Unsolved Murders

William Bliss

Age: 56

Sex: male

Date: 7 Dec 1906

Place: Banbury

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

William Bliss died under mysterious circumstances.

He was the manager of the Banbury Savings Bank and died under mysterious circumstances prior to a meeting of directors. His inquest was adjourned for a week pending an analysis of the contents of his stomach.

He died from potassium cyanide poisoning.

Visits were made to all the chemists shops in Banbury and their registers searched for the previous six months but there was no entry of William Bliss having brought cyanide of potassium.

The coroner’s jury agreed that William Bliss had died from the effects of poison self-administered but that there was no evidence to show with what object or as to his state of mind at the time.

At the time he died William Bliss had been due to attend a meeting with the directors to discuss his drop in wages but he never made the meeting.

Sometime before a Government Inspector of Savings banks who had visited Banbury on 8 November 1906 for the purpose of making the usual inspection of the books pursuant to the statute said that William Bliss seemed worried and distracted and had difficulty concentrating his attention. He said that he wasn't aware that there was something under consideration relative to William Bliss's salary and it was in consequence of that as well that he had visited the bank adding that he was unaware at the time that there had been a reduction in William Bliss's salary in May 1906.

He said that there was one incident made him think that William Bliss was labouring a under mental confusion of ideas, saying that when he had called for a voucher to be produced William Bliss brought a file of them and then went down about 20 or so and suddenly stopped and put his hand to his forehead and said quietly 'what am I looking for?', which struck the inspector as very strange as he had just previously given him distinctively the name he wanted but he had to repeat it. He said that he had not met William Bliss before and so could not say if that was his usual way of doing business but did say that he thought it was unusual to any actuary.

The Government Inspector said that the meeting to discuss William Bliss's reduction in salary was for 4 November 1906. He also said that he found nothing wrong with the banks books other than one small discrepancy that he thought would probably be corrected once he had seen a depositor’s bank book.

His wife said that William Bliss was in his usual health on the Monday but on the Tuesday morning he had a cup of coffee in bed at 8.30am and then got up at 9.30am but then said he was feeling ill and went back to bed at 9.45am but went to lie down in his son’s room which his wife said she thought was strange. She said that he got a letter at 10.30am and took it to him but he put it to the side and said he felt ill.

He told her that he felt ill and was going to lie down for a couple of hours and that if anyone came and wanted him she was to say that he had had a bilious attack and could not see them. He was lying on his right side with his head on the pillow and asked his wife to draw the blinds as he didn't want the light. She said that he didn't complain of any pain in his stomach but just that he felt sick.

She next went into the room at 11.45am and found him in the same position but unconscious and making a peculiar noise and didn't answer her when she spoke to him.

Shortly after two doctors arrived to see him and they stayed with him until he died.

She said that her husband didn't keep any poison in the house for anything like killing rats or dogs and said that she had looked at his letters but said there was nothing in them demanding money or anything although she then burnt them which the coroner questioned her about suggesting that it might have been wise to have kept them but she had said that there was nothing in them that she thought was worth keeping. She also said that as far as she knew he had no troubles on his mind.

The servant who had been employed there for three months said that on the Tuesday morning William Bliss had come down the back stairs in his nightshirt from his son’s bedroom which she said she had never seen him do before and told her to go from the kitchen which she did. She said that she didn't see what he did but thought she heard the tap running but soon went back upstairs.

An analyst said that he examined William Bliss's stomach and parts of his intestines and said he found 15 grains of cyanide of potassium which he said represented only a portion of that taken which must have been much larger. He said the amount he found in the stomach was five to six times the fatal dose. He said that the poison could not be bought at a chemists without a signature except by professional men.

Another man that had gone to see William Bliss after hearing that he was ill said that he had been told that William Bliss had had a very bad night. He said that when he spoke to William Bliss he told him that he had been sick all night. However, he said that he only stayed for two minutes.

The coroner said that he thought the proper thing to have done with the telegrams would have been to have handed them to the coroner but his wife said that she didn't think there was a necessity to keep them and so burnt the. He also said that there was a difference in the evidence between his wife and the man that had visited, his wife saying that William Bliss was well the night before but the man saying that his wife said he had not been sick but the man said that William Bliss had told him that he had been sick all night. He concluded that there was no evidence that anyone had given him any poison and so that they had to conclude that he had taken the poison himself.

Several reports refer to his death as a suicide.

He was well known among agriculturists in South Northamptonshire and was a prominent member of the Banbury Bowling Club.


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


see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 07 December 1906

see Banbury Guardian - Thursday 13 December 1906

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 07 December 1906