SHE was puzzled but not unduly alarmed at getting no reply at her parents’ home where she lived. So without a front door key, Millie Hitchcock returned to work but by chance encountered family friend, PC William McShane, cycling along the road.
She told him she had been unable to get back in for lunch amid fears her parents had rowed and her mother had been locked out.
Promising to look into the matter, he too was unable to summon a reply at the detached house in Millbrook Road, Southampton. However, noticing a box of eggs and two bottles of milk still uncollected, totally out of character with the careful and methodical Amelia Hitchcock, he decided to investigate further.
Clambering over a fence into the back garden, he opened the door to the kitchenette and called out but he was met only by silence.
He then entered the living room where the horrifying explanation became immediately evident.
Lying on her side with her back to the fireplace was Mrs Hitchock, with an apron and a dust cloth tied around her head. Her face was covered in blood and there was a gaping wound in her neck.
Sprawled in an adjacent armchair was her husband, Thomas, with a similar neck injury. His legs were sprawled across his wife’s body as though he had staggered back after being fatally wounded and slumped into the chair.
Both had been dead for several hours.
A table had been lain for breakfast, cut bread was smeared with blood, presumably the bricklayer’s.
Though severely shocked by the death of his friends, PC McShane summoned the resolve to run to a nearby public telephone box and informed his superiors.
Inspector Carr, head of the Shirley division, hurriedly left the annual licensing sessions at the law courts to personally inspect the scene where Dr Alex Russell, the senior police surgeon, joined him.
Detectives noted the presence and position of a blood-stained razor and the lack of a struggle which firmly endorsed their suspicions that Mrs Hitchcock had been rendered unconscious, almost certainly with a flat iron recovered under the armchair, before having her throat slit. A post-mortem confirmed she had suffered a fractured skull.
Mr Hitchcock, who had lived all his life in Southampton, had never recovered from his First World War service in France that had indelibly left its mark on his health.
His younger brother, William, had last seen him the night before the double tragedy on February 9, 1937.
“I was driving my trolley in Foundry Lane and jumped down to have a few words with him. He looked bad and seemed depressed.
When we parted, I said ‘cheer up’ but he replied, rather despairingly, ‘I can’t.’ He seemed to have something on his mind.”
It transpired the couple had separated but he had begged her to return after he had been taken ill.
“I am told he showed every consideration towards his wife but appeared suspicious,”
the coroner, Arthur H Emanuel, told the jury at the inquest. They heard that such was the state of his mental instability that efforts had been made for him to voluntarily go into a home but he had steadfastly refused.
Dr Russell confirmed the wound to Mr Hitchcock’s throat had been self-inflicted. “I am of the opinion that the woman died first.”
Without retiring, the panel returned verdicts that Mr Hitchcock had murdered his wife and then committed suicide while of an unsound mind.