Sarah put up a remarkable defence in court, and is one of the three cases examined in last week’s Voices From the Old Bailey on BBC Radio 4. She admitted to the theft of 45 guineas (equivalent to a year’s salary) after being found with the money, but denied the three murders until the end. The transcript from her trial in the Old Bailey’s online archives shows her as a fiery character - she even conducted her own defence.
Two days before she was hung, William Hogarth and his father-in-law James Thornhill visited her in her cell to make sketches for her portrait.
Her painted portrait hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Hogarth made a print of this painting (see below), which looks a bit demonic by comparison. He had little sympathy for her, and was alleged to have said that
"this woman by her features is capable of anything".
"A Lady Macbeth in low-life." - John Ireland