25 What was he poisoned with? Cowan, Hicks and Cleland.
Robert James Cowan – Deputy Govt Analyst
“I carried out analysis of those specimens (stomach and contents, liver and muscle, urine and blood) but was unable to find signs of any common poison among any of them.
I tested for common poisons. Cyanides, alkaloids, barbiturates, carbolic acid, are the most common poisons.
If any of the poisons for which I tested were the cause of the death, they would not be absent from the body after death if they were taken by mouth.
I found no common poison present, and I do not think any common poison caused his death.
I am still speaking of poisons taken orally, as distinguished from poisons injected.”
Professor Sir Stanton Hicks
“I think it was not a natural death. I consider that a dose of morphine which would have killed a man in that time would have been easily detectable and measurable.
.. I incline to conclude that a member of a group of drugs causing the heart to stop systole (the phase of the heartbeat when the heart muscle contracts and pumps blood from the chambers into the arteries) might have been used.”
At this stage, Hicks handed a note to the coroner (Paper marked Exhibit C18).
“The first word on the exhibit (Glycosides) is the name of the group, and the other words are members of the group (1 Digitalis and 2 Strophantin). … I had in mind more particularly number 2., which would be extremely toxic in relatively small dose, I mean even in an oral dose, and would be completely missed by any of the tests applied and would in fact be extremely difficult if not impossible to identify even if it had been suspected in the first instance.
Such a substance would be quite easily procurable by the ordinary individual …. They might even have been procured from a case under treatment* ..”
“Three medical witnesses are of the opinion on the postmortem findings that death was not natural. There was no indication of violence, and I am compelled to the finding that death resulted from poison. But what poison?
I would be prepared to find that he died from poison, that the poison was probably a glucoside and it was not accidentally administered; but I cannot say whether it was administered by the deceased himself or by some other person. ”
*Haemoptysis – the coughing up of blood – was treatable by using small doses of digitalis. Prosper Thomson’s war records indicate he suffered from this condition. I’m not suggesting that either he or Jessica were involved in the man’s death, but there may have been a bottle containing one of the members of Hick’s glycoside group in the medicine cabinet at 90A Moseley Street.