He seldom touched a drop, but Peter Queen had a drink problem. First his estranged wife and then his mistress became alcoholics.
He was the son of a Glasgow bookmaker, and after his separation from his wife he fell in love with Christine Gall, the nursemaid to his younger brothers and sisters. He was 24 at the time, and she was 21.
Six years later they set up home together as man and wife, but the situation troubled Christines conscience. She was so ashamed of living with a married man who was not her husband that she took to the bottle, suffering acute bouts of depression and making several attempts at suicide.
One day some of you will come in and find me strung up, she told friends when they tried to stop her drinking.
She was drunk again on the afternoon of NOVEMBER 20th, 1931, when her friend Mrs. Johnston called at 2.30 p.m. and found her threatening suicide. When Peter Queen came home 10 minutes later, Mrs. Johnston urged him to get a doctor. She then left, but returned at four oclock with her husband. By this time Christine was asleep in bed. The Johnstons chatted with Peter, who told them he had been unable to get a doctor to come immediately, but one was due to call in the morning. Christine woke during the evening, ate a light meal and seemed to be in better spirits when the Johnstons departed at 11 p.m.
Four hours later, however, Peter Queen rushed into the local police station and slapped his house keys on the counter. Precisely what he said was to be debated in court, but he claimed he said, Go to 539 Dumbarton Road. I think you will find my wife dead. Dont think I have killed her.
Two police officers who were present, however, claimed he said, I think I have killed her.
Christine was found lying in her bed. A clothes-line was round her neck, tied in a simple half-knot at the front. Her tongue was protruding slightly, and Peter Queen said this was how he had found her. But the police had never heard of anyone strangling themselves in this way, and Queen was charged with murder.
At his trial the pathologists Professor Sydney Smith and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, usually at loggerheads, both said they thought Christine had committed suicide, partly because there were no signs of a struggle. But two pathologists called by the prosecution said Christines death was homicide, and that view was shared by most of the jury.
Peter Queen admitted that he had not attempted to loosen the cord around Christines neck, feel her pulse or call a doctor, and he was convicted by a majority verdict. But the jury added a strong recommendation to mercy, and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He died in 1958, some years after his release.
In the only case where Spilsbury and I were in pretty complete agreement, Professor Smith commented after the trial, the jury believed neither of us!