Date: 28 Nov 1951
Helga Gertrude Skeet died following an abortion.
She died in St Mary's Hospital on 28 November 1951 after having an abortion in a hairdresser’s shop at 27 Forton Road in Gosport.
She had lived in St Joseph Street in Gosport.
Her cause of death was determined to be shock and chemical embolism of the lung following instrumental abortion. The pathologist said that because of the lack of internal injuries that it was his opinion that her miscarriage was brought about by assisted instrumental interference and that it was not possible that Helga Skeet could have induced the miscarriage unassisted.
However, when her inquest concluded on Tuesday 5 February 1952, the jury returned a verdict that there was insufficient evidence to show whether the abortion was assisted or not.
When the doctor was questioned over what he meant by the term 'instrumental', he said that he meant the use of fluid and agreed that it was 'remotely possible' that Helga Skeet could have introduced the apparatus herself.
A woman that lived in Forton Road in Gosport said that on 27 November 1951 that she went to the hairdresser's shop next door to pay her rent between 3.30pm and 3.45pm and saw Helga Skeet there in the living room with her small daughter and said that Helga Skeet showed her a letter from the Council stating that she was being called for interview in respect of a house after which she went back home.
She said that then, at about 4.20pm that a man called her and told her that Helga Skeet was 'bad'. She said that she then went back next door to the hairdressers and saw Helga Skeet in a back bedroom lying on a bed and covered with a blanket. She said that there was no light in the bedroom and that she didn't touch Helga Skeet and said that she was then surprised to learn that Helga Skeet was pregnant.
A woman that lived in Albert Street in Gosport said that at about 3.30pm on the same afternoon, 27 November 1951 that she met her son at a nursery school and took him to the hairdresser's for a haircut, noting that the journey took about ten minutes. She said that when she got there there was no one in the shop but that after a few seconds the hairdresser appeared from the back and started to cut her boy's hair. However, she said that a short while later a little girl came out from the back and said to the hairdresser, 'Mummy wants you' and that the hairdresser then went off into the back of the shop and then returned a few minutes later and said, 'I am in awful trouble. Somebody has been taken ill'. The woman said that the hairdresser didn't finish cutting her boy's hair and that she paid him and left.
A man that lived in Leesland Road in Gosport, another customer at the hairdresser’s said that when the girl told the hairdresser that Helga Skeet wanted him that the hairdresser went upstairs and that he heard him come back down after two or three minutes.
A woman that lived in Stanley Close in Gosport said that Helga Skeet had gone to the hairdressers because of difficulties with her landlord and for the comfortable surroundings. .
The hairdresser, whose shop was in Forton Road said that he had known Helga Skeet and her husband for about three years and that Helga Skeet came to his hairdressers from Monday to Friday for lunch and would stay for the afternoon. He said that in October 1951 that Helga Skeet told him that she was pregnant but said that she made him swear to keep it 'a dead secret', adding, 'I was not responsible'.
He said that she arrived at 1.30pm on 27 November 1951 and that after a meal they had a chat and that he then dealt with a few customers, noting that the woman from next door came by with the rent at about 3.30pm. He said that at that time that Helga Skeet was in perfectly good health and that as he was cutting the boys hair that Helga Skeet's daughter came to him and said, 'Mum wants you'. He said that he then went upstairs and found Helga Skeet sitting on the bed, saying that she told him that she felt faint.
He said, 'She asked me to lift her back properly on to the bed. As I tried, she said her legs would not move. It was a job to get her back as she was in such violent pain. I managed to move her'.
He said that he then went to get his next door neighbour.
When he was questioned at Helga Skeet's inquest about certain apparatus that was found in the bedroom, he said that he could not understand how it came to be on his premises.
A policeman that examined the bedroom in the hairdresser’s shop said that it was in disorder and that there were no bedclothes there and that the room was in a filthy condition.
The policeman said that when he later went to Joseph Street, Helga Skeet's husband handed him a shopping bag in which he found a box and the apparatus. He added that when the hairdresser’s house was later searched, he found nothing. He noted that the hairdresser was a man of good character and a former war Reserve policeman.
When the coroner summed up he said that there was no real evidence as to who was responsible for Helga Skeet's pregnancy, but said that there could be no doubt that the abortion took place at 27 Forton Road and that it must have taken place in the period of 35 minutes after Helga Skeet was seen by the woman that went to the hairdressers to pay her rent and saw Helga Skeet sitting there in apparent good health and had showed her a letter and when the hair dresser later went for her help. He added that there was also no evidence as to where on the premises it had been done.
The coroner added that there was no doubt that Helga Skeet wanted no more children and noted that the question to be considered was whether the abortion had been assisted, observing that Helga Skeet had never mentioned anyone else.
He then said to the jury that they had to consider whether to return a verdict that the cause of death was due to self-induced abortion.
The jury then returned an open verdict.
Helga Skeet had two children aged two and six years.
see Portsmouth Evening News - Wednesday 06 February 1952