Unsolved Murders

William Charles Bignell

Age: 30

Sex: male

Date: 21 Oct 1927

Place: Addiscombe Cricket Ground, Croydon

William Charles Bignell was found dead under a bush at Addiscombe Cricket Ground at Croydon on Friday 21 October 1927.

He had died from sulphonal poisoning. A professor at the London Hospital who analysed certain internal organs said that William Bignell had recently taken not less than 200 grains of sulphonal, noting that 40 was a fatal dose.

He had recently been discharged from the navy at Portsmouth on 18 October 1927. It was heard that he had left on the completion of his time but would have been accepted for a further term of service but had declined to be taken on again, saying that he already had a job to go to.

At his inquest a police inspector said that inquiries had found that sulphonal was only issued to the mental departments of the Hasar Hospital and that there were never more than 25 grain tablets in a ward. He said that the tablets had been kept locked up and were very seldom used. He added that sulphonal was not kept in the sick bay of the Dolphin and that it was not known that William Bignell ever took sulphonal. The police inspector said that one of William Bignell's comrades had said that the only thing that William Bignell ever took to produce sleep was beer which he said he was very fond of.

His death was described as mysterious with no answer to the following questions:

  1. What was in the three bottles (one broken) found near his head?
  2. Where was the month's pay he probably received on leaving his ship HMS Dolphin?
  3. Where was his kit?
  4. Why did he stop at Croydon on the way to his home at Forest Hill?
  5. Where the sulphonal came from.

His inquest was held at the Queens Road Homes on the Wednesday afternoon, 7 December 1927 by the Croydon Borough Coroner.

When the Coroner summed up he said that there was no evidence as to when or how the drug which caused his death was taken.  He noted that the sulphonal could not be traced and that the jury only had to decide on whether it was accident, suicide or foul play. He added that how, when or why William Bignell came to Croydon it was difficult to say, adding that it was hardly likely that he would come to commit suicide. He said that there was nothing to negative the view that he took his life, but that it was impossible to exclude accident. He added that there was no evidence of foul play and noted that sulphonal was a strange thing to use for the purpose of homicide.

The jury returned an open verdict, stating that William Bignell died from sulphonal poisoning but that there was insufficient evidence to show how or by whom the sulphonal was administered.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Croydon Times - Saturday 10 December 1927

see Shepton Mallet Journal - Friday 28 October 1927

see Western Mail - Thursday 01 December 1927