Unsolved Murders

Charlotte Archer

Age: 83

Sex: female

Date: 2 Jan 1948

Place: Albert Road, Sutton, Surrey

Charlotte Archer died in a private home for old people in Sutton on 2 January 1948. She was due to be cremated on Monday 8 January 1948 at Mortlake but the cremation was stopped by the police following a communication from a relative so that her organs could be analysed.

At her adjourned inquest on Friday 16 January 1948 the coroner said that he saw no evidence of anything other than a natural death. He said that in the ordinary course he would have accepted without hesitation the post-mortem findings, but said that certain allegations had been made and that in order to exclude the possibility, 'once and for all' of anything other than a natural death being the cause of her death, he would await the analyst’s report on her remains.

When her inquest was resumed on Friday 6 February 1948, a woman who said that Charlotte Archer was a very old friend of her mother and that after Charlotte Archer died she had talked the matter over with her sister and that they decided to call the Home Office. She said, 'I phoned to the Home Office and explained her death and said a certain circle of her friends were not satisfied'.

When the coroner asked the woman, what had been on her mind, she said, ''We were talking it over, and several of her friends thought something should be done'.

She said that she and her friend had not been able to see Charlotte Archer whilst she was at the home, but the owners said that the ban was routine in cases such as Charlotte Archer's.

The woman's sister said that she had seen Charlotte Archer frequently during the time she was at West London Hospital and said that when she left there she had seemed to be quite well. However, she said that when she went with a friend to the nursing home at Sutton to see Charlotte Archer and knocked, 'Someone came to the door and we asked if we could see Miss Archer. She replied, 'No you can't'. She said something about it being teatime. My sister said, 'Will you let this lady see her? She is a great friend. She will not speak to her or disturb her'. The woman said, 'No you can't''.

A doctor that had attended Charlotte Archer said that he saw her on 12 December 1947 when he said that she was running a temperature and said that it was fairly obvious that she had had a low-grade pneumonia, which he said old people frequently got. He said that he saw her nine times between 17 December 1947 and 2 January 1948 and said that there was nothing dramatic about the illness and that he was satisfied that her death was due to natural causes. He said, 'I signed a death certificate stating Miss Archer died from heart failure. For about three weeks I had been attending her at the home'.

A pathologist that examined her body said that he was unable to exclude the administration of a narcotic poison but said that the presence of approximately 25 grains of barbitone in her body, in view of heart failure changes, would not necessarily indicate an overdose. When the woman that ran the care home was questioned by the coroner about the exact nature of her establishment, she said, 'It is simply a home for old people'. She added that Charlotte Archer had eaten no solid food during the whole five weeks that she was there.

She said that during the third week Charlotte Archer asked the doctor if he could give her something to help with her sleep and said that the doctor recommended tablets which she gave Charlotte Archer as the doctor directed. She said that the sleeping tablets were kept in a secret drawer in Charlotte Archer's room. When the coroner asked the woman if Charlotte Archer knew where the tablets were kept, she replied 'She may have seen me put them in the drawer. She used to watch me in everything I did'.

The owner of the care home added that there had been a good deal of abuse and blows had been struck on 31 December 1947 when two people called at the home.

When the coroner addressed the jury, he said, 'The position at this home is no different from the position in a private house when dangerous drugs are handed to relatives or patients themselves'.

When the jury returned an open verdict, they added a rider stating that it was in the interests of the community that such homes be subjected to supervision by the appropriate authority.

The coroner then said that he would register in the verdict that death was accelerated by the accumulative effect of medinal tablets administered in therapeutic doses.

Charlotte Archer had been a prominent conservative in Hammersmith and was a wealthy life governor of the West London Hospital. She had lived in Addison Gardens in Kensington.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 06 February 1948

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 06 February 1948

see West London Observer - Friday 16 January 1948

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Thursday 08 January 1948

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Friday 09 January 1948

see Daily Mirror - Thursday 08 January 1948