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Ashton was a successful industrialist in London, although he was known as the most hated man in the city as well. He often attempted to cheat his employees out of their wages, treated merchants with disdain, and was accused of sabotaging his competitor's machinery to gain the advantage in London's economy.
In 1868, Ashton faced several attempts on his life in a single day. His mistress, Mary attempted to poison him with an apple, having wanted to escape from his attentions but not having been allowed to. Thomas Reese, his apothecary, attempted to poison him with chemicals to take revenge for the foreclosure of their family farm, which led his parents to live in penury. His business competitor, Laurence Hendricks, shot him in the back because Ashton had sabotaged his business, and one of his employees, Eddie dropped a wooden crate on top of him.
In the end, however, his true murderer turned out to be his wife, who had stabbed him with the knitting needle she used to tie up her hair, having found out about his affair with Mary, and not seeing divorce as a possibility due to Ashton's ties with the clergy.