all shops to be open. But is it nature or is it nurture at the heart of villainy and what accounts for that extraordinary moment when the individual becomes a monster? …
…Armstrong was a gentle lawyer from the little town of hay-on-Wye who not only murdered his wife but attempted to do in a rival solicitor. His manners were so good that when he passed his intended victims a poisoned scone at tea-time he uttered the immortal words, “Excuse fingers.” Terrible moments of inhumanity are surrounded by the quiet and casual concerns of everyday life. Filson Young in his introduction to the Harley Harvey Crippen trial:
Most of the interest and part of the terror of great crime are due not to what is abnormal, but to what is normal in it; what we have in common with the criminal, rather than that subtle insanity which differentiates him from us, is what makes us view with so lively an interest a fellow-being who has wandered into these tragic and fatal fields. A mean crime, like that of the brute who knocks an old woman on the head for the sake of the few shillings in her store, has a mean motive; a great crime, like that of the man who murders his wife and little children and commits suicide because he can see only starvation and misery before them, gathers desperately into itself in one wild protest against destiny what is left of nobility and greatness in the man’s nature. It is not that his crime has any more legal justification than that of the murdering robber; it has not. On the contrary, it is more of an outrage upon life, and far more damaging in its results upon the community. Yet we do not hate or execrate the author; we profoundly, pity him; it is even possible sometimes to recognise a certain terrible beauty in the motive that made him thus make a complete sweep of his little world when it could no longer cope with the great world. There are, at the least, reasons for a great crime; for a mean one there are, at the most, excuses. The region of human morality is not a flat plain; there are hills and valleys in it, deep levels and high levels; there are also certain wild, isolated crags, terrible in their desolation, wrapped in storms and glooms, upon which, nevertheless, a slant of sunshine will sometimes fall, and reveal the wild flowers and jewelled mosses that hide in their awful clefts. Somewhere between these extremes, far below the highest, but far above the lowest, lies the case of Dr. Crippen, who killed his wife in order to give his life to the woman he loved. His was that rare thing in, English annals, a crime passionel. Read More:http://drcrippen.co.uk/sources/filson_young_intro.html
(see link at end)…Herbert Armstrong was a 53 year old solicitor in picturesque Hay-on-Wye. He was also a retired Territorial Army Major.
He was a small mild-mannered man who married a domineering, nagging woman who nagged him continuously. His wife, Katherine, was a hypochondriac and was certified insane in July 1920.
She returned home after several months in an asylum but died of an agonising illness shortly after her return. Her death was certified as gastritis by a doctor, Armstrong then went on a long holiday to recover from the ordeal. Another solicitor in Hay-on-Wye was Mr. Oswald Martin, was in dispute with Armstrong professionally. Armstrong invited Martin to tea where he handed Martin a scone, apologising, “Excuse fingers.” Later that day Martin was violently ill and his father-in-law, who was also the town’s chemist, informed the doctor treating Martin that Armstrong had made several purchases of arsenic. The doctor agreed to send a sample of Martin’s urine for analysis and, as suspected, it proved to contain quantities of arsenic.
31st December 1921 Armstrong was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of Oswald Martin. Mrs Armstrong’s body was then exhumed and Bernard Spilsbury, the famous pathologist, carried out a post-mortem. It contained two hundred and eight milligrams of arsenic. Though the body had been buried for ten months it was inemarkable state of preservation, this being due to the mummifying effect of the arsenic.
3rd April 1922 Armstrong was tried at Hereford for the murder of his wife and the trial is notable for the weight of medical evidence. Armstrong had a hard time trying to explain away why he even had a packet of arsenic in his pocket when arrested, he was subsequently found guilty….Read More:http://www.murderuk.com/one_off_herbert_armstrong.html