A nationally reported Tragedy which even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle commented on (Letter courtesy Maria Rey published in the Daily Express on 4 November 1921)
London. 1 November 1921 - "The Times'' .
"Four glasses of poisoned champagne drunk at their last meal are believed to be the cause of a fourfold tragedy in the most fashionable quarter of Streatham (London).
The bodies of Ernest Coates (engineer), his wife (Marie), her married daughter (Daisy Townsend), and son (Henry Marin) by a previous marriage were found locked in a small house. The first three were in night attire in beds, while the son, who was also suffering from shell shock, was fully dressed and covered with a cloth on the licor of the dining room. The house was locked outside.
A most absorbing mystery, it provided, as the question is: By whom and with whose knowledge was the poison administered ? Coates during the week end wrote three letters to his brother, the Coroner, and the tenant of the upstairs portion of the house respectively, and these resulted in the police forcing an entry and taking possession of a bottle of champagne, four glasses, a coffee pot and cups for the purpose of having them analysed.
The maid says she was sent away for the week-end against her wishes. Neighbors, who are of the wealthy classes, comment on the deceaseds eccentricity and the secluded lives they lived. They state that the deceased entertained freely a year ago, but recently had rigidly economised, and were apparently in straitened circumstances. Mrs. Coates claimed that she was the nurse of King Alfonso of Spain in his infancy."
London. 2 November 1921 - An Important Revelation.
"An important sidelight on the Streatham tragedy was revealed at Bow Street, when William Baker Goldsworth was charged with having aided and abetted Ernest Coates, deceased, head of the Streatham household in misappropriating £200, the property of the Contes Company. Both Coates and Goldsworth had been arrested and allowed bail. Coates who was a brilliant electrical engineer, laid the whole of the underground cables in Petrograd, prior to the war.
His firm failed last year, and his arrest' was the outcome of the failure. The police theory is that the step-son, who was incapacitated in the war, was not party to the death pact, and shared the champagne without knowing that it was poisoned. A step-daughter was married to an Australian named Townshend, who was secretary to a steel company in Canada.
A message published yesterday stated that a strange family tragedy had been discovered at Streatham where four members of a well to do family named Coates were found dead alter having drunk a bottle of champagne poisoned with cyanide of potassium. Apparently the father, mother, grown daughter and son, who were living happily together, agreed to commit suicide owing to money troubles due to a decreased income following the Armistice. The father was a prosperous engineer, and the mother a Spanish woman, was once nurse to King Alfonso. The daughter had been an actress. The family, who never drank wine, purchased the champagne (specially)."
Image of the Knowle reproduced by kind permission of John Brown of the Society. The house was demolished after the tragedy