Unsolved Murders

Alice Thomas

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 3 Nov 1930

Place: Trenhorne Farm, Lewannick, Cornwall

Alice Thomas died from arsenic poisoning on 3 November 1930. It was thought that she had been given two doses.

The police later said that they were looking for the cook, who later vanished and whose coat was found on a cliff. It was not known if she had committed suicide or run off. She did leave a note that suggested that she was doing away with herself although asserted that she was innocent of any crime.

The Coroner returned a verdict stating, 'That the cause of death was arsenical poisoning, but that there is not sufficient evidence to show by whom or by what means the arsenic was administered'.

Alice Thomas's mother said that she had been with her all the time during the last few days of her illness and that although the cook did the cooking, she prepared her daughters food.

The mother said that on the Sunday before Alice Thomas died they had had roast mutton, roast potatoes and green which had been prepared by the cook. The mother said that Alice Thomas's portion was cut up when she came into the room. She said that she put some greens and potato on the plate and had taken it to her daughter. She said that she had cut the mutton into small pieces and had fed it to Alice Thomas with a spoon and had then eaten the other half herself. She said that she then went back to the kitchen and put the portion back in the oven and started to have dinner herself.

She said that while she was having dinner Alice Thomas's husband took the portion out of the oven and then went back to Alice Thomas with it saying that he would give it to her. When he returned the plate was nearly empty and he laughingly said that he had made her eat it.

The mother said that they then had some pudding that she had made and that Alice Thomas had had some and that she seemed all right. She also said 'She had a little junket between dinner and tea which I had made. During the afternoon, she also drank some lemon juice I had prepared the previous evening and which had been left on the dresser. On Sunday afternoon, she complained of a burning, dry throat. I gave her lemon and she was sick. When she went to bed she asked for some aspirin. There was a bottle on the mantelpiece. I took out two tablets and gave her one, and the other later. Sometime after she said that she did not feel so well and that she believed it was those pills. She grew worse, and about four in the morning jumped up in bed and shouted for her husband. He came in and carried her into his bed'.

The mother said that Alice Thomas's nose bled for several hours the next morning and that she became worse in the afternoon and that the doctor then came for a second time and Alice Thomas was then taken away in an ambulance.

Alice Thomas's brother said that when he met the cook at the funeral she had told him that she had thought that Alice Thomas was looking unwell when she went to Bude and said that they had had tea, cake, bread and butter and sandwiches. He said that the cook had made no secret about the sandwiches but said that she had seemed reluctant in mentioning them, noting that there had been a pause between her saying bread and butter and the word sandwiches. The brother then said that he asked Alice Thomas's mother if she had made the sandwiches and she had said 'Certainly not, the cook made them and brought them with her'. The brother said that he had said 'This looks serious, and must be looked into'.

When the brother was asked if he meant that the sandwiches had been tainted by the meat or that whatever was in them had gone bad or that he had meant to infer that somebody had poisoned them he said that he had his suspicions that there had been foul play. When asked what had made him suspicious he said that he knew that Alice Thomas had been ill for ten days but that not even her mother had been informed and that the cook was the only woman in the house doing the housework and attending to Alice Thomas. When a juryman asked him to put it plainly the brother said that Alice Thomas's husband and the cook were too friendly.

The doctor said that when he was called he diagnosed arsenical poisoning and arranged Alice Thomas’s removal to Plymouth Hospital. When asked why he had her taken such a distance and asked whether the journey might have made her worse he said that it was the choice between two evils. He said that he thought that she would probably die if she stayed and that there was a chance that she could be saved in Plymouth. He said that he had no doubt that she had been suffering from arsenic poisoning.

When asked if she had died from acute arsenic poising or chronic arsenic poisoning the doctor said that at the beginning she had had a big dose and that the question was whether she had had a subsequent dose which he said he was inclined to think she had. He said that the sudden relapse after the Sunday dinner on 2 November 1930 seemed to point to a second administration of a large dose of arsenic. The doctor also said that two-thirds of a grain of arsenic which was found in her liver was a lot to be found if the only dose had been two weeks earlier.

The doctor who carried out her post-mortem also stated that he would not have expected to have found two-thirds of a grain of arsenic in her liver if the dose had been given 17 days before. He then said that he thought it was very likely that there must have been a second dose administered between the 18 October 1930 and the day of her death, 3 November 1930.

The Coroner summed up saying that the evidence showed that Alice Thomas's husband was as friendly with the cook as Alice Thomas was. He said that there was no evidence that the husband and the cook had fallen into a guilty association and had plotted to murder Alice Thomas so that they could get married. The Coroner questioned whether the cook had poisoned Alice Thomas and noted that she had undoubtedly prepared the sandwiches and was in the house until Alice Thomas was taken to the hospital and had done most of the cooking but noted that there was no evidence to indicate that the cook had indicated to Alice Thomas which sandwiches she should take. The Coroner said that the cook had written a letter which had jumped to the conclusion that Alice Thomas had been poisoned even though nothing had been said about that. However, he said that she might have been frightened by what the brother had said to her at the funeral thinking that if the cap fitted. The Coroner noted that the cook was either missing or had killed herself and that neither her dead body or live body had been found. However, he also noted that in the letter she had left behind, she had emphatically asserted that she had been innocent of the cause of death although she wrote that her passing would clear the husband.

After the inquest, it was suggested that the bodies of the cooks two sisters be exhumed as they had both died at the cooks house. The first was Mary Anne Everard 76 who was described as a spinster of independent means who died on 15 August 1926 at Trenhorne House from cerebral embolism and who had had no post mortem. The other was Lydia Everard who had died on 21 July 1930 from chronic gastric catarrh and colitis.

After the inquest, the police met up to make a fresh appeal to find the cook.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Western Times - Wednesday 24 December 1930

see Lancashire Evening Post - Wednesday 26 November 1930

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 24 November 1930

see Portsmouth Evening News - Tuesday 13 January 1931

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 30 December 1930

see Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 25 November 1930

see Lincolnshire Echo - Thursday 20 November 1930