Date: 30 May 1961
Modupe Oyename died from an illegal operation.
Her inquest which was held at St Pancras on Tuesday 30 May 1961 returned a verdict of manslaughter.
Modupe Oyename was Nigerian.
The pathologist said that her cause of death was due to an attempted abortion. He said that the operation was similar to many thousands of operations carried out yearly by illegal operators. He said that the operation, which sometimes ended successfully, carried with it a great deal of risk, but added that it was possible for a patient to die within seconds or sometimes 20 minutes later.
He said that in the case of Modupe Oyename that a syringe had been used to inject a mixture of soapy water which he said could mean death in two ways, the first being the initial shock of an injection under pressure, and the second, which would occur in 20 minutes, being caused by the mixture entering the blood stream mixed with air.
When the Coroner addressed some pills that were found in the room, which were labelled Widow Walsh's pills, he said, 'These were a sort of home recipe for abortions which usually result in making people violently ill but achieve nothing'.
A doctor with the Metropolitan Police laboratories said that he identified the tablets labelled Widow Walsh's pill and said that others found were usually given to mothers immediately after a baby was born.
A man that lived in Greenham Road in Muswell Hill with his wife said that he said goodbye to Modupe Oyename who was a tenant at their address and that later that day he heard that she had been taken dead to Paddington General Hospital.
He noted that earlier the same day that Modupe Oyename had refused a wedding reception invitation because she had said that she had to visit someone.
At the inquest, two Paddington doctors said that they had received phone calls on the day that Modupe Oyename died, adding that they were each appeals for help.
A doctor of Shirland Road, Paddington said that a patient of his asked him to come urgently to her house in Elgin Avenue, however, he said that he advised her to call another doctor almost opposite her home because he was only half way through his surgery and it would have been half an hour before he could have made a visit. However, the woman had been unable to contact that doctor and so went instead to a doctor in nearby Shirland Road.
The doctor in Shirland Road said, 'I found a coloured girl in the surgery and she asked me to come quickly because her friend was ill. From what she said I presumed she was a nurse. I asked her why she had not told me she was a nurse. It seemed strange to me. The symptoms she described were similar to those of an epileptic attack. I went to the house within 20 minutes'.
The doctor said that when he reached the house in Elgin Avenue that he found Modupe Oyename hunched on a bed. He said that at first he could feel her pulse beating faintly but said that when he listened to her heart he could hear no sound.
There were two women at the house at the time, the coloured nurse that had gone for the doctor and a coloured typist.
When the coloured typist came into the room the doctor said that he told her that he thought that Modupe Oyename was dead and said that she gasped and seemed surprised.
The casualty officer at Paddington General Hospital said that when Modupe Oyename arrived she was dead.
However, he said that when she arrived he had not known at the time that there was anything suspicious about her death.
The coloured nurse said that she had not been expecting Modupe Oyename to call on her, but said that she never turned a friend away and so she asked her in. She noted that before Modupe Oyename came in that she didn't look well and said that she later went to bed. She added that Modupe Oyename refused to eat anything fatty because she had felt ill.
She said, 'Then I noticed her teeth were clenched and I was very worried. I went and phoned for a doctor. It is an experience I will never forget'.
A detective from Harrow Road police station said that his suspicions were aroused 12 hours after Modupe Oyename's death, but probably too late for him to have traced two vital clues, a syringe and some of Modupe Oyename's stained clothing. He said that by the time his suspicions were aroused that the trail that would have left to the abortionist had turned cold and that he was never able to find the two items which he described as vital clues.
When the Coroner summed up he said, 'This girl died some 20 minutes after the operation. The jury have identified the house where they think the operation was carried out. They are unable to identify the person responsible. The trail was cold by the time the detective's suspicions were aroused. No one has said anything about this when the girl was taken to the hospital.
The verdict of manslaughter was then returned.
see Marylebone Mercury - Friday 02 June 1961