In 1857 Mary Ann Mowbray, nee Cotton, returns to Durham from Cornwall with husband Billy and a surviving child, her other four all having died and mortality will claim a further two, only daughter Isabella being spared. This spurs her stepfather George into taking out insurance policies on the family. When Billy falls ill Mary Ann poisons him, using a typhus outbreak as cover, and claims the insurance on him and her dead baby whilst starting an affair with lusty miner Joe Nattrass. Having poisoned a second husband, George Ward, Mary Ann starts work as a nanny for widower James Robinson, though his sister Helen mistrusts her. Mary Ann's mother works out her daughter's scheming, thus sealing her own fate, before Mary Ann chooses her next victim.
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