Edith Smith's Inquest

The inquest was conducted by the district coroner, Mr T Ridgeway, at the Halton Village Hall on Wednesday morning. Alice Poltier, of 67 Wellington Street Runcorn, the widow of the late Mr Frank Poltier, gave evidence of identification. The deceased was 46 years of age and was a widow. Her husband, who died about 19 years ago, was a postmaster Oxton, Birkenhead. Witness last saw the nurse alive on Monday morning when she was in good spirits because she and witness were going for their holiday together to France. The only thing which upset the nurse was a committee meeting of the Halton nursing Association which was being held that night. She was upset that she would not be allowed to attend the meeting to defend herself. She said that she did not think that she had done anything wrong and that was why she wanted to go to the meeting to understand what was being brought against her. The nurse had sent her resignation to expire on January 6th next year. The passport (produced) was in connection with their holiday in France in July. The nurse made arrangements to see the witness after the meeting that night, or if it were too late then, to see her after duty on the following day.

Replying to Superintendent Hayward, the witness said she had been very intimate with the nurse since Easter and had been in the habit of visiting her house. She did not know that she was in the habit of taking drugs and had never heard her say anything about obtaining them.

Dr Atkinson said he was called to the house on Tuesday morning, when he found that the nurse was alive but unconscious. Obviously she was suffering from morphia poisoning, and this opinion was later confirmed by the finding of an empty morphia phial. He did his best to revive her and although she improved for a while, she died soon afterwards without regaining consciousness. Witness had attended the deceased before. He did not know how she had obtained her supplies of the drug. He was not conversant with the rules of the Halton nursing Association, but if he had prescribed morphine for a patient he would only have given a nurse efficient for one dose. The morphia which had been found in the house was in tabloid form. Death was undoubtably due to morphia poisoning. Witness had known the deceased in her work, and he always found her to be very capable as a nurse, and most efficient in her duties.

William Kearsley, of 21 Bridgwater Street, Runcorn, a postman, said he called at the nurses house at 7 o'clock on Monday morning, but got no reply to his knocking. He had a registered parcel to deliver and wanted a receipt for it. He returned at 8 o'clock and again received no response. The nurse the habit of leaving a slate outside the door stating the time when she would return, but there was nothing on the slate at the time. He then tried the door and finding it was not locked, he opened it and called out " Good morning nurse". To this also there was no response. He thought that this was peculiar and on going for the foot of the stairs he heard a "funny noise like deep snoring". He called again several times and made a noise, but still got no answer. He did not know what to do but at last thought he had better go upstairs. He did this, and so the nurse is in bed as though she were asleep. He attempted to arouse her, but was unsuccessful. He then saw the syringe. When he went downstairs again Mr Preston, the milkman was there and he advised witness to go for Constable Woodward. This he did and the constable accompanied him back to the house.

P. C. Woodward told the coroner that when he arrived at the house at ? Found the nurse breathing very heavily and frothing at the mouth. He had once sent from the doctor. The syringe (produced) was on a small table near the bed and there was also the letter (produced). He found some morphia phials in the medicine cupboard in the kitchen and also an empty one on the table in the bedroom. Witness had made enquiries of all the chemists in Runcorn, but none of them had supplied morphia to the nurse. The coroner read extracts from the letter, which was identified as in the handwriting of the deceased, and which was stated to be her will. The deceased wrote: "I give my midwifery bag to the Halton District nursing Association as a memorial to the nurse who lived and died for her patients I have no sense of having wrong anyone. God is more merciful the man; He won't misjudge me nor condemn me unreported(?)..... I have loved my patients, and it has cut me deep that they have so cruelly ill treated me. I have never harmed them my whole thought was to save them pain and suffering. Goodbye. God bless you for all you have done for me. I shall be waiting on the other side and we will work out our way together through purgatory to the feet of Jesus Christ our Saviour""


Mr. W. Snape Looker, the hon secretary of the Halton Nursing Association, and who resides at Holly Bank Br Halton Brook, said the nurse had been employed with the Association for about six months. She had given in her notice to expire on January 6th as she was going to be married on that date.

The Coroner: What was this the back of her mind-- what happened at the committee meeting?

Witness replied that he had received a communication from the County Superintendent of the Cheshire Nursing Association that she had complaints regarding the nurses work. He suggested that the County Superintendent should come over and report to a committee meeting. He called the meeting for Monday of this week and told the nurse that it was being held and that she was not being called to it. He replied "Then you can have your own talk". At the meeting a resolution was passed that a deputation be formed to wait upon the nurse and to ask her to resign at the end of July. The deputation went to her the same night. She was very much upset and cried, and said she that she did not deserve it. She admitted that on two occasions she had done wrong, and added that when she was gone they would find she had more friends than they apparently thought. There was nobody in the house except the nurse when the deputation left. He had received complaints locally.

In reply to Mr H.N. Linaker, who appeared on behalf of the Nursing Association, the witness said that until recently the nurse had been all that could be desired.
When she came here she worked tremendously--- Yes tremendously.
Continuing, witness said that before the nurse came, the Association was in a poor state, and she had worked hard to make it successful. There was no ill feeling towards her. In view of the nature of the complaints it was felt to be in the best interests of the district she should be asked to resign.

The County Superintendent said that she would like to correct a statement made by Mr Looker. She did not complain about the nurses work, but about her methods. There was no doubt that she was a most excellent nurse.

The coroner, in finding that death was due to morphia poisoning, said it was a painful duty to return a verdict that the deceased took her own life, but he believed she did so whilst temporarily insane, and he returned a verdict accordingly.

Return to previous page