Date: 6 Dec 1943
Place: Manor Cottage, Aldingbourne
Madge Knight died from burns that were thought to have been caused by corrosive acid.
An open verdict was returned at her inquest.
She was the wife of a retired architect and surveyor who she married in September 1934. They were said to have been perfectly happy together.
They shared their house with Madge Knight's sister and her husband who had a room together. Madge Knight and her husband had a room but Madge Knight sometimes slept in a small occasional room.
The husband said that He had sat with Madge Knight alone on the night of 18 November 1943 from about 7.45pm until 10pm when he went to bed. He said that he was told the following morning that Madge Knight's back was all burnt. He said that they couldn't make out what had happened. He said that after he was told, he could find no burnt or scorched clothing in the house and added that as far as he was aware, no acids were kept in the house.
When the husband was questioned, he said that they didn't quarrel at all, but said that Madge Knight had been very strung up and said that he simply sat in a chair and listened to her. He said that she 'held forth' for about an hour and that she was overwrought. He said that when he went to bed at 10pm he left Madge Knight in the lounge and didn't see or hear anyone else that night.
It was noted at the inquest that the husband was said to have told a policeman he thought that he had heard Madge Knight's sister and husband return at about 10.30pm, but when questioned at the inquest he said that he didn't remember hearing them.
The husband noted that Madge Knight drank heavily, saying that she would have five or six whiskies in the course of the evening and then a nightcap with her sister and her husband, however, he said that he could not say that she was not sober on the night of 18 November 1943, but did say that he thought that she was rather excited. He said that he thought it was the work that Madge Knight did that was responsible for her outbursts, adding that she did the sweeping and dusting as they could not get a maid, and said that her health was not what it was.
Madge Knight's sisters husband said that he and his wife were awakened by Madge Knight screaming between 3.30am and 4am, saying that she was in her bed, covered by her bedclothes, but not wearing her pyjama jacket, and said that the skin on her back was peeled. He said that they called a doctor later in the morning between 7am and 8am.
The sister's husband said that Madge Knight and her husband had been to London that day and that when they had returned Madge Knight had been very upset because her husband had told her that he would put her brother up as a director on his Water Board but that someone else was elected.
Madge Knight's sister and her husband both said that they would not say that Madge Knight was sober nor that she was drunk.
Madge Knight's sisters husband denied at the inquest that he had done away with any of Madge Knight's clothing or bedding and denied that he had been in Madge Knight's bedroom that night.
A doctor said that when he received the first message to call round to see Madge Knight, that it didn't seem urgent and didn't go around until he got a second message at about 11am which stated that Madge Knight was in great pain. He said that when he saw Madge Knight and asked her how the burns had happened, she replied several times that she had nothing to tell him.
When Madge Knight's burns were examined by a dermatologist from Harley Street in London, he said that they were burns of some nature, but that he could only hazard what the cause was, although said that he thought that some corrosive liquid might have been poured over her back.
Madge Knight was admitted to St Richards Hospital in Chichester on 2 December 1943 and died four days later on 6 December 1943 from toxaemia following extensive burns.
A pathologist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton that examined her injuries said that if corrosive fluid was used, that it might have been self-inflicted if she had been sitting and had fallen back into the bath, noting that two bruises on her shoulders could have been caused in that way.
A police detective sergeant said that he found no stains on the floors of the house and no trace of any burning or staining of clothing or furnishings, nor anything that had contained acid.
When the coroner summed up he said that some features of the case were not entirely satisfactory, noting that the statement of Madge Knight's sister's husband at the inquest conflicted with the one that he had previously made to the police and signed, and said that that did not impress. The coroner also noted that if Madge Knight had been heard screaming between 3.30am and 4am, being obviously in great pain, then why was the doctor not called for another four and a half hours, and even then, without any urgency.
The coroner then returned an open verdict, stating that that was due to the conflicting nature of the evidence.
see Portsmouth Evening News - Tuesday 21 December 1943
see Hampshire Telegraph - Thursday 23 December 1943