Date: 31 Jul 1932
Place: 176 High Street, Margate
Mary Ann Joseph was found dead in her bath in a gas filled bathroom at about 10.30am on the Sunday morning, 4 August 1932.
She lived there with her 51-year-old husband who carried on a business at that address.
He said that he awoke at about 7.15am to find Mary Joseph going out of the bedroom saying that she was going to take a bath and that she would bring his tea and shaving water afterwards. He said that he then heard a knock on the maid's bedroom door and heard Mary Joseph say, 'Come along'.
He said that he then fell back asleep and that when he woke at 10am he found no breakfast or shaving water. He said that he then lay awake for ten minutes or a quarter-of-an-hour and then rose and went out to the landing and called out, 'What about my tea?'. He said that the maid replied that Mary Joseph had not been down that morning and that he then shouted 'Oh God', and rushed to the bathroom.
He said that he tried the handle of the door but found that it was locked and that when he looked through the keyhole he detected the smell of gas. He said that he then threw himself at the door three times before it yielded and that when he burst in he found Mary Joseph in the bath peacefully asleep. He said that the water had been run off and that she had a towel in one hand and a flannel in the other.
He said that he then told the maid to get a doctor and that he massaged her heart until assistance came.
He said that the bathroom window was closed and that the room was full of gas and that the pilot tap of the geyser was partly turned on. He said that he at once opened the window and turned off the tap. He noted that it was a new geyser and had only been installed about six weeks when alterations had been made to the premises.
The Coroner said that the facts were that Mary Joseph was found in a nude condition in her bath at 10.15am on the Sunday, 31 July 1932 and that she had been lying in a bath in which there was no water. He also said that there was undoubtedly a strong smell of gas in the bathroom and that it was in fact full of gas.
However, he said that there were one or two curious points. He said that the first matter was that Mary Joseph had gone to her bath at 7.15am and that nothing further was heard of her until 10.15am, three hours later.
The Coroner also noted that it was usual for Mary Joseph to complete her bath in about a quarter of an hour and then fifteen minutes later to send up her husband’s morning cup of tea and shaving water. As such, he said that the husband might have expected his morning cup of tea at about 7.45am.
He then added that Mary Joseph, the husband and maid were all alone in the house and it was thought curious that they had not discovered the tragedy earlier. He also said that it was curious that the maid did not smell the gas from downstairs.
It was noted by the police that there was a wooden partition with a door between the bathroom and the bedroom but that a draught in the house had been going away from the bedroom in which the husband had been sleeping and so fair to say that it was reasonable that he should not have smelt it. however, it was said that there was still a draught between the bathroom and the bedroom through the wooden partition.
He also noted that the doctor had said that when he arrived he found that Mary Joseph had been dead for about two or three hours by that time.
When a doctor was asked whether the effects of coal gas would act immediately he said that gas poisoning took about half-a-minute before one felt dizzy and faint and that it would not be long afterwards that one would be aware of it although unable to help oneself.
A member of the Ambulance Corp who arrived at 10.15am said that when he went into the bathroom he saw Mary Joseph's husband there massaging her below the heart and said that he smelt gas in the room. He said that he saw a reddish blue mark on her right shoulder where her chin was resting and said that the upper part of her body appeared to be dry and that her hair looked untidy as though she had just got up. He said that he didn't notice the condition of the lower part of her body.
The ambulance man said that when he went downstairs to the shop to use the phone he found the door to the shop locked and said that when he explained to the husband that he wanted to use the phone but the door was locked, the husband had gone, without hesitation to the bedroom where he had taken a key from one of the drawers in the dressing table.
A policeman said that he saw that Mary Joseph had a wet bath towel between her knees and feet as though she had been using it to dry herself. He said that the bath was clean and showed no signs of soap suds. The policeman said that the soap showed recent signs of use.
When her body was removed, a false set of teeth was found underneath her.
The policeman said that he examined the mortice lock and said that it looked like it had been forced from the door and that it was lying on the floor.
When a policeman looked under the bath he said that he found one used match, broken in two, near to the water pipe, and near to the stop cock of the geyser he found the burnt ash of a match. It was heard that the husband then produced a box of matches from the pocket of a smock jacket that he was wearing and said that he had picked them up in the bathroom.
A man from the Isle of Thanet Gas Co. said that on 4 August 1932 he had examined the geyser and found it to be perfectly fixed and normal in every way.
It was heard that tests were made with the geyser and it was found that the pilot jet could be turned so as to turn on the gas in the burners and give off a considerable amount of gas. It was also said that the stop cock for the water was in such a position that a person turning it off when in the bath might accidently touch the pilot jet.
Checks were also made on the gas taps in the cellar.
The Coroner said that there was not the slightest evidence to bring in a verdict of murder or manslaughter and said that the verdicts open to the jury were those of accidental death, death by misadventure, or an open verdict.
They returned an open verdict.
see Thanet Advertiser - Friday 19 August 1932
see Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 16 August 1932
see Thanet Advertiser - Friday 12 August 1932
see Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 09 August 1932
see Thanet Advertiser - Friday 05 August 1932