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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

The Murder of Elizabeth Jones

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Poison bottle

Writing The Iron Masters I faced a dilemma; how to end an unsatisfactory relationship between two of my characters. According to the plot I'd constructed, teenager Bethan Vaughn was in love with a ne'er-do well when she found herself pregnant and facing ruin. Then I can across a gravestone in my village churchyard belonging to Elizabeth Jones who died in 1816, when she was nineteen and thanks to poor Elizabeth's untimely death I found the inspiration I needed.

Let me explain the circumstances. Elizabeth, whose family farmed in Gwynfe, was walking out with a young man called Rees Thomas Rees from Llangadog when she discovered she was with child. The couple were in love and wanted to marry but her father opposed the union. In Desperation, Rees went to Brecon and purchased medicine, he was promised, would terminate the pregnancy. Elizabeth drank the potion and became violently ill. The medicine Rees had bought was, in fact, arsenic and the poor girl died an agonising death. Rees fled but later, in a fit of remorse, surrendered to the authorities. He was returned to Carmarthenshire, tried for the murder of his sweetheart, convicted and sentenced to death on the 19th April 1817.

They say, more than 10,000 spectators watched Rees' execution outside Carmarthen Castle. His body was then dissected. Elizabeth Jones' grave is Capel Gwynfe churchyard against the wall of the old church building.

Capel Gwynfe
Gwynfe Church

Elizabeth's is a sorry tale of love, a fatal mistake and treachery. In my view, the apothecary who sold the arsenic should have gone to the gallows. And yet, her death gave me a perfect way to end the relationship my character Bethan was entangled in and provided a suitable comeuppance for her unpleasant suitor.

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