Age: 2 months
Date: 17 Jul 1934
Keith Dodimead died from gas poisoning.
His mother was tried for his murder but her husband declined to give evidence against her and she was acquitted.
Keith Dodimead died at his from on 17 July 1934 from gas poisoning. He was found with his mother who was then also charged with attempted suicide at the same time and in the same place.
It was said that she was found in a gas filled room with Keith Dodimead by her husband when he had got home from work.
It was said that when the police had certain statements in their possession regarding the death they were bound to act, but that after the case collapsed at the Old Bailey they were the first to congratulate the mother and father of Keith Dodimead upon the result.
It was heard that Keith Dodimead parents were both comfortable and the father was a master builder. However, it was heard that after the mother gave birth to a still born child in 1931 she became depressed and never fully recovered.
When the mother gave birth to Keith Dodimead on 20 June 1934 she had spent about a fortnight in a nursing home during which her husband said that he formed the opinion that she was low-spirited. However, he said that he thought that she was not so bad that he could not leave her at home and said that because they had a maid in the house each day until midday to assist her that he could leave her while he went out to work. The father said that the mother remained like that until 17 July 1934, on which day he went out after the midday meal leaving her in the house alone with Keith Dodimead, adding that she seemed fairly all right.
He had said however, that when he got back at 7.30pm he had found the back door locked which he had said was unusual and that when he had entered the house by the front door and found no one downstairs he had gone upstairs and smelt gas. He said that he had then entered the front bedroom, which he said was not locked, and saw his wife and Keith Dodimead lying on the floor, and a gas tap to a gas fire turned on. He said that the fire was connected to the gas pipe by a piece of rubber tubing and that that had been pulled off and was lying loose.
However, it was also noted that the window was open and said that that fact and the fact that the door was not locked, were two facts that threw light on the mentality of the mother at the time.
It was heard that the father found both Keith Dodimead and his wife, the mother, unconscious in the room. He said that he shook his wife and then picked up Keith Dodimead and went down to the garden, and then immediately telephoned for the doctor who lived close by and who came straight away and tried artificial respiration but found that Keith Dodimead was dead.
The doctor said that when he spoke to the mother she didn't reply and had a vacant look in her eye.
At the trial at the Old Bailey, when the husband was called into the witness box he said, 'My Lord, I have lived happily with my wife for nine years, and I do not wish to give evidence'.
The judge replied, 'We cannot compel him', and the father was ordered to stand down.
The doctor and several other witnesses then gave evidence including a police inspector who said that when he went upstairs to the front bedroom with the husband he found that it smelt strongly of gas and that in the corner facing the door there was a gas fire. He said that there was a flexible tube attached to the pipe in the wall but not to the gas fire. He also said that he examined the room and said that he found that no attempt had been made to stop the ventilation and that the window was open about two inches, in quite a natural position. He also said that he tested the gas tap and found that it required firm pressure to turn it on or off.
The police inspector said that when he then went downstairs he saw the mother who appeared to be dazed and ill and said that he asked her if she was feeling better and said that she replied, 'Oh, dear, I wish I could cry'. He said that she was then later taken to Redhill Hospital where she was charged.
At the trial the police inspector was questioned and agreed that it would have been possible for the flex to have been jerked off the gas fire by the leg of a chair.
The judge then concluded that there was no case for the jury. He said, 'I appreciate that the case has been presented in a most sympathetic manner, but it has to be established that the accused woman has done something that is in fact the unlawful murder of her child. My learned friend has opened the evidence of the husband, but the husband has refused to give evidence and therefore anything said by my learned friend as to what might have been said by the husband has to be disregarded by the jury. It comes to this. All the evidence we have is that a doctor comes to the house and is handed a gassed child by the husband. The child is dead, but where he comes from we do not know, apart from the fact that there was a room which smelt of gas and there was a gas pipe displaced. But the gas tap was not turned on when our evidence begins. There is no evidence as to who had been in the room. On the evidence before us the husband might have been in the room and have tried to gas his wife and child for all we know. Of course, I am not suggesting anything so fantastic, but that is on the evidence we have'.
The judge noted that when the police inspector had told Keith Dodimead's mother the facts, she had made no reply, and that when the doctor had asked her why she had done it, she had said that she had been feeling funny. He went on to say that he did not thing that he could ask the jury in a charge of murder to begin inferring things.
He said, 'If we had not had the opening statement in front of us, which it is difficult to put out of ones mind, we should have been speculating in all sorts of ways as to what had happened. We have had the opening statement, but it is not to be borne out by the husband. I shall direct the jury to find a verdict of not guilty'.
The jury then found the mother not guilty.
She was then tried on the charge of attempted suicide, but no evidence was offered on that charge and she was acquitted and discharged.
see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 17 September 1934
see Hendon & Finchley Times - Friday 21 September 1934