4. Grace Marks

Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley

25-07-2022 • 28 mins

Lucy Worsley investigates the ordinary lives and extraordinary crimes of Victorian women.

This story is about a young servant, Grace Marks, accused of two brutal murders that generated enormous attention in the new world of Upper Canada in 1843. In that time and in that place, murders were rare - and rarer still was a female murderer.

Grace Marks and stable boy James McDermott went on the run, ending up in Lewiston, New York after their employers Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy were found dead. Grace insisted she didn't kill them and was forced by James McDermott to run away with him. But when Grace was arrested she was even wearing the clothing of the woman she was accused of murdering.

Lucy examines the evidence, including duelling confessions from the accused, with the help of psychological scientist and host of the Bad People podcast, Dr Julia Shaw.

They ask if the 16-year-old housemaid who had worked in five different houses in three years could be responsible for the violent killings.

We also hear from historian Susan Houston from York University, Toronto, who has written about the case and discusses the legal and social environment that is stacked against Grace.

In the case made famous by Margaret Atwood in Alias Grace, we speculate on what happened and ask if Grace would have been treated differently if she had more power. Or was she actually a naïve 16-year-old caught up in the doomed plot of a disgruntled stable boy? You decide….

Producer: Sandra Bartlett Readers: Colleen Prendergast and William Hope Sound Design: Chris Maclean

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

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