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Ailing Wife's Fate in Birmingham
Disagreement with Verdict.

A VERDICT of "Suicide" was returned by the Birmingham. City Coroner (Dr. W. Davison) at an inquest yesterday on Annie Gertrude Cunningham. aged 54, wife of George Dorington Cunningham, the Birmingham City organist, of 6, Augustine road, Edgbaston.
Mrs. Cunningham was found with her head in the gas-oven in the kitchen of her home early yesterday morning.
Mr. Cunningham stated that for a number of years his wife had been suffering from a nervous condition,which set up internal disturbances.


They had taken all sorts of advice, but no treatment seemed to do any good, and he thought she had completely given up hope of recovery.
She underwent an operation on one occasion but that did not appear to do her any good. In order to get sleep she had to take sleeping draughts. Once she might have taken an overdose.
Mr. Cunningham identified some letters found by his sons and stated that his wile had once before threatened to do something to herself. He did not think she was in a normal mental condition. The operation she underwent was against all medical advice.


Lilian Curnlngbam, a daughter, said she was called by Alice Britten, their servant, to the kitchen, where she saw her mother lying with her head in the gas oven. The tap was turned on.
Dr. G, J. Branson, who had been attending Mrs. Cunningham for six months stated that she was suffering from a condition of the spine. No treatment seemed to benefit her, and she felt completely hopeless.
in reply to the Coroner, Dr. Branson said that in his opinion she was not in a state of mind that was certifiable.
Death was due to asphyxia from coal-gas poisoning.


The Coroner said it appeared from the notes she left that she Intended to take her life, that she felt her long continued illness made her a burden to her relatives, and that she was better out of the way. Probably she had given up all hopes of recovery.
He did not find sufficient evidence to justify giving any opinion as to the state of her mind.
Mr. Cunningham then came forward and asked to be allowed to speak. He said he was quite sun that his wife was not in a sound state of mind when she took her life.


The Coroner: It would be a very serious thing to return a verdict that she was of unsound mind unless I was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that there was insanity. The verdict is open and cuts both ways. There may be sufficient evidence In existence regarding her mental condition, but it is not before ma at the moment.
Mr. Cunningham said he only wished to mention that there were many conversations between them when she did not seem to speak like a sane woman.
The Coroner: My verdict is in accordance with the evidence before me and I am sorry you don't agree. The very fact that a person takes his or her Life Is not conclusive evidence this they are of unsound mind.


"You gave evidence yourself." added the Coroner, "that your wife had made an attempt to take a draught, probably for the purpose of taking her life."
Mr. Cunningham: The doctors and specialists have talked to me of her hysteria and mental condition.
The Coroner: We have not got those doctors here. I am sorry the verdict does not satisfy you, but it is a very good verdict, if you will allow me to say so.

Go to George Cunningham section

Extract British newspaper archive
Birmingham Daily Gazette - Saturday 09 January 1932