Date: 9 Mar 1935
Alice Stephenson died from an illegal operation.
She was a nursing sister at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital but lived in Farrer Street in Blackpool.
She had gone to visit her parents and was taken ill after which she was admitted to the Reedyford Hospital where she later died from acute peritonitis.
Alice Stephenson had married in 1928 but her husband left her around 1930 after which she became a nurse at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
When she went home to Nelson in January 1935 her parents formed the impression that something was troubling her but said nothing about it.
However, Alice Stephenson went back to Nelson on 25 February but went to a friend’s house who she had known for some years and her friends put her to bed. the friends said that Alice Stephenson was ill in the night and although Alice Stephenson had asked her not to call her parents, the friends called her parents the next day and they came and got her in a taxi.
Her parents said that when she came home again on 26 February 1935 she was apparently very ill and she was put to bed. She told her parents that she had told the matron at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital that her brother was ill and asked her parents to let the matron know that he was still ill and so they sent the matron a telegram saying that the brother was still ill. The following day they called for a doctor who then sent her to the Reedyford Hospital.
Alice Stephenson's mother said that whilst she was at home in bed she told her about her condition and said that she thought that Alice Stephenson had told her that her husband was responsible. However, she said that when she went to visit her again in hospital on 6 March 1935 Alice Stephenson told her then that her husband was responsible.
Alice Stephenson later died on the Saturday 9 March 1935.
The police later went to the hospital to collect Alice Stephenson's clothing and other items. They found that there was blood on some of her clothing and also some correspondence.
One of the letters read, 'Dearest, Just writing to say I have seen Mr B at last. His friend is at Wrexham, and he has now practically retired. He says you can spend a week with her if you can manage one soon. I will explain more when I see you. He gave me to understand that his friend is returning home on Monday and he told me not to worry, as everything is OK. He asked if you were coming tomorrow and I said 'Yes'. He gave me instructions for your name to be arranged at dinner next to him'.
There was no date on the letter but the postmark was 30 January 1935.
When the police went back on the Sunday they found further correspondence. Another letter read, 'I am terribly sorry that you are so ill, and I do hope that you will soon be well again. I have waited every day for a letter from you. I thought of going to see ---- but I did not know her address. That is the reason I could not write to you before'.
The police said that when they looked in Alice Stephenson's diary they found the following: 'One teaspoon of quinine three times daily'.
The police also received a bottle from the doctor that was labelled 'Extract of Ergot' and found that it was empty.
When they spoke to the man that the letters were addressed to, an insurance agent in Blackpool he told them that he had met Alice Stephenson two years earlier at the Victoria Hospital in Blackpool, chiefly at the Winter Gardens. He said that he last spoke to her two weeks before on 24 February 1935 when he met her outside the hospital at Blackpool. He said that she had told him two days previously that she was going to Nelson for a trip and he said that he accompanied her. He said that when they got there they went to the Centre and he went into a cafe whilst Alice Stephenson went to see an old friend. He said that she returned to the cafe a about 20 minutes later and then said that she was going to meet her parents and that they then met up a short while later and they returned to Blackpool together and that he didn't see her alive again after that. He said that the following Monday he spoke to her on the telephone and said that she told him that she was not feeling well and said that she wrote him a card in March 1935 but said that he had destroyed that. He said that she had written in the card that she was in Reedyford Hospital but didn't explain the nature of her illness but said that she would write again but said that she didn't. He said that he called to enquire about her and then went to the hospital on 10 March 1935 and said that he was shocked to find that she was dead.
When the Coroner asked him about the letters he admitted that he had written them and when the Coroner asked him about Wrexham he denied that they were going there and said that they were going to go to Liverpool for the evening to see a show. When the Coroner pressed him about the name and address in Wrexham, the man said that he could not. The Coroner asked again but explained that he was not bound to answer any questions that might incriminate himself and he still would not say and the the Coroners hearing heard that he refused to answer and a note of that refusal was noted.
When the man was asked what the recipe was that he had written out he said that Alice Stephenson had asked him to write it out for her and that he had then given it to her but said that he didn't know what it was for but said that he thought that it was for smoking.
A doctor said that he went to see Alice Stephenson on 27 February 1935 and said that she had a temperature of 103 and was rather hysterical and he ordered her removed to the hospital. He said that he could not get much out of her but understood that she had been taking drugs for certain purposes. He said that Alice Stephenson told him that she was in the condition because of her husband. He said that septicaemia and peritonitis intervened and that she then died.
At the end of her inquest, the Coroner told the jury that they must not come to any conclusion in the case unless they had definite facts and said that the evidence before them had nothing that would justify them in finding that a criminal offence had been committed by any person and that he thought that the jury would be driven to return an open verdict which they did without retiring.
see Nelson Leader - Friday 15 March 1935