Unsolved Murders

Edith Maud ODonoghue

Age: 26

Sex: female

Date: 1 Oct 1920

Place: Hotel Somerset, Bayswater

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Edith Maud ODonoghue died from Peritonitis after an illegal operation.

The Coroner's jury returned the verdict that she had been operated on by a woman from Bradford who had travelled down to London on 21 October 1920 to see her where she was at the Hotel Somerset in Bayswater.

The woman was tried for her murder but it was thought that there was not sufficient evidence for either the charges of murder or manslaughter and at the direction of the judge the woman was found not guilty of both on 9 February 1921. However, the woman pleaded guilty to using an instrument to procure a miscarriage and was sentenced to 5 years.

A syringe was found in the woman's bathroom along with a special attachment measuring about 5.5 inches and the pathologist stated that the wounds that he found on Edith ODonoghue were probably caused by just such an instrument.

Edith ODonoghue had become acquainted with the woman from Bradford through the woman from Bradfords' brother who had worked in the Public Works Department in Ceylon.

A friend of Edith ODonoghue said that she had told her of her condition and of her meeting with the woman from Bradford and had been told that the cost would be £75 and that she had lent Edith ODonoghue £40. The woman from Bradford later returned £30 of the money.

The court heard that the woman from Bradford had examined Edith ODonoghue and had told her that she had a secret preparation which would provide the desired effect. A syringe was then used on Edith ODonoghue who afterwards seemed alright but she later developed pain and saw her doctor. After she saw her doctor she was taken to hospital where she later died.

The court heard that the woman from Bradford had been a professional abortionist and had boasted that her methods were so successful that a doctor would not detect them. She was the wife of a wool sorter who was out of work but generally earned £3-4/week and lived in a small street in Bradford.

The woman from Bradford had written to one of Edith ODonoghue's friends who she hadn't seen for a year and said that she was coming to London to do some shopping on 21 October 1920. Edith ODonoghue's friend said that the woman from Bradford had also been to see Edith ODonoghue at the Hotel Somerset whilst she was there and she said that she had only left them alone in the bedroom twice for a short while when she went to get some lunch and then later some dinner. The Coroner asked the woman why she had not invited the woman from Bradford down for lunch or dinner and the woman said that she did not know adding that she didn't think of it.

Later, the judge questioned Edith ODonoghue's friend who had been with her at the hotel, after describing the woman from Bradford as relatively poor, asking her if she was the sort of person that she would get a room for at a London hotel, and went on to ask her if she had known that whilst in London the woman from Bradford had spent the majority of her time at a public house. He then went on to ask her if she thought that the wife of a wool sorter would normally come down to London to do some shopping and stay at hotels and the friend of Edith ODonoghue replied that she did not know what a wool sorter was.

The woman from Bradford said that her husband was a foreman wool sorter and a musician and that he had not been in good health for the previous two months but had been able to occasionally give lessons. She also said that she had two sons, one of whom was a dentist and the other an inspector of engineers' finished work. She said that they both contributed liberally to the household expenses and said that their house on Burnett Avenue, Bradford had cost £425 in 1916.

She said that she had become friendly with Edith ODonoghue's friend and they had exchanged letters and she had agreed to come down to London and see her and at the same time visit her dressmaker with whom she made an appointment. Edith ODonoghue's friend made arrangements for rooms for her at the Strand Imperial Hotel and the woman from Bradford said that she had been to the Somerset Hotel on 21 October 1920 in order to thank the woman for arranging the rooms at the Strand imperial and that whilst she was doing that she had met Edith ODonoghue who she had never seen before and who was in bed ill. She said that Edith ODonoghue's friend later went for lunch, leaving them alone. She said that she didn't go down for lunch because she had already eaten. When the woman from Bradford first came down to London she had gone to the Red Lion pub in York Street where she knew the proprietress who was an old friend of hers. She said that she had later made arrangements with Edith ODonoghue's friend to call again on 21 October 1920 at the Somerset Hotel with the idea that if Edith ODonoghue was feeling better they would go to some entertainment and then later take supper but said that when she went to the hotel Edith ODonoghue was still ill and that Edith ODonoghues friend went down to dinner whilst she stayed with Edith ODonoghue for company.

She emphatically denied that anything took place between herself and Edith ODonoghue on the two occasions that they had been alone in the room.


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


see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Thursday 10 February 1921

see Hull Daily Mail - Friday 17 December 1920

see Sheffield Independent - Friday 17 December 1920

see Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday 09 February 1921

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Thursday 11 November 1920