Open Verdict at Conisbro’ Inquest

October 1958

South Yorkshire Times October 11, 1958

Open Verdict at Conisbro’ Inquest

The Doncaster district deputy Coroner, Mr. C. R. Marshall, recorded an open verdict at a resumed Conisbrough inquest on Tuesday on Herbert Alfred Ford (65), a retired steelworks water softener, of 83, Daylands Avenue, Conisbrough, who died on July 18th, at his home.

The Coroner said an inquest had adjourned on July 19th, when a son of the dead man Herbert Alfred Ford, who then lived at the same address, said his father had not worked for ten years.

On Tuesday the son said his father stopped work ten years ago because of heart trouble and he had had two strokes, one of them three years ago. He said his father’s left arm was paralysed and his father had become depressed because of his illness and because of his physical condition generally.

Witness said that during the past year or so his father had, on many occasions, talked about taking his own life, and a doctor had been informed of this. Witness said his father had been under the care of a doctor for all that time. Witness said his father died on July 18th.

On July 12th the son had married.

Coroner: Was he happy about your getting married? Witness: Yes, sir.

Just After Midnight

Witness said that on Thursday, July 17th, he and his wife went to Denaby and his father was all right then. He said they returned home just after midnight. He said they heard his father walking about the room but this was not unusual, as he frequently did so. He said he heard his father get into bed, as a bed creaked. Witness said he and his wife slept in a ground floor room directly below his father’s room. He said before he went to bed his turn off the gas at the mains in the kitchen – a thing he did every night for a long time because his father said he was going to put a lot of money in the gas metre and gassed himself while they were out. Witness said his father could get to the kitchen from his bedroom without coming through their bedroom.

Coroner: And to the gas metre? Witness: Yes sir.

Witness said that next morning’s wife went to take his father a cup of tea, but she couldn’t waken him. Witness then went up to his father’s room and found his father felt cold stop witness went to fetch a next-door neighbour, Mrs Green. Witness said he did not smell any gas in the room at the time.

Witness told the Coroner that he notices father’s dressing gown on the floor behind the bedroom door.

Coroner: “I don’t know what the reason is that you are telling a different story today that which you told the police.”

The Coroner pointed out that witness said in a statement that he did not see the dressing gown, but at the inquest the witness assured the Coroner that he had seen the dressing gown on the floor.

The Coroner then passed a note to the witness asking if it was the one the Police had found and shown to him. He said it was.

The note said, “Goodbye all. From Dad. Tea up. Herbert”

Had Shown him the Note

Witness said that his father had shown him the note 3 or four months ago and had said, “One of these days I’ll be using this because I am depressed.” The son said he told his father “not to be daft.”

Witness had said in a statement that his father could not read nor write, the Coroner pointed out, yet witness now said that the note was in his father’s writing.

Witness explained that he had tried to teach his father to read and write and his father must have picked out the letters from a newspaper.

Witness assured the Corners that he had turned off the gas the night before his father’s death, and he had not turned it on again in the morning.

Witness said his father had been prescribed tablets by a doctor at witness are kept the tablets and given his father one every night, and kept the tablets in a coat pocket.

When questioned by the Coroner witness said he did not stop to see if his father took the pills each night.

Coroner: “He could then have built up a little store of them if he had wanted?” Witness “He could have done, yes.”

Witness said that when he was at work his coat with the tablets was in the bedroom next to his father’s room.

Mrs Mary Ford, wife of the previous winners, said her father-in-law had talked on several occasions about committing suicide, but had not said how.

Coroner: Do you remember a policeman asking you about this?

Witness: Yes sir.

Coroner: You then said he had told you he would gas himself.

Witness confirmed that her husband turned off the gas every night. She said that before they went out on the night before his death, her father-in-law kissed her and said “Goodbye and God bless you” and give his son a cigarette saying, “That’s the last cigarette I’ll give you.”

Coroner: “Why did your husband not say this?” Witness: I don’t know.

Coroner: “You did not tell the Police that, did you?” Witness: No sir.

Coroner: “When you came in did you think of going to see him after he had said this ” Witness:

“No, sir.”


Witness said she got up to make breakfast on the morning of her father-in-law’s death.

She said she cooked some bacon for her husband.

Coroner: “Who turned on the gas then?” Witness (turning to husband) “Didn’t you?” He replied “No”.

Coroner (to Mrs. Ford): You didn’t turn on the gas then?”

Witness: “No, sir”.

Here the Coroner reminded her that she had said in a statement that she had to turn on the gas before she could make the tea. Witness then replied that she had to turn on the gas.

Coroner: “Now you are saying you did turn on the gas”. Witness: “Yes, sir”. Coroner: “Are you sure you turned it on?” Witness: “Yes, sir.”

Witness said she then took her father-in-law a cup of tea and tried to wake him but she could not do so.

Coroner: this is very unsatisfactory.”

He pointed out that witness had said in a statement that she was sure the gas was on at the mains as she did not know how to turn it on.

Current: “You can’t turn it on if you don’t know how, you now see you did turn it on. Which do you mean?”

Witness: “I can’t remember.”

Coroner: “Did you know how to turn on the gas at the mains?”

Witness: “No, sir.”

Depressed at Times

Mrs evening Green, of 81, Dillons Avenue, Conisbrough, a next-door neighbour, said she had known Mrs Ford (Senior) for about eight years. She said he was depressed at times and on three occasions he had said “Goodbye” to her and had shaken hands with her.” He told me, a four night before his death, that you put 15 shillings into the gas, but he did not always speak the truth,” she said.

Witness added that on the night before his death, he went to her house about 11 PM and was then depressed. She said she tried to cheer him up, but he said it was too late to cheer him up and again said, “Goodbye.”

Witness said she felt uneasy about this but thought things would be all right when she heard Mr and Mrs Ford coming home.

Witness said she had asked Mr Ford (Senior), how he intended committing suicide. She said he told her that he would not gas himself. “I got the stuff and I’ll do it when I’m ready,” she said he had once told her, and added that he had said he was “waiting” for something, but would not say what.

Witness said that a fortnight before he died Mr Ford had asked her to write you may not. “He said he wanted people to know why he was going to commit suicide.” Witness said she refused to do so and so and told him not to be silly. She said he did not stated reason at the time, but said he would tell her she wrote a note.

Cause of Death

David Ernest Price, consultant pathologist, said there was no carbon monoxide present in the blood and the cause of death was barbiturate poisoning. He said the heart was in a bad condition. He added that there was no evidence of violence.

Coroner: “The question of coal gas poisoning is eliminated then?”

Witness: “Yes, sir.”

Witness said that about 10 or 12 of the capsules was a fatal dose

Coroner: “Then the moral of this is: given them a drink and watch them take the pills, as he could have made a start of these pills.”

Police Sergeant Jack Fairburn, of Conisbrough, said that on July 18 he went, with Detective officer Nicholls to the house at 83 Daylands Ave, Conisbrough. He went upstairs and found the deceased dead in bed. Witness said he was attracted by a hissing noise of gas, but there was no smell of gas. He said D.O. Nicholls turned off the gas from the gas fire in the bedroom.

Witness said that all the windows were short and the curtains were drawn and they found a rolled up dressing gown behind the door, obviously placed there deliberately. He said he found two blue tablets in a trinket box, but there was no sign of a drinking glass or other vessel, only a mug of tea, which was untouched.

The Sergeant said that at first, indications was that there was nothing to account for the death but the gas, yet he had a feeling that this was not the cause.

Found a Note

He said he found a note by the clock on the sideboard in the living room. Witness said he confirmed with a doctor that the deceased had been having treatment for heart trouble, and that on June 18, 30 sodium amytal tablets have been prescribed. The Sergeant confirmed that the gas supply was in sound condition and the gas fire was also sound.

Summing up, the Coroner said:

“This enquiry, in the initial stages, was surrounded by a good deal of mystery, and although it is now cleared up it has been very unsatisfactory.”