Baldock resident's sad end - coroner's open verdict

Hertfordshire Mercury, 30th January 1931


On Sunday morning , Valentine Edward Buck , aged 73 , retired photographer , 15 Icknield Way , Baldock , was found lying with his head on the gas stove in the scullery. The previous Sunday his wife died .

An inquest was conducted at the house on Monday afternoon by Mr F. R. Shillitoe , Coroner for the Hitchin district .

Hilda Buck said on Sunday morning she came downstairs about 9.20 and found the kitchen door shut and the blinds down . She noticed a smell of gas , and in the scullery saw her father with his head on top of the gas stove . Usually her father put the kettles on about 8.30 on Sunday mornings , but she did not notice if there was a kettle there on Sunday . She believed there were three of the  gas-taps on , one of which was the grill, which was not usual . There was no chair near the stove . Her father suffered from giddiness sometimes , and since his wife died had been depressed .

Mary Atwood , qualified nurse , stated that since the death of Mrs Buck she had been living with Miss Buck , who called her on Sunday morning . In the scullery she saw Mr Buck with his head lying on the gas stove . She did not think there was a kettle on the stove . He had been very quiet since the death of Mrs Buck .

P.c. Dunk , Baldock , said he was called to the house and found Mr Buck lying on his back on the scullery floor . Witness tried artificial respiration . In his waistcoat pocket witness found a pencilled note .

The note , which was read , stated :-


Continuing , P.c. Dunk  said there were marks on the forehead caused by the pressure of the head on the bar of the stove. There were no kettles on the stove .

Dr B . Suggit said when he examined the body there were no burns , only sooty marks on the forehead from the bars . Death was due to coal-gas poisoning .

The Coroner returned an “open verdict  ” , stating there was no evidence to show that Mr Buck committed suicide . It was quite possible he had a fainting attack , and fell across the stove after lighting the gas . Death was due to coal-gas poisoning , but there was no evidence to show how he became poisoned .

Mr H. M. Heekford , on behalf of the Gas Company , expressed regret and sympathy with the relatives . Perhaps it was beyond the wit of modern scientists to provide gas that was not poisonous , and therefore they could do nothing to prevent anything of that sort .

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