Date: 14 Jul 1956
Anton Steiger was found dead in bed on the morning after he had had a dispute at Scalebor Park Hospital where he worked.
His cause of death was asphyxia and it was suspected that he had taken an overdose of sleeping tablets following an incident in the dining area, but the medical evidence did not support that and an open verdict was returned.
Anton Steiger was an Austrian student nurse and had had a dispute with a woman member of staff at the hospital the previous day.
His cause of death was given as asphyxia but the pathologist said that there was nothing to indicate an external cause and that there was no evidence of violence. He said that that type of death could result from a variety of poisons, including sodium amytal of which he thought that about 15 three-grain capsules would have been a fatal dose.
Anton Steiger was found to have had one grain of barbiturate in his stomach which it was thought indicated that he had taken about 6 grains, however, the analytical chemist that had carried out the examination said that he had never heard of another case where such an amount had caused death.
A dining-room maid at the hospital said that on the evening of Monday 23 July 1956 that she had been serving meals in the kitchen when Anton Steiger, who she said had had his supper, came by and asked for more chips. She said that she told him that he would have to wait, but said that he then said, 'I want them now'. She said, 'He threw a plate at me, hitting me in the face, and I had to receive medical attention'
An assistant storekeeper who had been present during the argument said that after Anton Steiger had thrown the plate that he had seemed very upset about it. He said, 'He asked me if I had any coppers as he wanted to ring someone. I think he was afraid he would get his notice and he wanted to arrange somewhere to go. I gave him the key to my room, and told him there were some coppers on the dressing table. He returned the key later and told me he had taken a few of my sleeping tablets'.
The assistant storekeeper said that when he went back to his room later he found that a full bottle of 25 sodium amytal tablets had been emptied and that the tablets were missing. He said that he later saw Anton Steiger that same night leaving a dance at the hospital and said that he asked him about the tablets. He said, 'He said I need not worry as he had thrown them away. I told him they were highly dangerous drugs. He said he had only kept one which he was going to take'.
When he was questioned over the matter at the inquest the assistant storekeeper said that he did not report it at the time, saying, 'He seemed to be in such high spirits that I believed he had not taken them'. When the Coroner asked him, 'Did it not strike you as strange that he should take tablets from your room if he was going to throw them away?', the assistant storekeeper said, 'No, not at the time'.
The following morning a male nurse was asked by the chief male nurse to fetch Anton Steiger. He said, 'I think he wanted to see him about striking the girl with the plate'. He said, 'I went to his room. The curtains were drawn, and he was lying on the bed and I thought he was asleep. Then a patient said that at the dance the previous evening Steiger had said he had got some sleeping tablets and I went back to the room. I found he was dead'.
When the Coroner summed up he said that the evidence indicated that Anton Steiger had available to him, if he wished to use them, a quantity of barbiturate tablets, and that he had also seemed to have been in some sort of trouble that had worried him.
He said, 'He stated at the time that he had thrown the bulk of the tablets away, and the assistant storekeeper appears to have been rather easily satisfied by that statement and not to have expressed surprise that he had apparently stolen tablets for the principal object of throwing them away which seems at least to have been unusual. However, the medical and scientific evidence indicates that a comparatively small amount of barbiturate was taken, and would not be sufficient to cause death. There is not sufficient evidence on which I can return a positive verdict, and I must therefore return an open one'.