The murder of Bob Egle

Young's modus operandi was to add the poison to the victim's morning coffee or afternoon cup of tea. He was able to do this without arousing suspicion because it was one of his duties as the junior storeman to fetch the drinks from the tea trolley in the corridor. Every person had a differently patterned mug which made it possible for the poison to be fed with certainty to the intended victim. Moreover, while he was collecting the drinks he was out of sight of anyone for part of the journey between the tea trolley and the stores. Young carried poisons about with him and could easily slip a dose to anyone who upset him.

The stores at Hadland's consisted of the service area, and a back room, which is where Young worked supervised by Bob Egle. Young's co-workers in the stores were Fred Biggs, who was a local councillor, Ron Hewitt, and Diana Smart. Bob Egle got his first dose of antimony sodium tartrate on Thursday, 3 June. This made him ill and he went home where he stayed in bed for three days with sickness and diarrhoea. He was back at work on the following Monday but had a recurrence of his symptoms again that week, and the following week as well. Consequently he and his wife decided to take a holiday and went to Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast for a week from Saturday, 19 June. He appeared back at work the following Monday with his health much improved.

On the Friday of the week that Egle was on holiday, Young went to the Wigmore Street pharmacists and bought 25 g of thallium acetate. On the Monday of Egle's return he put a fatal dose of this into his afternoon tea. By the following day the thallium was beginning to take effect and in the afternoon Egle was complaining that his finger ends had gone numb. In the evening he deteriorated rapidly with pains developing in his back, and his feet had lost all sensation. He had a painful night and could not sleep, and at 6.30 a.m. his wife called the doctor because he seemed so ill. He diagnosed peripheral neuritis and prescribed tablets but Bob was unable to keep these down. The doctor was called again as Bob's condition deteriorated and he was transferred to the West Hertfordshire Hospital at Hemel Hempstead. By

Thursday, 1 July, his condition was so bad that he was removed to an intensive care unit at St Albans City Hospital. Despite all the efforts of the doctors and nurses there, which twice included restarting his heart, he gradually became paralysed and died on Wednesday, 7 July. A post-mortem revealed the cause of death as being due to pneumonia consistent with acute polyneuritis, of a form known as Guillain-Barre syndrome which is caused by an autoimmune attack of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves. Because of the unusual nature of the case, one of Egle's kidneys was removed and preserved. When later this was analysed for thallium a concentration of 2.5 ppm was detected.

During Bob Egle's illness, Young made several enquiries about his progress. The managing director, Godfrey Foster, even chose Young to accompany him to Egle's funeral as a representative of Bob's workmates in the stores. Their journey together to the funeral and then to the crematorium and back to Hadland's gave Young an opportunity to impress Foster with his medical knowledge, to the extent that he was temporarily put in charge of the stores as head storeman for a probationary period. This was partly done out of necessity since the other man in the stores, Ron Hewitt had left the previous Friday, two days after Egle's death.

During Egle's absence Hewitt had been at the receiving end of Young's attention. He had been suffering intermittently for the past month, starting on 8 June when Young first put antimony potassium tartrate in his tea. This produced stomach pains, diarrhoea, and a burning sensation at the back of his throat and Ron went home ill. The following day, Wednesday, he saw a doctor who diagnosed food poisoning. For the remainder of that week, Ron suffered from vomiting, stomach pains, and diarrhoea but was sufficiently recovered to return to work the following Monday. During the next three weeks he had 12 similar episodes which only came to an end when he left Hadland's for another job. It seems strange that Young should have targeted Hewitt this way as he was leaving the company anyway and in the last month was simply working out his notice. Indeed Young had been hired specifically because Hewitt was leaving.

After only two months in the job Young had risen purely by his own, somewhat unorthodox, efforts to a position of some responsibility in the company. Perhaps he seriously intended to make a go of his new role and directed his efforts to being a good storekeeper, although he generally got things into a muddle. Nevertheless, for the next three months he restricted himself to the occasional small dose of antimony sodium tartrate in Diana Smart's tea - just enough to make her sick and send her home early, especially when she annoyed him.

During this period, Young became a bit more sociable and even tried to help Fred Biggs who worked part-time. When Fred complained of insects in his garden, Young offered him first nicotine, and then thallium acetate. Fred accepted a packet of the latter, containing 15 g of the poison, and took it home but never used it. The next lot of thallium acetate he got was in his tea.

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