Unsolved Murders

Alice Elizabeth Geal

Age: 36

Sex: female

Date: 1 Oct 1942

Place: Clifton Road, South Norwood

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Alice Elizabeth Geal died following an abortion.

She was taken to Mayday Hospital where she later died on 1 October 1942.

She was seen by a gynaecologist and obstetrician at hospital on 12 September 1942 and it was confirmed that she had been suffering from a septic incomplete abortion.

Her husband said that Alice Geal had told him some time before she went in to the hospital that she was pregnant and said that on 9 September 1942 that she told him that she had fallen off of two steps and that later that day she complained of pains in her back. He later noted that he knew of no one that had seen Alice Geal fall.

Alice Geal's sister said that she remembered that on 8 September 1942 that a little boy came to the house at Clifton Road and handed her a note that was addressed to Alice Geal. She said that the note was on a piece of paper that had been folded over, but at the time of the inquest she said that she didn't know where the note was and was unable to find it. However, she said that she read the note and said that it read, 'Please come down and bring syringe', or words to that effect. She added that she thought that the note was signed but could not swear to it.

The sister said that she took the note to Alice Geal who was in bed at the time and said that Alice Geal read it, and then took a box from a cupboard in the bedroom that had a picture of a syringe on it out and gave it to her. However, she said that she didn't know what was in the box and that Alice Geal didn't open it.

The sister said that she then went to see the boy and said, 'You can take me, son. I don't nkow where it is', and said that she went off with the boy to a herbalist's shop which she said was at the corner of a road, but said that she didn't know which road. She said that when she got there she saw a man and told him that she was Alice Geal's sister and that she had been asked to bring down the box, which she said she then handed to him.

The sister said that the herbalist then asked how Alice Geal was and that she told him, 'She is still very ill'. She said that the herbalist then said, 'I gave her a good pasting', or 'paying', noting that she did not know which it was.

Alice Geal's mother said that she didn't know whether the herbalist had given Alice Geal any medicines and said that the first time she saw Alice Geal ill was on 9 September 1942 when she called the doctor in. She said that Alice Geal had not been ill before, but said that two or three days earlier she had complained of pains in her back.

Alice Geal's mother did say that she noticed that Alice Geal had been not well on the night of 8 September 1942 and added that she was much worse on 9 September 1942.

She also said that she had seen the herbalist at her house before, saying that she had seen him pass by her door and added that she had never ordered or received any medicine from him.

At the inquest, the coroner asked Alice Geal's family whether Alice Geal had been left or right handed, and her mother said that Alice Geal would chop firewood with her left hand but that she could not say whether she used the left better than the right. The coroner then commented that it was extraordinary that three members of her family could not say whether Alice Geal used her left hand or not.

The doctor that was called out on 9 September 1942 said that he arrived in the evening and that when he examined Alice Geal he found that she had aborted, but that the abortion was incomplete. He said that when he went back to see her the following morning, he arranged for her to be removed to hospital. He said that her general condition was very good, except that she complained of headaches and severe abdominal pains.

The pathologist that carried out her post-mortem said that her death was clearly the result of septic infection injuries and that they could not have been inflicted during delivery or by herself unless she was left-handed. He said that her cause of death was septic peritonitis and that her injuries could not have been caused by a fall or caused by any other means other than the passage of an instrument.

When the doctor was asked what sort of instrument he thought could have caused her injuries, he said, 'The injuries are similar to injuries I have seen in this type of case, and had been caused by the nozzle of a particular kind of syringe'.

The herbalist said that the claims against him were untrue.

He said that Alice Geal had come into his shop inquiring for a syringe, and that as he knew her he showed her one. He said that he told her to take it home and that he would call for it and said that he called round to see her the next morning and asked whether she had decided to have it. He said that he showed her how it worked, but said that she was still undecided about it, and said that as he had no room for it on his bicycle, he left it with her. However, he said that he later sent her a note asking for her to bring it back to the shop which he said she did. He said that he sent two notes.

When the herbalist was asked about Alice Geal's sister's visit, he said that there had been no mention of the syringe when she came by. He said that the note that he sent her was simply to ask her to come to the shop and help him clear up which he said she had promised to do when he was very busy.

He added that he denied saying anything about 'pasting' or paying, saying that everything said was untrue.

When the coroner summed up he said that he didn't think that it was likely that Alice Geal had inflicted the injuries on herself, but said that there was no clear evidence to prove how they were caused and an open verdict was returned.

She had had four children.


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


see Norwood News - Friday 30 October 1942, p1