A PRIVATE collector has bought letters written by a Victorian serial killer who poisoned more than 20 people, including her husbands and children.

William Lowery bought eight letters written by Mary Ann Cotton on eBay and has donated copies to the Durham Records Office in Durham City and Beamish Museum.

An online campaign had been launched to raise the £4,000 sought for the letters which were written in Durham County Gaol.

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Mr Lowery, not his real name, said: “Unfortunately the campaign's fundraising was very slow, and the seller was keen to sell them sooner rather than later.

“I am a private collector of Victorian crime memorabilia and purchased the letters.

“I have since made high resolution copies which have been sent to Durham Records Office and Beamish Museum, and also posted scans on the campaign Facebook page.”

The collector named himself after William Lowery, Ms Cotton’s lodger, whom she wrote to just weeks before she was executed.

Heather Holdgate, who was part of the online campaign to buy the letters, said: “I think the sale of the letters to William Lowery has turned out well even though it wasn't [the campaign group] which were able to secure them.

“He appears to empathise with the desires of the team and has kindly offered to provide good copies of the letters for this group.

“It's not the resolution everyone wanted but next best.”

Mary Ann Cotton is believed to have killed three husbands, a lover, a friend, her mother and 12 children using arsenic.

They all died suffering from stomach complaints and she was found guilty of murder in March 1873.

She was hanged at County Durham Gaol on March 24 that year.