Unsolved Murders

Cecil Brittain Marson

Age: 35

Sex: male

Date: 26 Oct 1932

Place: Hull Municipal Technical College, Hull

Cecil Brittain Marson died from cyanide of potassium poisoning.

He was a doctor and a senior physics master at the Hull Municipal Technical College and was found dying in his laboratory on the Wednesday afternoon, 26 October 1932.

An open verdict was returned.

At his inquest it was heard that he was a happily married man who had suffered from influenza and that he was in the habit of making his own medicine. His inquest returned an open verdict stating that it was impossible from the evidence to state whether his cause of death was accidental or otherwise.

When he was found in the laboratory he was said to have been in a dazed condition and a doctor was summoned but that he died before an ambulance could be brought to take him to the infirmary.

His father said that Cecil Marson had previously held an important position as a research chemist with the Northern Coke Research Committee in Newcastle and had come to Hull on 1 September 1932.

He said that Cecil Marson had suffered from double pneumonia and that his left lung was affected but that he had never complained. He said that Cecil Marson had begun to feel the effects of a cold on 1 October 1932 and a doctor was called and that he didn't resume his duties at the college until a fortnight later but that he was quite cheerful and not depressed in any way.

It wa also heard that he had no worries, was in a good position, and had good prospects and that he was always talking about what he would do to improve the college and that he was having a house built for his own occupation.

His father said that he had last seen him alive on the day he died at lunchtime and said that he seemed quite cheerful although he had had a headache. He said that they had discussed the purchase of Christmas presents.

His father also said that Cecil Marson often mixed his own medicines for himself but said that he had no idea what he used. He said that he seemed able to make medicine for any complaint.

It was also heard that after his father had returned to their house after Cecil Marson's death, he had found a text book in which there was a reference to the use of prussic acid for the purpose of alleviating bronchial catarrh and it was noted that Cecil Marson had suffered from bronchial catarrh.

Cecil Marson was seen in the advanced laboratory at about 1.50pm by a student who said that he seemed real jolly and happy and said that as an indication of that he was chaffing him about his spotting certain chemical salts.

Cecil Marson was found soon after at about 2.25pm by the laboratory steward who had occasion to go into Cecil Marson's room but received no response when knocking. He said that the lock was of a Yale type but that when he inserted his key it would not open and that when he looked through the frosted glass he could see what appeared to be a form laid on the floor. The laboratory steward said that with the assistance of another the door was burst open and they found Cecil Marson on his back in the middle of the room with his feet towards the door. He said that he was in a pool of water which had come from a fire extinguisher that had been knocked over and that he was groaning but did not reply when spoken to. The laboratory steward said that Cecil Marson's collar was smeared with dirt and that he looked pale and that his lips were rather blue and that there was froth coming from his mouth.

The laboratory steward said that they carried him out to another room and then tried artificial respiration. He said that the doctor arrived at 3pm but said that Cecil Marson died at 3.25pm.

The laboratory steward said that he had seen Cecil Marson earlier on at 1.35pm in the store room looking through chemicals. He said that he found no letters or writing and said that although there were a number of chemicals in his room, there was nothing out of place and added that he didn't think that Cecil Marson had been carrying out any chemistry experiments at the time. He added that he had never found Cecil Marson's door fastened so that he could not open it with a key. He also said that none of the furniture was upset in any way other than the fire extinguisher.

A chemistry teacher said that when he went into Cecil Marson's room he could smell something like perodine and slightly resembling hydrocyanic acid. He also said that in his opinion a good deal of carbon dioxide would have been given off from the fire extinguisher.

A master at the college said that in September 1932 he had discussed with Cecil Marson what should be included in a report about the department and said that Cecil Marson had told him that he had underestimated the job which the master said he took to understand that Cecil Marson was finding the job more difficult than he expected.

The doctor that had treated Cecil Marson for influenza on 2 October 1932 said that he was called to the laboratory on 26 October 1932 and found Cecil Marson lying in his room in a state of collapse. He said that he was still alive and that he applied artificial respiration but said that he could see that it was hopeless from the start. He said that there was evidence of paralysis of respiration and that his face was congested and that there was froth coming from his mouth. He said that his breath had a sweet smell which was suggestive of bitter almonds which he added suggested cyanide.

The doctor that carried out his post-mortem said that both of Cecil Marson's lungs were congested and that there were signs of marked bronchitis but that there was no evidence to show the cause of death and added that he found no blood clots.

When the content of his stomach was examined by a City Analyst it was found to contain an appreciable amount of hydrocyanide acid, commonly known as prussic acid, and also some potassium cyanide in combination, but it was stated that since the stomach contents were slightly acid in re-action, it was somewhat uncertain whether prussic acid itself or its salt, potassium cyanide, was originally taken into the stomach. He said that from low concentrations of acid in the stomach contents he was inclined to think the poison was taken in the form of potassium cyanide. He also said that he was of the opinion that the minimum fatal dose was present in the body. He also said that he was quite definite that it was cyanide poison.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Hull Daily Mail - Thursday 03 November 1932 (includes photo of Cecil Brittain Marson)

see Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday 02 November 1932

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Monday 31 October 1932