Unsolved Murders

Harry Pace

Age: 36

Sex: male

Date: 10 Jan 1928

Place: Fetter Hill, Coleford, Forest of Dean

Harry Pace died from arsenic poisoning administered by a person or persons unknown.

His wife was tried for his murder but acquitted.

His life had been insured in 1924. He died on 10 January 1928. The events that followed were:

  • June/July 1927: Harry Pace first becomes ill.
  • 27 July 1927: Harry Pace's wife buys two packets of sheep dip from chemist's.
  • August 1927: Harry Pace dips sheep from which he believed he became poisoned.
  • 19 August 1927: Harry Pace goes into infirmary.
  • 20 October 1927: Harry Pace leaves the infirmary.
  • 10 January 1928: Harry Pace dies.
  • 15 January 1928: Harry Pace's funeral is stopped by the Coroner.
  • 16 January 1928: Harry Pace's inquest is opened and followed by 14 adjournments
  • 22 May 1928: Murder verdict returned at the inquest against Harry Pace's wife.
  • 4 June 1928: Harry Pace's wife committed for trial by Coleford magistrates.
  • 3 July 1928: Assize trial opens.
  • 6 July 1928: Harry Pace's wife acquitted of murder.

Harry Pace was a quarryman and a sheep farmer.

His funeral was stopped in January 1928 after Harry Pace's brother said that he said that Harry Pace's wife 'was always saying that she wished my brother was dead. She once said she would poison the old ----'.

The coroner stated that he had been receiving a dose at regular intervals between July 1927 and January 1928 before receiving one large fatal dose. The county analyst said that the total amount of arsenic found in his body was 9.42 grains and that in his opinion 2 grains would have been a fatal dose. However, he said that how and when  such a quantity of arsenic was absorbed into his system was a problem to be solved.

A police sergeant said that Harry Pace's wife had told him that her daughter had been into Harry Pace's bedroom and found a bottle there and that Harry Pace had told her that he had got a boy to bring it for him while she was out. She told the police sergeant that she didn’t know whether he had drunk any of its contents and that he had threatened to commit suicide several times.

Harry Pace's sister said that his wife was never alone with Harry Pace and that she attributed his illness to him running after sheep so much and that she was not suspicious and that she had never known her brother to threaten his life. She said that it was new to her that a patient in the hospital had said that when he had first seen Harry Pace he was nothing like so ill as when he had been discharged and that he had said that he would have sooner committed suicide than be a cripple all his life.

The Coroner also heard that a shop porter who had also been in the hospital said that Harry Pace had told him that he was suffering from arsenical poisoning from sheep washing. He said that Harry Pace's condition was serious and said that he often cried. He said that once he saw his wife visit him and that she had brought fruit, sweets and cakes for him which she had shared. The shop porter said that Harry Pace had told him that his wife was a good wife and that he would rather be at home.

A colliery worker that had also been in the hospital said that he had been in the room next to Harry Pace at the Royal Infirmary and had spoken to him frequently and said that Harry Pace had told him that he thought that his condition originated through being about eight hours in very cold water washing his sheep.

A police inspector said that he was informed on 11 March 1928 that Harry Pace had died and that after interviewing several members of his family determined that he was not satisfied that Harry Pace had died from natural causes. He said that he also took at statement from Harry Pace's wife in which she had told him that between 25 December 1927 and 10 January 1928 that Harry Pace had vomited continually and that a few days before he was taken ill he had dipped 18 lambs which she had assisted him with. The police inspector said that he asked Harry Pace's wife if she had any more of the sheep dip in the house and said that she had pointed out where Harry Pace had kept his sheep stuff but did not know if there was any of the dip used for the lambs left. He said that she did find some liniment downstairs along with two old packets of sheep dip and a quantity of red powder. He said that later he went to Blanch's chemist shop in Coleford and saw the poison register and found that on 27 July 1927 two packets of sheep dip had been sold to Pace and that the register had been signed 'Mrs. B. Pace'.

The police inspector said that he told Harry Pace's wife that there were certain rumours about the neighbourhood which affected her and that she had told him 'There is no truth in them. I have nothing to fear. I will tell you everything'. However, he also added that before that she had also told him 'I have done my best for Harry, but he hs been very cruel to me all my life'.

The inspector also said that on 11 March 1928 he had searched Harry Pace's house and had found a bottle of disinfectant in Harry Pace's bedroom where he died as well as a quantity of white powder, a small packet of purple crystals and a medicine bottle containing a purple mixture elsewhere in the house.

Other parts of Harry Pace's wife's statement were read out by the Coroner which stated that she had married Harry Pace when she was 17 and that her married life had been unhappy because of his jealous nature and cruelty. He said that he beat her on the first day and occasionally during the time of their married life. She had said that the last time he had beaten her she had run to her father's house and that he had followed her and said 'Tell her to put her head out of the window and she will have the contents of this' adding that he had a gun in his hand at the time.

Harry Pace's wife said that there was no truth in the rumours that men had been going to see her for immoral purposes. She said that a man had been to help her with the sheep while Harry Pace had been ill but said that he had also been to see Harry Pace and had told him what he had done that that the man's wife had also been with the man to see her and that she knew what she could prove that there was nothing between them.

She admitted that she had bought two packets of sheep dip in the early part of 1927 and said that she had used one to dip sixteen to eighteen lambs and that she had given the other packet to the police inspector.

She said 'My husband was taken ill the same night as the dipping, and I looked after him continually by myself during the whole illness. I alone prepared his food and medicine up to the last two days’.

She also said in her statement that on one occasion Harry Pace had said that it was lucky that there was a night nurse or that he would get 'some poison stuff' from a cupboard and put himself out of his misery. She also said that on the Christmas morning Harry Pace had picked up a razor and threatened to kill all of them.

At the Coroner's hearing the police inspector was asked whether in his experience did people that had administered poison to someone leave it about and willingly hand it to the police and the police inspector said 'No'.

At the inquest Harry Pace's daughter said that she had been questioned for four hours by Scotland Yard officers and that finally to 'shut their mouths' she had made a false statement after they had called her a little liar when she had told the truth. She said that whilst in service at Painswick she had posted home two pennyworth of salts of lemon. She said that it was to get marks out of her apron and that she had posted them home because she was going home and had asked her mother to do her aprons. She said that when she got back her mother gave her the packets back and denied that she had put some of the salts of lemon in a bottle. she said that she later told the Scotland Yard detectives that she had thrown then away because they had 'kept on and on so'. she said that she had told the detectives over and over that she had mixed the salts of lemon in a saucer and not a bottle but that they had refused to believe her and had called her a little liar and said that she thought that they would keep her there all day and so in the end she told them that she had put the salts of lemon in a bottle to shut their mouths. It was noted that a bottle had been found on a fender that might have had some salts of lemon in it.

Harry Pace's brother said that he had seen Harry Pace regularly during the 12 months before he died and that he had been in good health as far as he knew until about June 1927 when hs saw Harry Pace in bed, saying that he was very ill and had lost the use of his legs, arms and hands and that he thought that it was neuritis. The brother said that when Harry Pace went into hospital he had told him that he thought that he had caught a chill while dipping sheep in August 1927 and that that had caused his illness. He said that his brother had asked him in August to dip some sheep and told him about two packets of sheep dip that he saw but that he didn't dip the sheep. He said that when his brother came out of hospital he looked better but didn't have the use of his limbs. He said that the last time that he saw Harry Pace alive was on Boxing Day 1927 when he had told him that he was not feeling very well. He added that he had never heard his brother say that he would commit suicide. The brother said that whilst he had been going to see his brother he had asked him if he was worrying over money and that Harry Pace had told him that he was not but did say that his wife had taken £30 from his box'. However, he said that he did not suspect that Harry Pace's wife had poisoned Harry Pace although he acknowledged that it was information from him that had stopped his funeral.

When Harry Pace's mother was questioned she said that she first saw that he was ill in July 1927 and said that she had never heard him say that would threaten his own life.

When Harry Pace had first gone into the infirmary he had been told that it would be about two years before he would recover.

A masseur said that she went to see Harry Pace in November 1927 and that she saw him on Christmas Eve and then again on the Thursday after Christmas. She said that he told her that he thought he had caught a chill and that he had pains in his stomach and had a burning sensation in his throat and complained that his heart was beating very fast. She said that after the Thursday she went to see him every day with the exception of 3-4 days and that the last time she saw him was the night before he died. She said that at that time Harry Pace told her that he had pains in his stomach, throat and head and that there was a tapping sensation in his head. She said that he was lying on his side and that she saw him roll on his back and draw his legs up as though in pain.

At the trial the doctor said that he believed that Harry Pace had gone home against the wish of the infirmary. He said that he saw Harry Pace on the day he died and that at 10am he had thought of shaving him but that he was too hot. He said that he was panting heavily and moving his legs up and down and said that he thought that he was in agony. He said that he was perspiring and gasping as though he were at his end although he didn't think that he was conscious at the time.

Harry Pace's wife was tried for his murder but acquitted on 6 July 1928.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 23 May 1928

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 13 April 1928

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 14 May 1928

see Nottingham Journal - Wednesday 04 July 1928

see Nottingham Evening Post - Saturday 07 July 1928

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 31 March 1928

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 04 May 1928

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Friday 01 June 1928

see Monmouthshire Beacon - Friday 31 August 1928

see National Archives - ASSI 6/63/2, HO 144/10854