SHE may have been despised in life – but 140 years after her death mass murderer Mary Ann Cotton has become very popular.

The saleroom at Tennants of Leyburn was packed when a set of letters penned by the Victorian serial killer from her prison cell as she awaited execution came under the hammer today, February 27.

Many bids had been lodged before the sale got underway but they were quickly overtaken by lively bidding in the saleroom itself.

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And when the hammer finally went down the eight letters were sold to a Yorkshire dealer for £2,200 – more than four times the original estimate.

The Northern Echo:

Tennants’ head of books Paul Hughes said: The letters proved hugely popular and were obviously the big draw of the day – the saleroom half emptied after they were sold.”

Cotton, of West Auckland in County Durham, was executed on March 24, 1873, at Durham for the murder of her seven-year-old stepson, Charles.

Three other murder charges and an accusation of bigamy were left on file, and she is generally regarded to have murdered up to 22 of her children, husbands and lovers and even, possibly, her own mother.

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