Unsolved Murders

Charles Curtis

Age: 55

Sex: male

Date: 18 Aug 1960

Place: Newquay Terrace, Polruan

Charles Curtis died after apparently attempting to hang himself.

His inquest heard that what had happened to him was almost impossible and it was said that his story would be talked about for years in medical and legal circles.

It was understood that Charles Curtis had tried to hang himself and had partially succeeded but had then apparently thought better of it and cut himself down, but that he had suffered from a fracture to his windpipe from which he had developed pneumonia and died. The inquest heard that he had not only attempted to hang himself, but that he appeared to have succeeded.

However, the inquest heard that there was no other evidence as to what had happened, and no trace of the rope, and an open verdict was returned.

Charles Curtis had been a dock worker and had lived in Newquay Terrace, Polruan.

His cause of death was given as being due to septic pneumonia following a fracture of the windpipe due to hanging. He was also found to have jaundice and a general blood infection.

The pathologist that carried out his post mortem said that the case was, 'one of the most extraordinary stories I have ever come across', noting that his injuries were such that instantaneous death would normally have been expected, or at the least that he would have been rendered unconscious so quickly that he would not have been able to think or have the necessary movement to cut himself down, noting that he had obviously appeared to have done that. However, it was also heard that it was not known how he got down and no rope was found.

The pathologist then said, 'We shall possibly have to revise some of our ideas about the quickness of unconsciousness as a result of hanging, and injuries to the neck, as a result of this'.

When Charles Curtis was admitted to hospital he had had a line across the front and sides of his neck that was still there at the time of his post mortem a week later. He was found to have cracked his larynx and to have bruised and torn the muscle down the side of his neck.

The pathologist said, 'These findings rather point to the possibility, which I have considered, that Mr Curtis had very gently taken the strain of the weight of his body while hanging by a rope and had then suddenly thought the better of it. But if he had, I do not think he would have sustained the injuries I found. Such action would not have cracked his larynx and I do not think it would have torn the muscle. I should also not have expected the marks to be so intense'.

The doctor that attended to him said that Charles Curtis told him that he had done it himself and said that the injury was not the sort of thing that anyone else could have done to him. The doctor said that Charles Curtis's neck had first gone septic which had given him pneumonia and that then also developed jaundice and general blood poisoning.

However, it was said that he must have disposed of the rope as no trace of it could be found.

Charles Curtis's son, who had lived downstairs from Charles Curtis, said that his mother had died in January 1960 but that Charles Curtis had not appeared to have been unduly upset over it.

He said that on the August Bank Holiday Charles Curtis came downstairs at about 9.30am and that he saw him standing by the pantry door noting that he was very shaky and had a mark around his neck. He said that he then assisted him to get a chair and that Charles Curtis asked him to get a doctor.

He said that Charles Curtis gave no explanation as to what had happened and that he had been unable to find anything in the way of a rope. He added that he had had no suspicion that Charles Curtis might attempt to take his life, noting that Charles Curtis had been in steady employment and had had no financial worries. He noted that Charles Curtis had had a cough for about a fortnight.

Charles Curtis was taken to Tehidy Chest Hospital where he later died. It was heard that he had nearly died on the way to the hospital and had to have been taken for emergency treatment at St Austell Hospital on the way. Tehidy Chest Hospital was noted as having been a specialist hospital dealing with complaints to the chest and throat.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Cornish Guardian - Thursday 18 August 1960

see West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser - Thursday 18 August 1960