From The Guardian:
On 24 December 1977 in Créances, France, Maxime Masseron, 80, and his wife sat down for their Christmas Eve meal. They had decided to open a bottle of Côtes du Rhône given to them by their nephew, Roland Roussel, in the summer. The elderly couple were normally abstemious and they had saved the bottle for a special occasion. Perhaps they toasted their nephew before they took a drink. A few minutes later Maxime was dead and his wife was unconscious.
Fortunately a neighbour found the couple and Mrs Masseron was rushed to hospital but was still in a coma 11 days later. Doctors thought it was a case of food poisoning; the couple had made a mistake in the preparation of their festive food, a tragic accident. However, the diagnosis came into question a few days later when the couple’s son-in-law, Paul Isabert, and the local carpenter, Roger Regnault, called at the Masseron’s home. The bottle of wine was still on the table. Perhaps the pair drank to the memory of Maxime or to the speedy recovery of his wife. Maybe they just didn’t want to waste the wine. Whatever the reason, they both collapsed on the floor unconscious.
Thankfully, Isabert and Regnault both recovered but it was now clear that it wasn’t food poisoning that had affected the Masserons and the police got involved. Analysis of the remaining wine revealed it wasn’t just Côtes du Rhône in the bottle, there was also a lethal poison, atropine.
Roussel, who had presented the wine to the Masserons, immediately fell under suspicion and a police search of his apartment yielded some damning evidence. There were bottles of medicine and poisons; magazine and newspaper articles on poisons and, most suspiciously, several Agatha Christie novels.
Christie is renowned for her use of poison in her crime novels and her collected works are a rich source of information and inspiration for the potential murderer.
. . . .
Christie is absolutely right that atropine can be obtained from eye drops. In the appropriate dose, applied directly to the eye, atropine dilates the pupil by paralysing the muscles that normally cause it to contract. The other symptoms described by Christie are exactly what you would expect for atropine poisoning.
. . . .
As Roussel found out, Christie is not an infallible guide to committing the perfect crime. The science in Christie’s crime stories is usually of a very high standard but a lot has changed since the time she was writing. Today sophisticated analytical techniques mean a broad range of poisons can be tested simultaneously and atropine could be identified with a very high degree of accuracy even if it wasn’t initially suspected.
I don’t think Christie can be blamed for inspiring Roussel – he had certainly done a lot of additional research into poisons – but unfortunately for him, not enough to get away with it.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Sean for the tip.