Unsolved Murders

Lily Randall

Age: 25

Sex: female

Date: 12 Apr 1924

Place: 1 Awbery Terrace, Ortis Road, Reading

Lily Randall died from Lysol poisoning but it was not known how it was administered and an open verdict was returned.

It was also heard that she had uttered a word that had sounded like arsenic before she died, but found that there was no arsenic in her system.

She had been a labourer at the Reading biscuit factory and had lived at 1 Awbery Terrace in Ortis Road, Reading.

She was found unconscious in bed on the morning of 13 March 1924 and taken to the Royal Berks Hospital where she died at 11pm the same night without regaining consciousness.

A bottle of Lysol was found in a cot adjoining her bed, but neither her husband, nor any other occupants could account for its being there and there was no evidence forthcoming as to when, where and by whom it was purchased. 

Her inquest heard that Lily Randall and her husband had lived happily together and that she had never threatened suicide.

It was said that she had been depressed occasionally, but that that was attributed to indigestion.

Her post mortem examination revealed conditions consistent with death from lysol poisoning, but the house surgeon at the Royal Bucks Hospital said that he was not at the time prepared to say definitely that that was the cause of death, noting that there was no sign of the corrosive action one would have expected to find in the case of a person who had taken lysol in a crude form.

A detective inspector said that he had made inquiries at places where lysol could be obtained, but had been unable to elicit any information respecting the sale or purchase of the particular bottle of lysol, noting that lysol was not subject to the requirements of the 1868 Act or of the Dangerous Drugs Act and that no signature was required when purchased and no record of sale was kept. He added that its sale was quite common. 

He said that he had made a careful examination of 1 Awbery Terrace, but found no vessel that showed any sign of its having been used for lysol.

When the Coroner asked whether he had any cause for suspicion against anyone in connection with her death, the detective inspector replied, 'No'.

A public analyst that examined certain portions of the viscera and blood taken from Lily Randall's body, said that in each case he found creosoles identical with those in lysol and concluded that her death was due to poisoning from creosoles, probably coming from lysol.

He noted that he had also made tests for other poisons, such as prussic acid and arsenic, but with negative results.

When the doctor heard the evidence of the public analyst, he agreed that Lily Randall's death was due to poisoning by creosoles probably taken in the form of lysol. He noted that when he had made the post mortem examination, there was nothing to show how the poison was administered.

A woman that had lived at 3 Awbery Terrace said that she had known Lily Randall well for some time and could testify that she lived on good terms with her husband. She said that she was called to see Lily Randall on the morning of 13 March 1924 and found her unconscious in bed. She said that she noticed no smell of lysol at the time, but did so later.

It was noted that the bottle of lysol was found by another neighbour in the cot beside Lily Randall's bed.

The neighbour from 3 Awbery Terrace added that during the night she heard two squeals from 1 Awbery Terrace and that in the morning she heard Lily Randall's husband call for his mother. She noted that she was a light sleeper. When she was asked by the Coroner whether she was certain she heard squeals an whether they might have come from the child, the neighbour replied:

I don't think so. One can tell the difference between the cry of a child and that of a female.

When she was asked whether she could say what time it was, she replied 'No'.

When she was asked why she didn't tell the police that in the first instance, the neighbour said:

We don't always think of everything.

However, the Coroner noted that if Lily Randall had been dying, that he thought she might have remembered that, noting that it all helped, and then asked whether she was sure the squeals came from Lily Randall's bedroom, to which the neighbour replied:

Yes, I think so. They came from that way.

When the Coroner asked whether they were screams she heard or squeals, the neighbour said they were squeals, as if from a woman.

The neighbour said that she believed that Lily Randall had used lysol when she had her baby and that she herself had used it when she went out nursing, but said that she didn't buy it and had never had lysol in her house and had never purchased any.

When she was asked whether she went into Lily Randall's house frequently, the neighbour replied, 'Yes'. However, she said she had never been in Lily Randall's bedroom before.

She said that Lily Randall had never suggested that she didn't want to have another child, and added that in fact, she had told her that she would like to have a little girl when her boy got older.

The woman that found the lysol bottle in the child's cot, who lived at 5 Aubrey Terrace, said that it was not hidden in any way and was easily seen, however, she said that she didn't notice it when she first went into the room.

She said that Lily Randall and her husband had lived happily together, but added that Lily Randall had one time spoken to her about a woman's suicide in Reading who had taken lysol and remarked:

I wonder what she did it for?

However, she added that Lily Randall had never threatened to take her life.

Lily Randall's doctor said that he had previously prescribed for her when she was suffering from indigestion, and had never had any occasion to suggest to her the use of lysol.

A lodger at the house, along with Lily Randall's sister-in-law and father-in-law all said that they heard no screams during the night in question, and that they had never seen the bottle of lysol before, until it was found in the cot.

When the Coroner summed up, he said that he had come to the conclusion that Lily Randall's death was due to poison by creosoles, due probably by the administration of lysol, but noted that there was no evidence to say where the lysol was purchased, how it came to be in the house or how it was administered, and that for that reason he had to add to his open verdict that there was no evidence as to how the poison was administered.

He noted that certain other evidence stated that Lily Randall had uttered a word that sounded like arsenic, but that the analyst had found no traces of that and so that was not worth following up.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Reading Standard - Saturday 22 March 1924