Herbert rowse armstrong

The case of the ‘Hay Poisoner’ inspired many a cosy murder mystery

The case of the retired major Herbert Rowse Armstrong, a Hay-on-Wye solicitor hanged in 1922 for killing his wife Katharine with arsenic, is one of nine examined in George Orwell’s 1946 Tribune essay ‘The Decline of the English Murder’ as having enthralled the public. ‘A little man of the professional class’, living an ‘intensely respectable life’, nevertheless, for reasons that appear somehow underpowered (in Armstrong’s case a change to his wife’s will and a romantic friendship, probably never consummated, with a woman he met in Bournemouth during the war), finds himself resorting to the bathroom cabinet or garden shed (‘the means chosen should, of course, be poison’) with heinous intent,