Unsolved Murders

William Birch

Age: 60

Sex: male

Date: 16 Dec 1931

Place: Blackfriars Road, London

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

William Birch died from prussic acid poisoning.

His cause of death was given as syncope following a dose of prussic acid but there was not sufficient evidence to show in what circumstances it had been taken.

A doctor who was called to the house said that William Birch had taken the poison about two hours earlier and that he died just as he arrived.

At his inquest, the Coroner said that William Birch's wife's evidence was unsatisfactory and that she had not spoken the whole truth. He said 'I have only to say this, that this case is most unsatisfactory. I consider the widow has given her evidence in a most unsatisfactory manner, and I am by no means satisfied she had spoken the whole truth, or all she knows, but there is no independent evidence, I shall just record a verdict that the deceased man died on December 16th at his home in Blackfriars Road from syncope, following prussic acid poisoning. Under what circumstances it was taken, or by whom it was administered, there is insufficient evidence to show.'.

His wife said that William Birch got up first on the Wednesday and prepared breakfast and that he offered her a cup of tea. She said that she tasted it but it appeared bitter and seemed to burn her mouth. She said that when she didn't drink it William Birch drank a cup of tea and a few seconds later staggered and collapsed.

She said that after she herself felt somewhat ill after sipping the tea and took an emetic of salt and water. She said, 'I don’t know what made me take this salt and water, but something seemed to come over me'. She said that she tried to get her husband to drink some of the emetic but he could not do so.

He was a printer's labourer and a machine minder.

His wife said that he had been employed for 39 years by one firm and then discharged and had been unemployed ever since and had latterly become depressed. She noted that his dole had been stopped by the Labour Exchange about two weeks earlier.

She also said that during the past year he had threatened to take his own life on several occasions by either putting his head in a gas oven or by poisoning himself but that she had never taken him too seriously. She said that she didn't know that he had any poison in the house.


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


see Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 21 December 1931

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Monday 21 December 1931