Unsolved Murders

Herbert Alfred Yorke

Age: 43

Sex: male

Date: 19 Jun 1931

Place: Glenroy, Bisley Road, Stroud

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Herbert Alfred Yorke died from alkaline poisoning.

When his stomach was analysed by the County Analyst it was found to contain sodium carbonate, a condition caused by caustic soda or washing soda. However, there was no evidence to show how it had been administered.

He came from Weston-super-Mare where he had completed his articles in the grocery and provision trade. He then went to Stroud in 1909 where he took up a position at Messrs. Fawkes' Stores in Kendrick Street. When the business was absorbed by the Cotswold Stores Ltd he went to work for Messrs. Hedley Fawkes Ltd in George Street, but four months before he died he went back to work as a shop manager for the Cotswold Stores.

A year before he had suffered from a blow on the chest that had caused pleurisy although it was thought that he had fully recovered before his death.

However, from August 1930 he had complained to his doctor of headaches but his doctor could not diagnose anything other than a nerve condition and arrangements were made for him to visit a nerve specialist in London. However, he died before he could go.

His wife said that Herbert Yorke got up on the Thursday to go to work but then lay down on the couch. His wife then sent for a doctor at 3pm and then the doctor came again at 9pm and Herbert Yorke was asked if he would go to hospital and Herbert Yorke replied that he would go anywhere to get well and he was so taken. However, he died soon after arriving.

His wife said that the only medicine that she knew that he was taking was Phyllosan. She also said that as far as she knew, there was no caustic soda in the house. However, the Coroner then showed her a tin and said that it had been found in her house but she said that she might have bought it for indigestion. The Coroner then showed her another tin and asked her if she recognised it and she said that she had one like it and the Coroner said 'You had a box of bicarbonate of soda. When did you last use it?' and Herbert Yorke's wife said that she couldn't remember and that she thought that she gave a spot to someone who had indigestion about six months earlier. She said that she thought it had been in her cupboard for years. When the Coroner asked her if she put some on the greens she said that she didn't as she used ordinary soda.

When a juror asked what Herbert Yorke had had for dinner on the Wednesday Herbert Yorke's wife said that he had some bacon which she had boiled herself, some salad and a bottle of Guinness.

She was then asked if on the Saturday before Herbert Yorke had been brought home ill and she said that he had but that it had been the Saturday before last. She said that she was getting him on a bus at Lightpill when he had a bad turn and she had to take him to her sisters. She said that she told the doctor but he didn't call and that when he was taken ill on the Wednesday it wasn't until the Thursday that she called in her neighbour.

His wife said that they were a very united couple.

Herbert Yorke's doctor said that Herbert Yorke had resumed work after his injury in July 1930 but that he had complained of general weakness and headaches. He said that at first he thought that his headaches were caused by dyspepsia but that after his pleurisy cleared up he thought that his headaches and sleeplessness were due to nerve worry over loss of his work. He said that he later sent Herbert Yorke to the hospital but he was discharged without anything definite having been found out. The doctor said that when Herbert Yorke again complained about severe pains in the back of his head on 20 January 1931 he sent him back to hospital for some x-rays but again nothing abnormal was found and then five days later he gave him permission to go back to work but said that Herbert Yorke told him that he had tried to work but was unable to do so and that on 26 May he was called to Herbert Yorke and told that he had had a fit.

The doctor said that he was called again on 18 June 1931 after Herbert Yorke had a sudden collapse and said that he found him in a state of excitement and deliriousness.

He then took ill the next day and died.

His post-mortem revealed no burning in his mouth. It was found that his stomach lining had suffered from extensive damage and the contents of his stomach and small intestines were strongly alkaline. It was said that the total amount of alkali found in his stomach and small intestines was equal to 4.6 grains of caustic soda or 6.1 grains of sodium carbonate. However, it was thought that when the extensive damage was taken into account that it was more probable that caustic soda had been taken.

The doctor that carried out the post-mortem said that in his opinion death was caused taking a quantity of alkaline liquid which had caused extensive damage to the stomach and intestines resulting in a serious loss of blood. When the Coroner asked him how long the condition had been there the doctor said that he thought that it was fairly recent. When asked if it could have occurred over a long period of time the doctor said that it would have had to have been a very long period.

It was said that the soda must have been taken in a liquid solution but whether it was taken by accident or any other way they did not know and an open verdict was returned.


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


see Western Morning News - Wednesday 15 July 1931

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 18 July 1931