Date: 28 Jan 1957
Place: 81 Ferrier Avenue, Cardiff
David George Morgan died from a barbiturate overdose.
His 37-year-old wife was tried for his murder but acquitted.
The prosecution said that his wife had handed him a fatal dose of barbiturate after he had asked her for some sleeping tablets, but the defence said, 'It as done by his volition, his pressure and his coercion. The hand that was the criminal hand was not hers but his, the threat of brutality, the threat of punishment, the threat of blows'.
Following David Morgan's death his wife made a number of statements in which she progressively changed her story, admitting that what she had initially said was not the whole truth.
In her first statement dated 28 January 1957 she said, 'For some time past I have been unable to sleep at night and have been under treatment with the doctor and his partner, whose name I do not know. Last Thursday morning, 24th January, 1957, I went to their surgery at Waterhall Road for something to help me sleep and also cure the headaches I was having. I saw the partner of the doctor and after I told him about this he gave me two prescriptions to take to the chemist. I took the prescriptions to the chemist in Waterhall Road and gave him the prescriptions. I waited for a while there whilst he made up the prescriptions and he then handed me two boxes containing tablets. One of those contained little white tablets which were for my headaches and the other contained little pink tablets to help me sleep. The directions were on the boxes and these were that I was to take one of the pink tablets at night before going to bed. The white tablets I was to take when required. I do not know how many pink tablets there were in the box but I took one on Thursday night and one on Friday night and that is all I have taken since they were given to me.
After I had taken a tablet each time I put the box upon the sideboard in the living room. On Saturday morning, 26th January, 1957, my husband got up about 1.30am. He came into the living room and said he did not feel very well and was going back to bed. He went back to bed and stayed there until about 2pm when he got up again. He didn't say anything except that he was going to have a cup of tea. I told him that I was going shopping. I left the house at 2.15pm leaving him in the living room sat in the chair. I went shopping in town, calling at The Maypole on the Hayes, John Bull Stores, Bridge street, a butcher's shop a couple of doors away from the Maypole and then to the open stalls at Mill Lane for my vegetables. I then went to the General Railway Station where I caught the bus for Plasmawr Road. It was then about 3.25pm. I reached home at 3.45pm. I opened the door with my key and immediately I saw my husband stretched out on the floor. I shouted at him and shook him but he didn't open his eyes. I could see that he was breathing. I lifted him up and dragged him into the bedroom. He was dressed so I undressed him and put him into bed. Afterwards I came out of the bedroom and then noticed that the box containing the pink pills was open on the sideboard. I looked inside it and saw that there were only four in the box and on the floor I found another two. I picked up the two on the floor and put them back into the box. I closed the box and left it on the sideboard.
I stayed in the house the rest of that day and all the next day but my husband did not come round. He was unconscious all the time. I did not call the doctor because I didn't think anybody would be there and I didn't tell anyone about it because I don't mix with the neighbours. This morning about 11.40am because my husband had not come round I went to the doctors and told him. He came to the house and examined my husband and then arranged for him to be taken to hospital. I showed the doctor the box with the pink tablets in it and then put it back on the sideboard. I came to St David's Hospital with my husband in the ambulance.
My husband has been depressed lately because he has been unable to work because of his age. He was a bit depressed when I left the house on Saturday afternoon but he has never said anything to me about taking his life. I have had sleeping tablets before this but he had never taken any of them. Sometimes he gets into a temper and this I believe is because he has been out of work. Last Friday night he got in one of these moods and for no reason at all struck me in the eye bruising it. The last time he left the house to go out was last Friday afternoon. He left about 2.30pm to go to the Post Office for a postal order and was back about ten minutes later'.
However, she made another statement shortly after on the same day, 28 January 1957, which read: 'What I told you in the other statement is not all true because I was trying to screen my husband. That bit about when I was supposed to have found him in the house on the floor on Saturday afternoon is wrong. I didn't find him like that. He was all right last Saturday and about 7.20pm that evening I went with him to town. We went to the Adelphi in Bute Street, where we went in the smoke room and stayed there till closing time. I only had two glasses of Guinness stout but he had a lot to drink but when we left there he had had more than enough although he wasn't drunk. We walked to the General Railway Station where we caught the Plasmawr Road bus which left just before 11pm. When we were on the bus he gave me a sixpenny piece to pay the fare. I looked at it and could see that it wasn’t enough to pay the bus fare. I told my husband that it wasn't enough and I gave it back to him. When the bus reached Plasmawr Road he started arguing about the money he had given me. He said he had given me two sixpences stuck together and that he had paid the fares with it. I told him that he hadn't and he then struck me with his fist in my left eye. When we got off the bus he said to me 'I'll pay you for this when we get in'. We walked home and when we got inside the house he started hitting me. He choked me down twice, broke my right ear ring and knocked my glasses off. I got that fed up with being knocked about and him nagging about the money that I went into the bedroom and got into bed. I left him in the living room sat by the chair by the fireside undoing his boot. He came to bed about ten minutes to a quarter of an hour later. He never spoke a word but got straight into bed.
I got up the next morning about 7am and he seemed to be asleep. I dressed and went into the living room. I saw my box of sleeping tablets open on the sideboard. There were four tablets in the box and on the floor by the sideboard were two tablets. I picked up the two and put them into the box. When I saw this I thought he had taken the tablets but didn't think it was as serious as it was. I would have called the doctor but I didn't think he lived at the surgery. I tried to wake my husband several times during the day for his meals but he didn't open his eyes. I could see he was breathing though. I went to bed that night and when I saw him the next morning he was still asleep. I tried to wake him but couldn't. I then went and told the doctor.
I forgot to tell you as well that when I went to the chemist with the prescriptions my husband was with me as one of them was for him, his breathing and a tonic. After my husband got his mixed up with mine and took them back to the chemist to get them sorted out.
The body which I saw at St David's Hospital at 4.20pm on Monday 28th January, 1957, was that of my husband. The only reason I told those lies at first was to screen my husband'.
However, on 5 February 1957 David Morgan's wife made a third statement saying, 'The two statements that I have made to the sergeant are not the whole truth and I want to tell you the full truth and not hide anything as I will only be worried if I don't. The story that I told the sergeant about the trouble on the bus on the way home on Saturday is true and, when my husband and me got in the house he started knocking me about. He knocked me down twice and broke my ear ring and knocked my glasses off. You don't know my husband. When he is in drink he is wild. I don't like telling you this but he drinks that cheap wine called, 'Plonk'. He likes it because it is sweet.
He had drunk about three bottles of this stuff on Saturday night and he was in a nasty mood. I was really afraid of him. He sat in my little chair. He told me to make a cup of tea. I made the tea and put a cup on the table in front of him. He asked me to give him some of my sleeping tablets as he said that he wanted to have a good night's sleep. I gave him four tablets in his hand and he put them in his mouth and washed them down with some tea. He then asked me for some more tablets. I told him that four was too many but he said that he wanted more. I gave him another two tablets in his hand and he put these in his mouth and washed them down with some more tea. He then asked me for some more tablets so I picked up the box and tipped the lot into his hand. There was a number of tablets in his hand and he popped these into his mouth and took another gulp of tea.
I can't say how many tablets I gave him but it looked a lot. When I gave him all these tablets I was fed up with everything, and so would you be if you had had the beatings that I have had. I felt that he would sleep and I would have a peaceful night. You don't know my husband, I have known him break plates over my head and chuck a clock at me. I have been afraid to open my mouth or speak to my husband. If I said a word, I had a blow and wanted peace.
My husband knew that I had sleeping tablets because he was with me when I got them from the chemist. I didn't think that the tablets would kill him when I gave them to him but I was desperate for some peace. When I saw my husband lying there all day Sunday I didn't think he was going to die and when he was still out on Monday morning, I sent for the doctor as I thought I would get into trouble if I didn't get him'.
The Home Office pathologist that carried out the post mortem on David Morgan at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary said that he found patches of discoloured skin on David Morgan's left hip, both ankles and both knees. The pathologist noted a dried ulcer on David Morgan's upper lip and found that his stomach contained about a quarter of a pint of thick brown fluid and a fragment of pink paste. He said that the inner surface of his stomach was inflamed and that he thought that the pink paste might have been a piece of a sleeping tablet. He said that David Morgan's windpipe contained a large amount of bloodstained mucous and that his lungs were full of a thin clear fluid. He found that each lung was affected by a moderate degree of emphysema and that his spleen was missing but that all his other organs were normal.
The pathologist said that he handed specimens of blood, urine, liver, brain, stomach and contents, and small intestines and contents to another analyst and was told that a total of 2.5 grains of buto barbitone where found in them when analysed. He said that he then concluded that in his opinion the cause of death was pulmonary oedema due to 'Soneryl' poisoning, noting that he based that opinion on the amount of illness that he had been told about and on the results of the chemical analysis of the parts, noting that he had heard of no other matters that could have caused death. He noted that the discoloured blue patches were commonly found on the skin of people who had died from barbiturate poisoning and that pulmonary oedema was a common result of barbiturate poisoning.
The Home Office pathologist said that he formed the opinion that a large dose of barbiturate had been taken some hours before his death, probably more than twelve hours before.
He then added that in the case of 'Soneryl' that ten tablets taken at once would kill some people and that twenty tablets taken at once would kill most people. He then noted that if tablets were taken with alcohol that the drugs might kill a person when either taken separately would not.
The Home Office pathologist also added that there would have been a chance of recovery of David Morgan had received medical attention on the Sunday. He added that the chance of recovery on the Sunday would have been less if an excessive dose had been taken by a person who had also taken alcohol and that the higher the dose the less the prospect of recovery was.
The doctor that had prescribed the drugs said that David Morgan and his wife had visited him at the Waterhall surgery on 24 January 1957 and that he wrote out a prescription for David Morgan for a cough mixture and tablets for a bronchial complaint and that he also wrote out a prescription for 30 Soneryl tablets and 36 Largactil tablets for David Morgan's wife. The doctor said that the Soneryl tablets were prescribed as a mild sedative and that he had explained to David Morgan's wife that she was to take one tablet about an hour before retiring to bed.
The pharmaceutical chemist that had his business in Plasmawr Road, Fairweather, Cardif where David Morgan's wife got the drugs said that both David Morgan and his wife called at his chemist shop on 24 January 1957 and that he dispensed some prescriptions for them, saying that he gave David Morgan's wife Soneryl and Largactil. He later identified the box that the police had found at David Morgan's house with the four tablets remaining in it as the box of Soneryl tablets that he had prescribed David Morgan's wife.
The doctor that had prescribed the Soneryl to David Morgan's wife said that he saw her again at his surgery in Waterhall Road just after 12 midday on Monday 28 January 1957. He said that when she came in she told him that something awful had happened and that David Morgan had taken her sleeping tablets on the previous Saturday and that he had not woken up since. The doctor said that when he asked David Morgan's wife why she had not notified him before she told him that she didn't realise that he lived at the surgery and whether he would be there, adding that she had not lived in the area for very long.
The doctor said that when he asked David Morgan's wife about what had happened he said that she told him that she had left the house at 2.15pm on the Saturday afternoon and that when she had got back at 3.45pm that she had found David Morgan on the floor, apparently asleep with the box of sleeping tablets at his side and a few remaining in the box. He said that he then asked her what she did next and said that she told him that she had put David Morgan back in bed, which the doctor noted that he thought would have been a rather heavy task.
The doctor said that he then agreed to go and see David Morgan right away, but noted that David Morgan's eye was bruised and said that when he asked her about it she told him that David Morgan had hit her in the eye on the Friday.
The doctor said that when he got to 81 Ferrier Avenue he saw David Morgan lying in bed on the ground floor lying on his side and said that on examination it was obvious that he was in a coma. The doctor said that he then looked at the box of tablets and saw that they contained two or four tablets. He said that he then told David Morgan's wife that he thought that David Morgan was probably suffering from an overdose of sleeping tablets and that he would send him to hospital immediately and said that David Morgan's wife was agreeable with that.
The police took statements from several witnesses that saw David Morgan and his wife in the pub, as well as on the bus home.
The wife of the licensee of the Adelphi Hotel in Bute Street, Cardiff said that she remembered seeing David Morgan and his wife in her pub on 26 January 1957, saying that they remained until closing time and that she served them with about five half pint bottles of Guinness each. She added also that she knew that David Morgan also bought some wine.
An assistant to the chemist in Plsmawr Road said that he knew David Morgan's wife and also knew David Morgan by sight and that he remembered seeing them on 26 January 1957 at about 10.45pm getting the same bus as him at General Station, adding that they were still on the bus when he got off at Fairwater Green.
The police said that at 1.30pm on 28 January 1957 that they went to St David's Hospital where they saw David Morgan's wife and said to her, 'I am a detective and I am here as a result of a telephone call I have had from your doctor, I would like to know how your husband became ill?'. David Morgan's wife then said, 'He must have done it when I was out on Saturday afternoon'. The policeman then said, 'Can you explain this more fully? ‘and she said, 'I went out about quarter past two and came back at about quarter to four, he was lying on the floor, he must have taken my sleeping tablets because there were two on the floor and the box was open on the sideboard with four in it, I showed them to the doctor'. She then said, 'How is my husband, can I see him now?'.
The policeman then said to her, 'Your husband is very ill and unable to speak to you at the present moment. In the meantime I would like you to come with me to Canton Police station so that I can have some more facts about this case'. David Morgan's wife then said, 'All right as long as I can see him if I am wanted'.
When they got to Canton Police Station the police said, 'I would like to take down on the typewriter anything you have to say about this case but because there are certain matters which I still have to check. I must tell you that you need not make this statement unless you wish and I must point out to you that any statement you make may be given in evidence and I want you to remember this'. David Morgan's wife then said, 'All right but its only as I told you', and she then made a statement.
The policeman said that he then invited David Morgan's wife to read the statement but said that she replied, 'I can't read it because I haven’t got my glasses, my husband broke my reading glasses'. After the police read her statement back to her they said, 'I would like to go to your house for you to show me the spot where you found your husband lying last Saturday afternoon'. When they entered 81 Ferrier Avenue David Morgan's wife showed the police where she had found David Morgan when she got back on the Saturday afternoon, saying, 'That's where I found him'. The police then said to her, 'Now are you sure this happened on Saturday afternoon because I believe that you and your husband were on the last bus that leaves town for Plasmawr Road on Saturday night'. David Morgan's wife then said, 'Oh no we weren't'. The police then said, 'Well I have just spoken to a person who says that she saw you and your husband upon this bus, this is very important and I want you to be sure of your facts'.
David Morgan's wife then said, 'All right, I'll have a cigarette and I'll tell you the truth'. There was then a pause as she lit a cigarette and she said, 'Yes we did go out Saturday night, I told lies in that statement because I wanted to screen him'. When the police asked her what she meant by that she said, 'Well nobody wants people to know that their husband knocks them about. He gave me this eye on Saturday night when he came in. He had been drinking that 'Plonk' and when he has that he hits me about. He did this'. She then went to the sideboard and handed the police a piece of broken ear ring and then said, 'And he knocked my glasses off you don't know what he's like. I got fed up with his nagging and went to bed and he came about ten minutes later, when I got up the next morning I saw two tablets on the floor and four in the box on the sideboard'. She then handed the police the box containing six tablets of Soneryl and said, 'He must have taken them after I left him, here are the tablets I showed the doctor'. Just after that a police motor patrol car arrived and the police there were told that David Morgan had just died.
It was said that David Morgan's wife then became very distressed but that after twenty minutes she recovered her composure and she was shortly after taken to Canton Police station where she made her second statement.
A doctor that interviewed David Morgan's wife at St David's Hospital in Cardiff on 21 June 1954 the day after David Morgan had similarly been admitted said that she told him that David Morgan had been depressed on and off for some months, adding that she thought that David Morgan had been worried about her as she had been in hospital for about a month. She said that she had been discharged from the Bristol Royal in March 1954 after a major operation and that she had no children and that David Morgan only occasionally took beer. She then said that David Morgan had been more depressed during the preceding few days and that he had taken her tablets which were pheno-barbitone in mistake for his own which were vitamins. She said that David Morgan had been out for a drink on the Saturday night and that he had had supper in the cafe where they were living.
She said that David Morgan went to bed at about midnight and that she then went to bed about a quarter of an hour later and found him asleep. However, she said that when she woke up at 7am that she found an empty box of her tablets on the floor and said that David Morgan could not be roused and that she gave him some salt and water and some strong tea. She noted that he didn't vomit at all. She said that she then sent for a doctor who did not come and that she then sent for another doctor who did come and who ordered David Morgan be taken to the hospital.
She said that David Morgan had had no serious illnesses and that all he had been complaining about was his head and muscular rheumatism in his legs and fingers which he had had for a long time.
The doctor that interviewed David Morgan's wife on 21 June 1954 said that his records showed that David Morgan had complained about not being able to breathe through his right nostril and having had a pain over his right frontal sinus as well as his left knee and shoulder. He added that his records stated that David Morgan's tongue was furred. The doctor said that David Morgan was discharged on 22 June 1954.
Although David Morgan's wife was tried for David Morgan's murder at the Glamorgan Assizes on Tuesday 2 April 1957 she was cleared although it is not known whether that was because the jury considered her innocent or whether there was not enough evidence for them to make a decision. She was also cleared of manslaughter.
The defence had both claimed that there was not a prima facie case, but that argument was rejected, and had also said that she had only given David Morgan the tablets through the threat of brutality.
David Morgan was a retired seaman and he and his wife had been married for four years.
see National Archives - ASSI 84/225, ASSI 91/57
see Daily Mirror - Wednesday 30 January 1957
see Western Mail - Saturday 16 February 1957
see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 02 April 1957
see Halifax Evening Courier - Saturday 23 February 1957