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Murder by cyanide

THE crime of murder is most often carried out by men, against other men, and it's very rarely carried out in a cool and pre-meditated way, despite what you see on TV.

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The US has, in recent months, been transfixed by this terrible exception: an eminent scientific researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, Robert Ferrante, 66, was accused of murdering his young wife, neurologist, Dr Autumn Klein, 41, by mixing cyanide into her Creatine (which, as gym junkies will know, is a powder shake, designed to build muscle.)

The prosecution argued that Mr Ferrante suspected his wife of having an affair, or else thought she was planning to leave him.

No question, there had been the odd ripple in their marriage. Autumn had one child, a little girl, now aged six, and was desperate to have another, but her husband apparently wasn't keen.

They had been trying IVF, and it wasn't working.

The defence argued that Mr Ferrante had been hoping for a baby, too, and in fact had urged his wife to start taking Creatine to boost her chances of getting pregnant (there is no evidence that Creatine enhances female fertility.)

He was undermined by clear evidence that showed he had ordered a 250-gram bottle of cyanide for overnight delivery the day before his wife died. He told the jury he needed the cyanide for an experiment he was doing on stem cells. His colleagues disagreed, saying he was doing no such work; and the jury yesterday found him guilty.

The sentence will be life (the death penalty was available, but the prosecution did not pursue it.)

It's unusual for men to use poison as a murder weapon. Women have long favoured poison - in particular, arsenic, which is what Louisa Collins was accused of putting into husband's tea - because it's simply not realistic for most women to try to stab or beat their husbands to death.

Men tend to be bigger, stronger, and therefore able to overpower a woman on the attack.

Poison is also favoured by those people who are coldly planning a murder - and hoping to get away with it.

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