Unsolved Murders

Harry Grice

Age: 48

Sex: male

Date: 29 Jan 1955

Place: 2/100 Charles Henry Street, Balsall Heath

Harry Grice died after drinking cyanide from a bottle of orangeade after which two of his children, Beryl Grice 12 and Pamela Grice 5, also drank from and died on Saturday 29 January 1955.

Harry Grice was thought to have drunk from the bottle of orangeade after which he was taken in to his home shortly after which two of his children also drank from the orangeade bottle and also died.

At their inquest on Thursday 3 February 1955 the jury returned the verdict that Harry Grice had committed suicide and that his two children had died from misadventure.

It was suggested that he probably got the cyanide from work and noted that he had probably had no intention of harming his children.

It was noted that Harry Grice had previously tried to kill himself and his wife some years earlier.

At the Coroner's inquest, the bottle of orangeade, which was still half-full of the poisonous cocktail, was displayed on the Coroner's desk in evidence and it was said that it contained enough poison still to kill eight people.

His wife, who gave evidence at the inquest sitting down and was expecting another child, said that Harry Grice had been strange since leaving the army and had roamed about and complained of pains in his head. She said that he had previously brought some cyanide home and told her that he had intended to kill himself but had told her that he would not do it again.

Whilst giving her evidence Harry Grice's wife buried her head in her arms and then looked at the jury and said, 'In 1950 he tried to strangle me. Three years later he twice tried to strangle himself by pulling his tie tightly round his neck'.

She said that on the Saturday, 29 January 1955 she thought that Harry Grice had gone to work, but that at about 10pm she heard a neighbour outside say 'What's up, chum?', and that when she looked she saw Harry Grice lying outside. She said that the neighbours took him inside and that one of them handed her the bottle of orangeade that they had taken from his pocket and said, 'Take this to the kids'.

She said that Harry Grice died before the doctor could arrive.

However, she said that Beryl Grice then came downstairs to see what had happened and then asked for a drink. At the inquest Beryl Grice's wife said, 'I said to a neighbour, 'I will give her some of this pop'. I poured some into a cup, and the neighbour took it upstairs. Then she called out that Beryl was in a fit...'

Beryl Grice's mother said that she called a doctor but thought that Beryl Grice was suffering from shock and that it was decided that she should be taken to hospital, but that he then died.

Harry Grice's wife said that Pamela Grice then came in from a neighbour’s house where she had been and asked for a drink and pointed to the bottle of orangeade. She said, 'I poured it into a cup and gave it to her. As soon as she sipped it she fell to the floor. I picked her up, and she was already unconscious'. She said that a neighbour then called and said, 'Oh God, not again' and that only then did suspicious eyes turn towards the bottle. Harry Grice's wife said that she then took the cork off the bottle and sniffed it and found that it smelt the same as the stuff that Harry Grice had previously brought home.

However, she said that it was too late for Pamela Grice as she too died before the doctor, who had been called out three times, arrived.

The doctor that had been called out each time said that the possibility of cyanide poisoning had never entered his mind and said that he thought that Beryl Grice had died from an epileptic fit.

A professor that gave evidence at the inquest said 'The detection of cyanide is largely a matter of nose. There are people who can smell it. Others can be in an atmosphere of cyanide and not notice it'.

A director at the company that Harry Grice worked for gave evidence at the trial and said that there was nothing to stop workmen from getting the cyanide solution.

After the evidence was heard the Coroner said, 'This is one of those occurrences that might almost make one feel there was something of a fatalistic character about it, and that it was intended they should die'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Western Mail - Monday 31 January 1955

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Thursday 03 February 1955