Unsolved Murders

Malcolm Crawford Ritchie

Age: 39

Sex: male

Date: 15 Mar 1960

Place: Forest Road, Benwell, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Malcolm Crawford Ritchie was found dead on a settee in his home on Wednesday 9 March 1960.

He had had a fractured skull and was found lying on a burnt settee that had smouldered for 24 hours.

When he was found he had already been dead for between two to four weeks and the pathologist was unable to come to a definite conclusion regarding his cause of death or the correct sequence of events that led to his death.

An open verdict was returned at his inquest at Newcastle on Monday 14 March 1960. The Coroner recorded a verdict of 'Found dead with burns, asphyxiation by carbon-monoxide and head injuries with insufficient evidence to show how these things happened'.

His inquest heard that he had a lethal dose of carbon monoxide in his body as well as a fractured skull and a brain haemorrhage that could have been caused by a fall or a blow. It was also noted that his head injury could also have been caused by intense heat although it was thought unlikely as it was thought that the settee that he was found on had only smouldered.

He had also suffered from burns that were caused while he was alive but the pathologist thought that Malcolm Ritchie would have been deeply unconscious when that happened.

The pathologist said that there were two conjectures.

  1. That Malcolm Ritchie's head injury made him unconscious and the fire was started by a lighted cigarette.
  2. That the settee became alight while Malcolm Ritchie was asleep and that he became unconscious from the fumes and was then charred and that his skull injury was caused by the heat.

His wife had been staying at her mother's home for the previous few weeks in Lightwood Avenue, Newcastle. She said that Malcolm Ritchie had had a serious stomach operation ten years earlier and that afterwards he had changed completely, saying, 'All he wanted to do was destroy'. She said that he began to drink heavily, became aggressive and 'knocked her about'. She said that he had previously been rather quiet.

She said, 'He used to do anything he could to get drink and even pawned my clothes.

She noted that he used to take sleeping tablets and couldn't sleep without them, adding that he generally took them with beer.

The police said that they found a packet containing four cigarettes near his body along with a number of cigarette ends and spent matches. They also found four brown ale bottles, three of them empty, beside the settee and another bottle that contained seven sleeping tablets.

A police inspector that examined the scene said that he thought that Malcolm Ritchie had fallen asleep or gone into a state of unconsciousness and that a lighted cigarette had set fire to the settee.

A station officer at Newcastle and Gateshead Joint Fire Service said that the fire on the settee had smouldered for at least 24 hours.

Malcolm Ritchie had been a labourer.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Newcastle Journal - Tuesday 15 March 1960

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 14 March 1960

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Monday 14 March 1960