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27–30). Judith Knelman writes that ‘by the 1840s, when murder by women seemed very prevalent, the press was regularly registering profound shock, contempt, disgust, and dismay at the increasing evidence that women were killing members of their own families for money’ (1998, p. 229). The problem was so profound that legislation was passed requiring all sales of arsenic to be recorded in a poison book by apothecaries and pharmacists – a law that gave rise to key evidence in Smith’s trial. 7 Just as sexuality, and more precisely the fusing of sex and violence, is a central theme in the coverage of the Howard, Snyder and Knox trials, so it was with Smith, though heavily veiled by the prudery of Victorian Britain.

62). Medusa would become a muse for, among others, Petrarch (who used her as an index for the depth of his love for his adored Laura), Leonardo da Vinci, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Goethe, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and, in a very different way, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. For Freud, she symbolised the female genitals, and so embodied the male’s castration anxiety (and, in Freud’s typically tortuous logic, the snakes on her head are inevitably phallic); for Marx, she represented the hidden evils of capitalism.

Criminologists have long acknowledged the significance of cultural constructions and understandings of femininity when analysing the treatment (by the justice system) and representation (by the media) of female criminals. Commonly understood to be more emotional, intuitive and gentler than men, other mitigating factors – often to do with health and especially mental health (sometimes with reference to pre-menstrual syndrome and post-natal depression) – are also more likely to come under review when dealing with women.

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