Rex v White: 1910

The accused had purchased cyanide and put it into the deceased’s glass but in a lesser concentration than was necessary to kill a person who consumed it. The medical evidence was that the death was not due to poisoning and no trace of cyanide was found in the body.
Held: The accused was found to have been rightly convicted of an attempt to murder her. The issue is one of proximity or remoteness. One who intends to kill another by slow poisoning is guilty of attempted murder as soon as he administers or attempts to administer the first dose which by itself may not be fatal.
Bray J said: ‘All that can be definitely gathered from the authorities is that to constitute a criminal attempt, the first step along the way of criminal intent is not necessarily sufficient and the final step is not necessarily required. The dividing line between preparation and attempt is to be found somewhere between these two extremes; but as to the method by which it is to be determined the authorities give no clear guidance . . the completion or attempted completion of one of a series of acts intended by a man to result in killing is an attempt to murder even although this completed act would not, unless followed by the other acts result in killing. It might be the beginning of the attempt, but would none the less be an attempt. It could not be the case that any act of an accused, however remote, which is connected to a subsequent attempt to kill another is sufficient to constitute an attempt to murder. The purchase of a weapon or the purchase of poison would not alone constitute the offence because of the lack of proximity between that act and any act by which the life of another was threatened . . As to the difference between acts which are attempts to murder and acts which are done with intent to murder, we feel some difficulty in accepting what Kennedy J. says in Rex v. Linneker (1); but, however that may be, it is sufficient to say, as we have already said, that all the offences in ss. 11-15 are treated as attempts to murder, and there cannot be an act done with intent to murder without its being an attempt to murder, and a prisoner cannot be convicted under s. 9 of 14 and 15 Vict. c. 100 unless, as here, the jury have found him guilty of an attempt to murder.’

Bray J
[1910] 2 KB 124, (1910) 4 Cr App R 257
England and Wales


Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.544331