Unsolved Murders

Margery Gardener

Age: 5

Sex: female

Date: 28 Dec 1916

Place: White Hart Inn, North Tawton

Margery Gardener died after eating some chocolates.

She was taken ill on 27 December 1916 and died the following day on 28 December.

She and some other children had all eaten similar sweets and whilst some of the other children also became ill, others were quite alright.

Her bowel and other organs were sent away for analysis, but no poisons could be detected. The analyst said that after he found no trace of poison in her organs, he felt that there was no need to analyse the chocolates.

After the report was heard, the coroner directed the proceedings back to the initial doctors’ findings stating that he could find no evidence as to the cause of her convulsions and could not say whether they were naturally caused. The doctor added that he had never heard of a child of five having convulsions of the kind common to younger children.

The manufacturer of the chocolates was also represented at the inquest by their solicitor. When he addressed the inquest, he said that he would like to say on behalf of the chocolate manufacturer that they were one of the biggest firms in existence and that they manufactured in Battersea over 30 tons of the bon bons every week and there had never been any complaint. He said that the huge quantity manufactured by the firm and the fact that there had never been any complaint was, he thought, sufficient guarantee that the chocolates were good. He added that the name of the firm was a household word.

The coroner added by saying, 'I think by the man in the street this brand of chocolates is considered beyond reproach'.

After the report was considered and the chocolate manufacturers solicitor had been heard, the coroner asked the doctor whether he could suggest how Margery Gardener might have died and he said that he thought that her cause of death must have been due to overloading of the stomach causing constipation in the lower bowel, just as might be found in a much younger child. He added that there was no reason to suggest that she had choked and said that it was unusual for a child of five to have convulsions from constipation.

The doctor was also asked a question regarding the cause of constipation and the doctor stated that the chocolates would not have caused constipation.

It was also noted that Margery Gardener's mother said that there had been a rumour all over town that the doctor had taken a chocolate from Margery Gardener's throat and that she had choked. Margery Gardener's mother also told the inquest that Margery Gardener had eaten heartedly and that she was a 'proper little glutton' and that she had told her that she would make herself ill.

When the coroner summed up, he noted the doctors explanation and the results of the analysis of Margery Gardener's organs and noted that they had several coincidences surrounding the case, in particular, the fact that the other children had also become ill after eating the chocolates and that one small boy had thrown his away, which he said was a rather unusual thing for a child to do, which he said left some suspicion. However, he said that he thought that the only verdict that the jury could return was that constipation and overeating had caused convulsions and that her death was due to natural causes.

The jury then returned the verdict that Margery Gardener had died of natural causes brought about by general Christmas over-feeding.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Western Times - Tuesday 02 January 1917

see Western Times - Tuesday 09 January 1917

see Western Times - Friday 12 January 1917