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Madeleine Smith – Pre-Trial (Podcast)

Hi and welcome to random Scottish history’s first true crime project. We’re going to be covering the Square Mile of Murder in Glasgow. These were a series of crimes that began in 1857 with the last being in 1908. They were not perpetrated by the same person. They were four separate cases, with a total of five victims, potentially 6. There was someone who may have been murdered that did not receive justice. The term “Square Mile of Murder” was coined by a Jack House in his publication of 1961, but I’m going to state here that, at Random Scottish History, we don’t use recent information at all, we go to contemporary sources. 

For this series, as we’ve done previously with other projects, we’re going to be taking our information from the contemporary Scottish Press of the time. So, you’re going to be receiving the information in the same way as the public received the information at the time. The cases are going to be in three parts; you have pre-trial, trial, and verdict & aftermath. Each of these parts are going to be fairly different lengths for each of the cases were going to cover. Some of the people were known and in the public eye prior to the crimes, so they were already being reported on, others were not known until the murders took place and that is where their notoriety, or their fame lies. You have different amounts of information for each of the cases but the idea is to convey as full a picture to you as possible. We’re going to go right into the court trials day to day and really just leave you to make up your own mind on the cases. Was justice served? Did the victims receive the justice they were owed? Did the perpetrators receive their just dues? 

Quite a lot of people feel like there’s still a lot of mystery attached to these cases but I was surprised when I put feelers out before embarking on this project to see how Random Scottish History followers would react to the information. Would they even want the information? So many came back saying they’d not actually heard of the Square Mile murders so I’m kind of excited to bring these cases to those people and, if you’re one of them, then I think you’re in for a bit of a treat. By delivering the information directly from the contemporary Scottish press, chronologically, you don’t just get right in about the case, you also have an opportunity to get right in about Glasgow life at the time. How did people live? What was expected of people? I think that there are quite a lot of wee eye-opening pieces of information that I hadn’t considered about life in 19th century Glasgow. 

I hope I can bring you the same interest and joy in the information as I had. Of course, there’s very sad moments, especially in cases where you feel justice wasn’t served properly, where perhaps bias got in the way of justice. So, there’s a lot of sadness throughout the cases; not just for the victims, but for some of those accused of the crimes too. You can’t help but really feel for what they had to go through because once you were condemned that really was it for you. Even if it didn’t lead to a sentence of death, your life was forever tainted and there were always going to be people out there who believed that you were guilty of exactly what they said you were guilty of. But I guess we’re just going to give you the information, let you decide for yourself how you receive that information, and what you make of it, because people do still have very differing views on these cases, even now. So, we’ll get into it, shall we? 

We begin with the earliest case, that of Madeleine Smith, who was accused of killing her lover, Pierre Emile L’Angellier. Madeleine is, perhaps, the most famous of our Square Mile Murders’ accused. She has left us with something of a mystery, with regards her case. People are still divided over the verdict of this one.

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 4th April, 1857, p.4.

   THE FATAL CASE OF POISONING IN GLASGOW. – It was stated briefly in our last that a young female of a most respectable family in Glasgow had been apprehended on the serious charge of poisoning a young Frenchman with whom she was intimate. The case has been matter of judicial procedure to an extent which renders it needless any longer to withhold the names of the parties concerned. We may state, therefore, says a contemporary, that a close intimacy had subsisted between Pierre Emille L’Angelier, a young Frenchman, in the employment of Messrs Huggins & Co., and Miss Madeleine Smith, daughter of Mr James Smith, architect, Blythswood Square. On Saturday the 21st, or Sabbath morning the 22d March, this young gentleman, when at Bridge-of-Allan, received a letter from Miss Smith, desiring a meeting with him. It is understood that he took the train to Greenhill, whence, being Sunday, he walked to Glasgow. He paid a visit to his lodgings that evening for a brief space; and on going out, took with him the latch-key, saying that he would be late. He did not return till about two in the morning, when he complained of violent suffering. A medical gentleman was sent for, who prescribed for the case, and retired, apparently without any suspicion of poisoning. During the night the young man continued to be in great agony, and was attended from time to time by his landlady. On Monday forenoon, when the medical gentleman again called, he found that his patient was dead. The case being of so unusual a character, the firm with which the young man was connected ordered a post mortem examination, when the presence of arsenic was easily detected. The case then went into the hands of the Fiscal, and a further medical examination confirmed the evidence of the presence of arsenic in the stomach. A judicial investigation followed, and the suspicions of guilt attaching to Miss Smith became so strong that she was apprehended on Tuesday. It is not matter of any doubt that the young lady had purchased arsenic, but we hear that this was said to be for use as a cosmetic. It is said that Miss Smith was on terms of marriage with Monsieur Pierre Emille L’Angelier, but that a match of a much more eligible description in a worldly point of view had recently been placed at her disposal, and encouraged by her parents. 

Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, Saturday 4th April, 1857, p.4.

Taken from the Scottish Guardian article.


   Painful rumours have been flying about the city for some days about a tragic event, by which the life of a young foreigner has been taken away by poison, under circumstances which have led to apprehension of a young lady on suspicion of being the guilty administrator. 

[Same sentiments as prior Caledonian Mercury article.] 

Inverness Advertiser and Ross-shire Chronicle, Tuesday 7th April, 1857, p.3.

   SUSPECTED POISONING IN GLASGOW. – … The young gentleman who is supposed to have been poisoned was buried the other day; but has been exhumed, and it is said that arsenic has been discovered in the stomach… 

Stirling Observer, Thursday 9th April, 1857, p.3.



   A rumour was circulated in Glasgow on Saturday, to the effect that Miss Smith, had been liberated on bail. This is not the case; the young lady is still in custody, and the investigations of the case is still proceeding. The further evidence which has now been obtained, and which, with other testimony, is duly transmitted to Crown Counsel, tends rather to strengthen than to remove the suspicions which led to her apprehension. 

Glasgow Herald, Friday 10th April, 1857, p.5.

   The Suspected Case of Poisoning. – We learn that the precognition in the case of Miss Madeleine Smith was transmitted, on Tuesday night last, to Edinburgh, for the perusal and instructions of the Solicitor-General. The investigation, which necessarily extends over a wide field, still continues. It will likely be known in the course of this day whether the case is to result in committal or liberations. 

Glasgow Courier, Saturday 11th April, 1857, p.2.


  The precognition in the case of Miss Madeleine Smith were transmitted to the Crown authorities on Tuesday, and the result of their perusal by the Lord-Advocate was an instruction, received in Glasgow yesterday, to commit her for trial. In obedience to that instruction she has been committed, and the officials are now engaged in making such farther investigation as may be necessary to complete the case for the Crown. We have no desire to offer any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner. Rumour has been rife, and unquestionably many exaggerated statements have been in circulation. The resolution of the Lord-Advocate to bring the charge before the public tribunal must be satisfactory to all parties. If the unfortunate girl is innocent, the course to be followed is the only one by which her innocence can be established, if she is guilty public justice will be satisfied. 

   The following are some facts in reference to the last moments of Monsieur L’Angellier which it is very, important to publish, as they correct some misrepresentations that have got abroad. The young man returned as formerly stated, to his lodgings about two o’clock in the morning, and from that time continued ill. Having previously had similar attacks to that which he at the time laboured under, he was unwilling to send for a medical man, especially as his landlady had no servant, and would be obliged to go herself. Subsequently she volunteer to go for a physician, and she accordingly went to Dr. Steven, who was the nearest. This gentleman, having been recently indisposed himself, was unwilling to leave his house; the more so, as the case of Monsieur L’Angellier was represented as a billious attack, which could be prescribed for without an interview with the patient. The treatment recommended by the doctor was that large draughts of warm water should be given until the stomach was well rinsed out. The landlady immediately adopted the measures prescribed, which afforded considerable relief to the patient. Some time after, however, the illness continuing, the young man himself expressed a desire that the doctor should be sent for. Dr. Steven, now understanding that the gentleman was a Frenchman, and fearing he might only be partially understood, and thus neglected, did not hesitate to go. This was about 7 o’clock. M. L’Angellier at this time was pulseless and rather cold. He complained of pain at the stomach, and seemed anxious about his state. He told the doctor, we understand, that this was the third attack of the same kind he had suffered from. This, together with the fact of the vomiting having now ceased, and the general resemblance of the case to one of British cholera, not unnaturally made him suppose M. L’Angellier might be subject, from some cause or other, to such illnesses – and all the more so, when he learned that, some weeks before, he had been seen by Dr. Hugh Thompson for what the landlady called ‘a bilious fever.’ Dr. Steven remained above half-an-hour with his patient, doing what could be done to relieve the pain at the stomach, and to rouse the system from the state of collapse. Trusting to the probability of his recovering gradually, he gave such directions as seemed necessary or admissible, and promised an early visit in the forenoon. When he returned about 11 o’clock, M. L’Angellier was dead. The landlady, who had been beside him a few minutes before, was only made aware of the fact by the doctor going to the bedside. As Dr. Steven could not account for the death from natural causes, and Dr. Thompson could throw no light upon the nature of the previous illnesses, both gentlemen, with Messrs. Huggins’ leave, made a post mortem examination next day. There being nothing in the general appearance of the internal organs indicative of the old disease, they removed the stomach, and subjected it to a particular examination. The conclusions drawn from this investigation led them to enclose the stomach and its contents in a sealed bottle to facilitate farther inquiry into the cause of death in this painful case; and this circumstance formed the foundation of the legal proceedings which have since taken place. After arsenic had been found in the stomach by chemical analysis, the body of the deceased was exhumed, and subjected to a farther examination, in order to discover whether any traces of the poison could be detected in the tissues, as the depositions, we understand, gave reason to suspect the administration of repeated doses of arsenic. M. L’Angellier, we may state, did not belong to France, but was a native of Jersey, and consequently a British subject. 

Glasgow Sentinel, Saturday 11th April, 1857, p.5.



… The Herald of [yesterday] morning supplies the following version of this extraordinary affair:- 

… So long as the matter was confined to rumour and surmise, we did not consider that were called on to make any public allusion to it; but now that a young lady has been committed to prison on a most serious charge, and the names of the respective parties are in the mouths of every one, any further delicacy in the way of withholding allusion to the case is impossible. At the same time we fervently trust that the cloud which at present obscures a most respectable and estimable household may be speedily and most effectively removed. It appears that on the morning of Monday, 23d March last, a young French Protestant gentleman, named Mons. Pierre Emille L’Angellier, connected with the house of Messrs W. B. Huggins and Co., died suddenly in his lodgings in Franklin Place, Great Western Road… The stomach and its contents, however, were secured, and retained by the medical gentlemen. The case having been reported to the Sheriff’s Fiscals, these officials, after inquiry into the circumstances of the case, transmitted the stomach and its contents to one of our most eminent and local chemists for chemical analysis. The result of the analysis was the discovery in the stomach and viscera of a considerable quantity of irritant poison. As there was not any strong presumption that Monsieur L’Angellier had himself thus violently terminated his existence, an inquiry of a searching character was instituted… Whether or not the parties really did or did not meet on that Sunday night we have no means of knowing; but in resorting to the extreme step of apprehending Miss —, the authorities no doubt founded on the fact, which is not disputed, that on more than one occasion the lady, who is only 21 years of age, procured arsenic, during the month of March, at the shops of more than one of our West End chemists. The possession of this poison, however, is compatible with the most entire innocence; for it is known that arsenic is sometimes used by ladies, in a private way, as a cosmetic. The thought that a highly and virtuously bred young lady could destroy her sweetheart is almost too appalling for belief;.. Meanwhile we earnestly counsel the public to suspend its judgment pending the investigation now in progress. Though the young lady is in the hands of justice, there is nothing in her proceedings, so far as known to us, which is incompatible with entire innocence. And though she should be found pure and guiltless, as we trust may be the case, the family will have suffered deeply by having had one of their household even suspected of a crime so odious. We may add that Miss —, who, we understand, was judicially examined at great length before the Sheriff on Tuesday last, comported herself throughout with perfect calmness. 

Falkirk Herald, Thursday 16th April, 1857, p.3.


   It may be stated that evidence of great importance for the defence of Miss Smith, the young lady now in custody, has been obtained in Dundee, and as the charge against her has attracted so much attention, and the facts in favour of her innocence are not generally known, it is only proper that we should mention that M. L’Angellier resided in Dundee for nine months in 1852, and was consequently well known to many parties in the town with whom he was on terms of intimacy, and who heard with regret of his sudden and untimely end. According to the statement of those who were acquainted with him here, he was born and bred in Jersey, and was therefore not a Frenchman, as has been stated; but he was of French extraction, his father having fled from France at the period of the first French revolution, and settled in Jersey as a nurseryman. His father dying early, the business was carried on for the benefit of his mother, and young L’Angellier was sent to Edinburgh with the view of gaining the necessary experience as a nurseryman to enable him to conduct the business successfully in Jersey. He obtained a situation in the establishment of Messrs Dickson & Co., seedsmen, which he held for upwards of six years. He then went to France, where he spent about two years; and he was in Paris at the time of the revolution in 1848. He subsequently returned to Edinburgh, but was not successful in obtaining a situation on his second visit, and indeed it is believed he did not seek one very anxiously, as he was then somewhat gay in his habits, and by no means remarkable for his devotion to business. He had contracted an attachment with a young lady belonging to Fife, and residing at the time in Edinburgh; but from some cause or other – it is believed owing to the lady’s want of faith in his ability to undertake the responsibilities of married life – “the course of true love” was interrupted, and L’Angellier left Edinburgh in January 1852 for Dundee, where he obtained a situation with Mr Laird, nurseryman, Nethergate, with whom he lodged during his nine months’ residence here. 

   M. L’Angellier had not been long in Dundee when news arrived of the marriage of his sweet-heart, which filled him with grief, and for some time he was uncommonly melancholy, declaring that he was miserable and wretched on account of his blighted hopes. Indeed, so much did he feel this disappointment, that he at one time threatened, in the hearing of more than one person, to commit suicide – even threatening to stab himself with a knife – a fact which is considered of great importance in connection with the present case, as it shows that it was by no means an incredible thing that a young man of such excitable temperament might, while smarting under a love disappointment, actually commit the rash act which, under similar circumstances in Dundee, he had threatened to do. It is also reported – although we have not been able to verify the statement – that in another instance, when not so successful in a love affair as he desired, he threatened to drown himself. Indeed, he is represented by all who knew him as being of a romantic, excitable, thoroughly Gallician temperament; either greatly elevated or dejected, exceedingly happy or exceedingly miserable: lively, frolicsome, and ambitious to make conquests amongst the ladies in a station far above his own. He was very proud of his family descent, and fond of talking of the counts, marquises, and dukes of the old French nobility to whom he was related; but when in Dundee was so poor that those to whom he spoke of his high connections used to joke with him, and say it was a pity his aristocratic friends did not remember him. He was not in a position to move in society when here, but as a smart, pleasant young fellow, he had numerous acquaintances, with whom, however, he did not, after leaving the town, keep up any correspondence, and many of them heard of him for the first time since his departure when they read the account of his unfortunate end in the public prints. From this statement it will be seen that there is ample reason for the public suspending their judgment until the case comes to trial. The parties here most intimately acquainted with the youth at once wrote to the young lady’s father, on learning from the papers the nature of the charge against her, and a legal gentleman from Glasgow has already visited Dundee, and collected such evidence as is considered material for the defence. – Dundee Advertiser

Montrose Standard, Friday 17th April, 1857, p.2.



.. The accused, we believe, preserves her equanimity exceedingly, and her demeanour is certainly not like that of a guilty person. The defence has been entrusted to one of the leading firms in this city, and it is stated that the Dean of Faculty has been retained for the trial. 

Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Wednesday 29th April, 1857, p.3.

   The Scotsman states that the trial of Miss Madeleine Smith will not take place till the end of July in consequence of the additional time required to complete the investigation. 

Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, Saturday 30th May, 1857, p.7.


   The fixing of this trial has been delayed longer than was expected. The case continues to be investigated by the Crown and local authorities. The time allowed for fixing the trial expires within thirty days from this date, and if not fixed before that time present proceedings fall to the ground, and a new warrant, arrest, and investigation would be the result. We have, in our second page, copied a paragraph going the rounds; but that paragraph is incorrect in nearly all the particulars to which it refers. 

   Though the Crown authorities, in conjunction with the local authorities, are vigorously prosecuting the case, still little positively new evidence has been found. Report has it that the prisoner has been transferred to Edinburgh; but that too is incorrect. She will remain in Glasgow till a day or two before the trial. 

   We may state that the trial must take place within forty days after the time and place of it have been fixed. It is therefore likely that the trial may be fixed early in June. 

   As some discussion has taken place as to the Act which regulates the time of such trials, we quote, ad longam, the Act:- 

   And His Majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, farder Statutes and Ordains, that upon application of any Prisoner for Custody in order to Tryal, whether for Capital or Bailable Crimes, to any of the Lords of Justiciary, or other Judge or Judicatory competent for Judging the Crime or Offence for which he is imprisoned, and the said Prisoner, his producing the said Double of the Warrand of his Imprisonment under the Keeper’s Hand, the said Judge or Judicatory competent, under the pain of wrongous Imprisonment, are hereby Ordained within twenty-four Hours after the said Application and Petition is presented to him or them to give out Letters or Precepts direct to Messengers for intimating to his Majesties Advocat or Procurator-Fiscal, and Party appearing by the Warrand to be concerned, if any be within the Kingdom, to fix a Dyet for the Tryal within sixty days after the Intimation; certifying His Majesties Advocate or Procurator-Fiscal, and the said party concerned, that if they failzie, the Prisoner shall be discharged and set at liberty without delay, for doing whereof the said Judge or Judicatory competent are hereby expressly Warranted, and strictly Required and Ordained, to do the same under the penalty foresaid, unless the delay be upon the prisoner’s petition or desire, and the Dyet of the Tryal being prefixed, the Magistrates of the Place, or Keeper of the prison, shall then be obliged to deliver the Prisoner to a sufficient Guard, to be provided by the judge, His Majesties Advocat, or Procurator-Fiscal, shall insist in the Libel, and the Judge put the same to a Tryal, and the same shall be determined by a final Sentence within forty days, if before the Lords of Justiciary, and thirty days if before any other Judge, and if His Majesties Advocate or Procurator-Fiscal do not insist in the Tryal at the day appointed, and prosecute the same to the Conclusion as aforesaid; His Majesty with advice foresaid Statues and Ordains, that the Dyet shall then be simpliciter deserted, and the prisoner immediately liberat from his imprisonment for that crime or offence, and if no process be raised and execute within the time allowed, or in case of not insisting at the Dyet, and bringing the process to a conclusion within the foresaid space it shall be lawful to the prisoner to apply to the Justice-General, Justice-Clerk, or any of the Lords of Justiciary, or Judge competent respective; and upon his application and instructing that the limited time by law for insisting or concluding the process is elapsed, and instruments taken thereupon, the said Justice-General, Justice-Clerk, Lords of Justiciary, and Judge competent shall be obliged, within twenty-four hours, to issue out letters or precepts direct to messengers, for charging the Magistrates, or keepers of the prison where the prisoner is detained, for setting him at liberty, under the penalty of wrongous imprisonment, in case of delay or refusal, to grant the said letters or precepts, or to set him at liberty after the charge, without prejudice to the keeper of the prison, as to his dues in all cases of liberation, as formerly before the making of this Act, and the prisoner being liberate in manner aforesaid, it shall not be lawful to put or detain him in prison for the same crime, under the penalty of wrongous imprisonment, in case his former liberation be made known to the committer before the warrant be granted, or in case he be detained after his former imprisonment, is sufficiently instructed to the keeper of the prison, who, upon production of the former warrand of his liberation from his imprisonment for the same crime, shall be obliged to set the prisoner forthwith at liberty, unless there be new Criminal Letters raised before the Commissioners of Justiciary, and duely execute against the said prisoner; in which case it is hereby declared lawful to imprison him of new, though the saids letters be raised for the same crime for which he was formerly incarcerat, and it shall be lawful to apprehend and secure him at the time of executing the said letters, or at any time thereafter before tryal, and to detain him till his tryal, or that he be set at liberty in the due course of law; and his Majesty, with advice and consent and advice foresaid, ordains his Majesty’s Advocat to insist in the said lybel, and prosecute the same to a final sentence within fourty days after the said prisoner is of new incarcerat thereupon, unless the delay be upon the application or at the desire of the prisoner; Wherein if the King’s Advocat failzie, the Dyet is to be deserted simpliciter, and the prisoner ordained to be set at liberty from the said imprisonment. And the process not being duely prosecute as aforesaid, and the dyet thereupon deserted, his Majesty, with the advice and consent foresaid, declares the party imprisoned a second time as aforesaid to be for ever free from all question or process for the foresaid crime or offence. – Glasgow Examiner

Edinburgh Evening Courant, Thursday 11th June, 1857, p.3.

   MISS MADELEINE SMITH. – It is not unlikely that Madeleine Smith will be brought up for trial on or about Tuesday the 30th current. Should her agents desire a week’s delay, however, to complete their preparations for the prisoner’s defence, there is little doubt that this additional time will be granted by the officers for the Crown. In all, about 100 witnesses have been, or will be, summoned in connection with the case. – Glasgow Herald

Glasgow Herald, Monday 15th June, 1857, p.5.


   We learn that on Saturday night last Miss Madeleine Smith was served, in the North Prison, with an indictment to stand her trial before the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, on Tuesday the 30th current. The indictment, we believe, contains three counts – the first two charging the prisoner with the crime of attempting to murder Pierre Emille L’Angelier, by administering arsenic to him, on two separate occasions; and the third charges her with the crime of murder, in so far as she did administer arsenic to L’Angelier on the night between Sunday, the 22nd, and Monday, the 23rd of March last, of which poison he died on the said Monday. The list of witnesses enumerated in the indictment extends to 89 – including the intimate friends and all who were with the deceased in his closing days, the medical gentlemen and chemists, as well as the father, mother, brothers, and sisters of the prisoner, and the domestics of the family. Among the “productions” referred to in the indictment are about 200 letters which passed between the deceased L’Angelier and Miss Smith, and a private memorandum book or diary kept by the former, all of which will be produced and founded upon at the trial. Miss Smith was brought out of her cell into the corridor of the wing of the prison in which she is confined, to receive the indictment. She stated that she had been led by her agent then to expect such a document, and without reading or opening it, she handed it to the clerk of Messrs. Moncrieff, Paterson, Forbes & Barr, her agents, who was in attendance. The young lady was perfectly collected and unmoved. It is understood that the Lord President will preside at the trial; but although the 30th of June is fixed in the indictment, there is scarcely a doubt that delay will be granted if craved by the prisoner’s counsel for the adequate preparation of her defence; but whether or not such delay will be asked we have no means of knowing. there will also of course be a large body of witnesses for the defence, and the trial must extend over some days. 

Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday 17th June, 1857, p.2.

   THE GLASGOW POISONING CASE. – … As one consequence of this unhappy case, Mr Smith, the prisoner’s father, is winding up his business and realising his property, with the view of leaving the country with his family upon the termination of the trial. 

Edinburgh Evening Courant, Saturday 27th June, 1857, p.2.

   MISS SMITH’S TRIAL. – Regulations have been published relative to the accommodation of the public and parties interested, at the trial of Miss Madeleine Smith, which takes place on Tuesday first. From the unusual interest excited by the case, there will no doubt be a great pressure on the limited accommodation which the High Court affords; and all who can restrain their curiosity, or who are unable to encounter a crush, would do well to stay away. The doors are to be opened at eight to the public galleries. A policeman will be stationed outside and another inside each door of the Court, and the passages will be kept clear. No one, except the Judges, will be allowed admission to the platform of the bench unless on application to the Court. No one will be admitted within the Court except the counsel in the case, the Faculty reporter, and the officers of Court. The reporters’ seat behind the bar will be reserved for the Edinburgh press, who will obtain admission by ticket; and, in like manner, the side seat opposite the jury-box will be reserved for the Glasgow reporters. In addition to the Faculty seat, one of the side galleries will be reserved for advocates, who are requested to attend in their court dress. The seat of the Writers to the Signet will be reserved for members of that body. To the other side gallery admission will be given to those having tickets for the same.

So, that’s us at the end of our pre-trial round-up of articles, with regards Madeleine Smith’s case, for poisoning her lover, Pierre Emile L’Angellier, and you may have to join me for the next one to find out how the trial goes. Take care.

Narration by Jenny

Art by Alex

Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson

Greysteil by Paul Burns.

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