Unsolved Murders

Norah Macdonald

Age: 21

Sex: female

Date: 19 Dec 1937

Place: 146 Birchfield Road, Overstone, Northampton, Northamptonshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Norah Macdonald died from a criminal abortion.

She was found dead in her bed by her husband on the Sunday morning, 19 December 1937.

She had married six months earlier in June 1937 to a 31-year old doctor and at her wedding, in Overstone, the hymn 'O, Perfect Love' was sung, and it was sung again at her funeral. There were about 200 mourners at her funeral service on 22 December 1937, many of whom had been at the wedding ceremony.

At her inquest, her body was identified by her father. It was noted that the husband had been late to the inquest.

When the husband was questioned about it at his home he said that he had been late to the inquest, by which time it was almost over. He said, 'Since her death I have been distracted, and this morning by mistake I went to Northampton Town Hall instead of the hospital. When I got to the hospital the inquest was nearly over. The Coroner did not ask for any information from me. I was still in too much of a daze'.

The Coroner’s jury initially returned a verdict on Norah Macdonald of 'Criminal abortion carried out by the husband', but the Coroner refused to accept a majority verdict of six to three and after four retirements, the jury returned a verdict of 'Criminal abortion', leaving the matter open. After the verdict was returned the rector, who knew the husband, launched a bitter attack on the verdict stating that he knew the husband as a man of integrity and honour and said that he did not accept their decision.

Her husband committed suicide a few days before the inquest into her death was resumed in January 1938. He was said to have died from a broken heart. He had been driving his car from Overstone, taking some other people to Wassington Aerodrome, when the car stopped at Foston near to Grantham. All four of the people in the car then got out and the husband tried to start the engine, thinking that there was an air-lock in the petrol pipe, but without success. The husband then became ill and he got back into the driver's seat where he died almost immediately.

At his inquest, the doctor said that he had died from aconitine poisoning, a drug prepared from the roots and leaves of Wolf's Bane or Monks Hood. His cause of death was stated as having been due to asphyxia resulting from the paralysis of the centre of the brain due to aconitine poisoning. The doctor explained that there is a centre in the brain that controls respiration and that the depressant effect of aconitine was the cause of paralysis in the doctor.

At his funeral, the Rector said, 'We knew him as a man of integrity and honour, and we have the same opinion of him still. I and those who knew him do not accept the verdict of the jury. We have a feeling of injustice. We shall remember him when the world has forgotten all about him. All those who knew him so well will not rest until his honour is vindicated'.

At the husband’s funeral grave-diggers had been working on the reopening of Norah Macdonald's grave until an hour before the service and while people were already waiting in the church. The husband was then buried with his wife.


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


see The Scotsman - Wednesday 12 January 1938

see Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 13 January 1938

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 10 January 1938

see Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 23 December 1937

see Northern Whig - Thursday 23 December 1937

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 10 January 1938

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Thursday 13 January 1938

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 31 December 1937

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 18 February 1938