South Yorkshire Times May 7, 1955
Open Verdict at Inquest on Conisbrough Man
The Doncaster District Coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile) recorded an open verdict at a resumed Conisbrough inquest on Friday on William Gough (76), retired turf commission agent, who was found dead under an eiderdown and a raincoat in a gas filled room at his home in Barnsley Avenue, Conisbrough, on January 6th.
‘Mr. Carlile said it had been a ‘rather difficult’ inquest because at first the evidence did suggest that Gough had committed suicide, but he could not overlook the fact that the old man was in the habit of going downstairs to make himself a drink, and it was possible that the gas taps had been turned on accidentally. There was no doubt, the Coroner said, that death was due to coal gas poisoning.
Shaftsman at Cadeby Colliery, James Rush, son-in-law, who lived with Gough, said he returned home from the pit at 6 a.m. On January 6th. He found his father-in-law lying on the floor between the gas oven and an arm chair. Gough had a small eiderdown round his shoulders and on top of that he had a raincoat.
Rush told the Coroner: ‘I noticed a faint smell of gas, but had my father-in-law not been on the floor I would not have attached any importance to it as it is not an unusual smell.’ He mentioned that his father-in-law had often complained of his breathing.
Rush said the old man appeared to be dead although he was still warm. Witness said he called his wife down, and he ran to get Dr. Bell, and his wife’s sister. Rush said that when he returned home he examined the gas oven and found one of the taps connected to one of the rings turned on. There was, he said, a spent match in top of the oven.
In answer to the Coroner, Rush stated that there was no reason why the tap should have been turned in, unless his father-in-law intended to make himself a drink.
P.c. Ralph Charlesworth, of Conisbrough, said he arrived at the house at about 7 a.m. And he asked Mrs. Rush if anything had been moved. He was satisfied that nothing had been touched. He said Gough was wearing only a pyjama jacket and trousers.
Dr. Henry Lederer, consultant pathologist at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, said that a post mortem examination had shown that Gough had tuberculosis, and the heart muscle was degenerated. His external appearance did not suggest coal gas poisoning.
Dr. Lederer said a specimen of Gough’s blood had showed that the blood stream was saturated with 40 per cent. carbon monoxide. Asked by the Coroner if this was sufficient to kill, Dr. Lederer said ‘No.’ He usually reckoned that about 60 per cent of the gas in the blood was needed to kill, but he agreed that, because of the bad state of Gough’s lungs, the gas had caused his death. Dr. Lederer said death was due to coal gas poisoning accelerated by the bad state of the lungs and tuberculosis.
Dr. John R. McKenzie, of the Sheffield Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel, said that Gough was also suffering from pneumoconiosis, and there was tuberculosis scattered throughout the lungs. Dr. McKenzie agreed with Dr. Lederer that Gough would die quicker under coal gas poisoning than a normal man because of the poor state of the lungs.