Unsolved Murders

Hilary Rougier

Age: 77

Sex: male

Date: 14 Aug 1926

Place: Nuthurst, Lower Knaphill, Woking

Source: find.galegroup.com

Hilary Rougier was a retired Guernsey farmer that died in 1926, but when his body was exhumed 18 months later it was determined that he had died from morphine poisoning that was not self inflicted.

He had been buried in an unmarked grave in St. John's Churchyard near Woking in August 1926 and was exhumed on 6 March 1928.

A few years before his death he had been worth between £5,000 and £6,000 but at the time of his death his will proved at less than £50 net. He had been reputed to have been wealthy.

It was thought that the people that he had been living with had somehow taken his savings over a period of a couple of years and when he had run out they had killed him, however, they were not charged.

It was said that while he had lived at Nuthurst he had suffered from asthma.

A local doctor said that he had been called out to Nuthurst to see Hilary Rougier on 23 July 1926 and said that he appeared to be quite healthy for a man of his age except for slight signs of bronchial trouble. However, he did say that Hilary Rougier seemed very subdued and when asked to explain by the Coroner he said, 'He never spoke for himself. The landlady monopolised the conversation and seemed to speak on his behalf'. He then went on to say that on 14 August 1926 he received an urgent call from the landlady who told him that she had found Hilary Rougier unconscious in his room and that when he saw him he was in a dying condition and obviously beyond aid. He said that he concluded that it was a case of sudden and severe cerebral haemorrhage during the night. On Hilary Rougier's death certificate he gave the cause of death as senile decay, cerebral haemorrhage and coma. He said that there was nothing at the time to make him suspect that death was due to unnatural causes.

At his exhumation in 1928 the pathologist said that he found no disease to account for death, or for the symptoms which preceded it. He said that he was unable to say that Hilary Rougier had died of natural causes because he found no disease which would account for his death.

A senior official analyst at the Home Office said that he found alkaloid morphine in the organs which suggested that shortly before his death he had possibly taken a fatal dose. A large number of bottles and tins were produced and the analyst said that one that was labelled 'Linctus one teaspoonful to be taken if the cough is troublesome' contained 0.15% morphine and that if the whole bottle was taken that would be getting towards a fatal dose. He said that another bottle labelled as 'Laudanum' contained a tincture of opium which was 1% morphine and that a considerable quantity taken from that bottle would have produced the results that he had found.

The police searched the books of all the chemists’ in Woking from January 1924 through to 14 August 1926 and found no entry signed by the main suspect that Hilary Rougier had been living with.

At Hilary Rougier's post-mortem in 1928 the Home Office analyst said that from the traces of morphine found in his organs that there was a considerable quantity of the drug, possibly a fatal dose and that it had been taken a few hours before his death.

A man that had married Hilary Rougier's niece and had first met Hilary Rougier in 1915 said that he had heard about Hilary Rougier's death at 4.30pm on the Saturday that he died. He said that he had telephoned to Nuthurst and had spoken to the woman there and was told that Hilary Rougier had died quite suddenly whilst her husband was away.

The man said that he had made the funeral arrangements for Hilary Rougier and after the funeral he had gone back to Nuthurst and said that when he was shown through Hilary Rougier's personal belongings he said, 'I was very surprised that I did not find Mr Rougier's cheque book. It could not be found'. He said that in the little chest of drawers next to the bed in which Hilary Rougier died he found three coins and a few letters and cuttings from newspapers of a personal natures. He said that he didn't think at first that it was strange that the woman that he had lodged with had made the suggestion of cremation, but since he had given it some thought and had since attached importance to it.

The man's wife said that among the articles sent to her husband by the woman was Hilary Rougier's pass book.

A solicitor who said that he had prepared Hilary Rougier's will in 1919 said 'On the 9 September 1926 I went to Nuthurst, and there saw the landlady and told her I had come to inquire into the death of Mr Rougier. She rather resented my appearance, but was quite nice. She referred me to her solicitor at Brighton'. He went on to say 'I thought it was rather an extraordinary thing that Mr Rougier, who should have left about £5,000 or £6,000, only left a very small amount'. He added that Hilary Rougier's estate realised £79 gross and that a certain amount of the estate was in cash, about £50, lying at a bank in Guernsey. He said that the only debts against the estate were the funeral expenses which he paid.

When asked what he discovered from the solicitors in Brighton the solicitor said that he would rather not say because of an action that was pending but did say 'I did not obtain any satisfactory results'.

He went on to add that he found a passbook containing entries of cheques, a great many of which were payable to the landlady which he said he thought was an extraordinary thing. The Coroner read out the amounts and dates of twelve cheques, several payable to the landlady, the amounts including £130, £53, £60, £85 and £40 adding that there was also a bearer cheque for £1,850.

In December 1928 the man and landlady took libel actions against the proprietors of The News of the World arising out of the death of Hilary Rougier. The actions were however disposed of before the Lord Chief Justice in the King's Bench Division where they were listed for a hearing by a special jury but withdrawn after a statement by counsel that 'a very substantial sum' had been paid by the defendants to the plaintiff'. In the News of the World issue on 3 June 1928 an article had appeared headed 'Who poisoned Rougier?' which contained a photo of the man and the landlady below which the text read, 'Who poisoned Rougier? Mr and Mrs [landlady etc]. The court heard that by the way the page was made up that the names of the two people might well appear to be an answer to the question 'Who poisoned Rougier?'. The KC said 'Without any doubt'. The misery and mental pain which they had suffered as a consequence of the article could not be adequately described. He went on to say 'I hold in my hands, an anonymous letter containing a drawing of the hangman's noose. That is typical of the mental pain which the landlady has endured. However, it was noted that it was fair to the newspaper to say that the defence was that the libel appeared through sheer inadvertence, and an apology was published in the next issue.

Later in 1934 the man that had been living with the landlady and who had also been under some suspicion over Hilary Rougier's death was questioned in Combe Martin village by the police. He had been borrowing money from residents from the pace he had been staying. However, he took a moment to take a couple of steps back, took out a bottle from which he drank and then fell dead. The hotel proprietor said that the man had seemed quite normal although his son said that he had appeared strange and agitated the morning before he died. He said that he seemed worried and that just as he was leaving the hotel he took up a newspaper and said in an ordinary tone 'Let's see what the news is today' but that he only looked at the pictures and that when he saw a picture of a man under arrest his expression changed completely and he put down the newspaper without another word. The man's brother said that he had been to Canada for some time.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see "Village Street Death." Times [London, England] 17 Mar. 1934: 14. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see Western Daily Press - Thursday 31 May 1928

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Thursday 31 May 1928

see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 21 May 1928

see Bexhill-on-Sea Observer - Saturday 19 May 1928

see Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 15 March 1934

see Western Daily Press - Thursday 13 December 1928