Thanet Advertiser 11th December 1931
DEATH BY POISON – TRAGEDY OF GRIEF
“I cannot blame anyone. My brain is going- Jack.”
These were the words written on a scrap of paper discovered on a dresser at Femure, College Road, Margate on Friday, when John Emptage, aged 57 was found by his daughter in law lying face downwards on the scullery floor in an unconscious condition.
Emptage was attended by a neighbour prior to the arrival of Dr. W. Groome and was quickly removed to Margate General Hospital, where he died during the early hours of Sunday.
An inquest was conducted by the Borough Coroner (Mr. S.J. Wilson Price) at the Town Hall, on Monday morning.
At the outset the Coroner said the inquiry concerned the circumstances surrounding the death of Emptage, and added that there was some question of deceased having taken Lysol.
Frederick George John Emptage of Fremure, College Road, Margate, a son of the deceased, gave evidence of identification. He was present at the General Hospital when his father died at 3.15 a.m. on Sunday.
His father was 57 years of age and had lived with witness. He was an attendant at the Bathing Pavilion during the summer and prior to that had been a shop porter.
Witness left home shortly after 7.30 a.m. on Friday, leaving his wife, his brother and his father in the house.
Prior to his departure his father appeared perfectly normal and his only worry was due to the death of his (witness’) mother about two years ago.
Witness was afraid that the loss of the deceased’s wife (Ellen Emptage nee Stacey), had made a great difference to the deceased, who had never seemed the same man since the bereavement.
His father had failed to show an interest in matters in which he otherwise would have displayed interest.
The deceased was unemployed, leaving his situation at the Bathing Pavilion some time during September. His father did not receive unemployment benefit, but that should not have worried him.
Witness admitted that his father had been depressed because he had been unemployed for the past 5 or 6 winters. He had never suggested that he would take his own life.
“My Brain is Going.”
The Coroner handed witness a scrap of paper, roughly torn from a larger piece, and asked witness if he could identify the handwriting.
Witness replied that the handwriting was that of his father.
The Coroner: “It says on this piece of paper “I cannot blame anyone. My brain is going.-Jack.’
“Replying to the Coroner, witness stated that he knew nothing about the piece of paper. He could only presume that the note had been written by his father, who had left it for him. No one lived in the house apart from his wife, father, brother and he. He did not know who had found the piece of paper.
Continuing, witness said that after his father had been taken to the hospital, he, in company with a constable, searched the premises with the object of obtaining anything likely to throw light on the matter.
They failed to find anything and witness subsequently saw his father at the hospital after he had recovered consciousness and, as a result of information given by his father, witness and the constable found the bottles-produced-in one of the drawers of a chest in his bedroom.
Witness said he did not know how the bottles had come to be in the drawer. They were Lysol bottles.
When witness visited his father at the hospital he asked him where he had put the bottles and his father told him.
Handing witness another note the Coroner asked: Is this note in your father’s writing? I don’t propose to read it. After glancing at the note, witness replied “No sir.
“Coroner: It looks to me as if it is something sent by a complete stranger? – I imagine so myself.
How did this note come into your possession? – A gentleman pointed it out to me lying on thecounter of my shop on Saturday evening. There is no possibility of it having been there since Thursday? – No.
Witness stated that he was present at the hospital when his father made certain remarks in the presence of the constable- who was in plain clothes so his father would not be disturbed by the obvious presence of a police officer.
Coroner: Did he ever say in your presence “Ever since Mum died I have been going to do this”? – Yes.
Did he also say there were two bottles in the drawer and did he tell you where he had purchased them? – Yes.
Did he say he took the contents at about 11.30 on Friday morning and wrote the note at 10 o’clock? – Yes.
You judged that he was referring to the first note- the note in his handwriting? – Yes.
You are quite sure that he had not written the other note? – Yes.
Replying to Mr. W. F. Wilson, who represented the family, witness said when he saw his father in hospital on Friday, he complained of pains in the throat and neck. He also complained of dryness. His father had spoken about heart trouble, but had never received attention from a doctor. He complained of heart trouble at the hospital on Saturday.
In reply to the Coroner, witness said his father suffered from synovitis of an ankle and had been attended by a doctor for about ten days during last winter. It left no effect upon him however, and he had never complained of pain from that source since his illness.
Lysol in a Glass.
Mrs Muriel Sylvia Emptage, wife of the last witness, said she left the house before ten o’clock on Friday morning leaving her father in law alone in the house. He seemed quite cheerful when she left and was in his usual health. She returned at ten minutes to two and attempted to enter through the back door. She was unable to open the door fully however, andcaught a glimpse of a leg.
She immediately ran to a neighbour’s house for assistance and returned almost immediately accompanied by a Mr Evans. They found the deceased lying on the floor of the scullery in an unconscious condition. Witness went for the police and shortly after her return found a glass on the table in the front room. There was a small quantity of liquid at the bottom of the glass and she gave it to P.C. Bray.
In reply to the Coroner, witness said she was unable to identify the handwriting of the second note.
Dr. W. Groome said he was called to the house shortly after 2 o’clock on Friday afternoon by a small boy who informed him that a man had fallen down and was believed to be dead. Witness went to the house immediately and found the deceased lying face downwards on the kitchen floor. He was in a comotose condition. His face was livid, his lips blue, and on smelling his breath, witness found he was suffering from Lysol poisoning.
The man’s condition was very grave and witness thought he was going to die in his prescence. The only antidote at hand took the form of milk, and this witness attempted to pour down the man’s throat. The deceased drank a certain amount, but rejected a great deal.
A few minutes later he was removed to the General Hospital in the ambulance. Witness was shown the glass found by Mrs Emptage, and had identified the contents as Lysol.
Fight for Life.
Questioned by Mr. Wilson, witness stated that the Lysol would affect the heart. It was however, possible to recover from Lysol poisoning providing than an antidote was taken in time, and that the amount of Lysol taken was not too poisonous a dose. The deceased was in a very serious condition when witness was called, so much so, that witness hesitated before calling an ambulance, as he did not wish the man to die in the ambulance as he was being conveyed to the hospital.
Apparently the deceased rallied at the institution on Friday evening and again on Saturday. Witness expected him to die shortly after he was admitted.
Dr. Harold Adrian Rolfe, resident medical officer at the hospital, said he saw the deceased when he was admitted on Friday afternoon. The man was in the condition described by Dr. Groome.
Witness explained the effort that was made to save the man’s life and went on to say that Emptage rallied on Friday evening. Witness was surprised to hear that the man had regained consciousness. He then complained of a burning in the throat and burning of the mouth. His condition was similar on Saturday. He had a relapse on Sunday morning and died.
Coroner: In view of what Dr. Groome has said and the observations you made, are in you in aposition to say what was the cause of death?
Witness: The cause of death was acute peritonitis due to the perforation of the small bowel resulting from swallowing a lethal dose of Lysol.
Ernest Frank Evans of 18, College Road, Margate, said he was called by Mrs. Emptage on Friday afternoon and on gaining entry to his neighbour’s house – through the front door – he found the deceased lying on the floor in the scullery in an unconscious condition. The deceased was slimy at the mouth and witness asked Mrs. Emptage to summon the constable on beat. Witness did what he could for the deceased pending the arrival of Dr. Groome.
Every Effort Made.
Witness added that he subsequently saw the deceased at the General Hospital and deceased told him that he had just taken Lysol when old – the gas man, knocked at the door. The deceased has said that he did not open the door to the gas man.
P.C. Bray said he was present whenMrs. Emptage found the note on the dresser. She also gave him the drinking glass which she found on the table in the front room.
Summing up the evidence the Coroner said there was no doubt but that the cause of death was as given in evidence by Dr. Rofe. The circumstances left no doubt but that the deceased had taken Lysol with the intention of taking his own life, and the only verdict that he could return was one of suicide. He thought that under the circumstances he would be justified in adding that deceased was in a state of unsound mind when he took the poison.
He had apparently been worried since the death of his wife and had probably been worried with other similar matters, such as his being out of employment during the winter. He thought he was justified in saying that deceased was in an unsound state of mind at the time.
In conclusion the Coroner said that it was obvious that every effort had been made both by the doctor at the hospital, the staff, Dr. Groome and others who were connected in the case.
Everyone concerned had made every effort to save his life.
John Emptage 1874 – 1931 was born to parents Elijah Emptage and Eliza (Grigg).
John married Ellen Stacey in 1901 and they had 3 children, Frederick George John 1902 – 1970, Charles Ernest 1904 – 1974, and Sidney Herbert 1908 – 1976.