Frederick Gordon Radford was a laboratory technician at St. Thomas’s Hospital in Godalming, Surrey. His wife Margery lay terminally ill with pulmonary tuberculosis in a sanatorium only a mile away, but he seldom visited her.

He sent her occasional gifts of food, however, and she was so sick on April 6th, 1949, after eating some plums and jelly he sent her that she became suspicious. When a woman friend called to see her later that day Margery Radford confided that she thought her husband was poisoning her. She gave the visitor a large portion of a fruit pie sent by her husband a few days earlier, and asked the friend to send it to Scotland Yard for analysis.

The shocked and bemused friend didn’t know what to do. She thought Margery might be letting her imagination run away with her. To involve Scotland Yard seemed over the top, so the friend parcelled up the pie and mailed it to the sanatorium’s superintendent. At the same time she posted him an explanatory letter informing him of Mrs. Radford’s suspicions.

When the parcel and the letter were delivered on Saturday, APRIL 9th, the pie was put on the superintendent’s desk and the letter was placed in his secretary’s in-tray. The secretary didn’t work on Saturdays, and when the superintendent called at his office that afternoon he thought the pie was a gift from a friend and took it home.

He tried a small sample that evening. It made him retch so convulsively that blood vessels burst in his eyes, and he was still far from well when he went to work on the Monday. The letter from Mrs. Radford’s friend was placed on his desk along with the rest of his post, and after reading it the superintendent checked the patient’s records. They showed that she had vomited several times on the day the pie was delivered, and he called the police.

They promptly sent the rest of the pie to Scotland Yard for analysis, and it was found to contain 3.25 grains of potassium arsenate. But the discovery was too late to save Margery Radford. She died the same day, and at her post-mortem 6.5 grains of the poison were found in her body. This was three times the lethal amount for a normal person, and she weighed less than five stone. The level of arsenic in her hair showed that it had been administered over a period of about four months.

Frederick Radford denied knowing anything of the poisoning when he was brought in for questioning. His wife was dying anyway, he pointed out, so why would he want to kill her? And as a laboratory technician, he added, he would not be so stupid as to use arsenic which he knew would be easily found.

He challenged the police to charge him if they thought he was responsible, and he was allowed to go home pending further investigation. But that proved to be unnecessary. The next day he was found dead in his bed, having committed suicide by taking prussic acid. He had apparently gambled on his wife’s death being assumed to be from tuberculosis. And so it might have been, had she not voiced her suspicions to her friend and handed her the pie for analysis.

What was Radford’s motive? Gossip had it that he was having an affair, and it seemed that his wife wasn’t dying quickly enough to suit him.