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Violet Skuse

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 12 Jun 1936

Place: Penarth Road, Grangetown, Cardiff

Violet Skuse was thought to have died from an illegal operation after having visited the home of a woman in Penarth Road, Cardiff.

A 27-year-old woman was tried for her murder but acquitted.

At the trial it was heard that the jury need only concern themselves with a charge of manslaughter, but the defence said that there was no evidence whatsoever that an illegal operation had taken place. The judge agreed with the defence that there was no evidence that an illegal operation had taken place and directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict and the woman was discharged.

The medical evidence showed that Violet Skuse had died from peritonitis.

She had died after admission to Llandough Hospital.

At the police court on 26 June 1936 over 150 women had struggled for admission to the court to hear the proceedings. It was reported that they had rushed the court doors in a bid to get in and that it had taken constables and plainclothes policemen ten minutes struggling with them to restore order.

Evidence was heard to the effect that just before 2pm on 6 June 1936 that a woman had called on Violet Skuse, who was a married woman, at her house in Rutland Street and that they had then walked together to a house in Penarth Road, entering a basement via an alleyway and going into the back room there. The woman said that the woman that was tried for Violet Skuse's manslaughter had been in the back room the whole time between 2.30pm and 5pm.

The woman said that she later left the house, leaving Violet Skuse alone with the other woman.

She said that when she left the house that Violet Skuse was quite normal but that when she went back at about 5pm that Violet Skuse looked extremely ill. She said that Violet Skuse was lying on a settee there and looked extremely ill and blue in the face. She said that her appearance was such that she became faint and had to get some water.

She said that when she went to get the water, she saw two men and another woman there.

She said that Violet Skuse looked so ill that she suggested calling for her husband.

A doctor that was called to the house at 5.40pm to examine Violet Skuse said that when he arrived, he found that certain items of her clothing were missing. The doctor said that when he asked the woman what had happened, she replied, 'She collapsed outside my house and we carried her in'. She later said, 'She can stay here. I have no children and I will look after her'.

The doctor said that when he saw Violet Skuse at the house he had told her that she would have to go to the hospital but said that when he told her that that she told him that she had a horror of going to Llandough Hospital as a patient and that the other woman had then suggested that she stay with her.

At the trial he stated that when he had examined Violet Skuse at 5.30pm that he found no trace of the use of an instrument, except for the signs of collapse, which he said might have been caused by something else.

He further agreed that there was nothing that happened which could not have happened firstly from an ordinary natural abortion, or secondly, from Violet Skuse having herself produced the abortion.

Violet Skuse was taken to the hospital later in the week where she died on 12 June 1936.

Following her death, the police went to see the woman in Penarth Road and took a statement from her. In her statement she said that Violet Skuse had complained of feeling ill but had made no complaint of a specific nature and that she made her a cup of tea after which she said that Violet Skuse said she felt better.

However, she said that at about 5pm that Violet Skuse appeared to get worse and said that when she asked her if she would go home Violet Skuse told her that she felt too ill. She said that when she offered to send for her husband Violet Skuse said, 'No, he will murder me if he knows I have been down Cowbridge Road'.

She said that when Violet Skuse's husband arrived that he asked whether Violet Skuse could stay at her house and she said that she could.  She said that she and another woman then took Violet Skuse upstairs and undressed her, lending her a spare nightgown.

Her husband said that the first intimation that he had that Violet Skuse was ill was on 6 June 1936, although he said that he had previously known that she was in a certain condition. He said that on the 6 June 1936 that Violet Skuse stayed in bed all day. When he was further questioned on the matter he said that Violet Skuse had gone out the previous evening, saying that he understand that that was to buy a hat, but said that she returned without one. He said that she told him that she had been for a walk along Penarth Road.

The doctor that examined Violet Skuse when she was admitted to Llandough Hospital on 8 June 1936 said that he found her to be suffering from haemorrhage due to an incomplete abortion and toxaemia due to septic abortion. He said that an operation was carried out on 10 June 1936 after which she improved considerably, but said that around midnight on 11 June 1936 she collapsed and died.

The woman from Penarth Road was tried for her murder at the Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea on Friday 24 July 1936 but was found not guilty and discharged.

When the defence addressed the jury, they said, 'This woman stands in the dock because she befriended the dead woman when she was taken ill. Kind actions are found where money is not. You will find the poorer classes helping the sick. They cannot give out of their pocket but they give of their labour and service'.

Following further evidence, the defence concluded that there was no case to answer.

The woman from Penarth Road was described as a housekeeper.


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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Archives - ASSI 72/69

see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 25 July 1936

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 25 July 1936

see Western Mail - Tuesday 30 June 1936

see Western Mail - Tuesday 16 June 1936

see Western Morning News - Friday 26 June 1936

see Western Daily Press - Saturday 25 July 1936

see Hull Daily Mail - Friday 26 June 1936

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 25 July 1936

see Halifax Evening Courier - Saturday 25 July 1936

see Western Mail - Friday 26 June 1936

see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 25 July 1936