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September 14, 1929


JAMA. 1929;93(11):857-858. doi:10.1001/jama.1929.02710110043017

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Failure of an Analyst to Find Arsenic in a Case of Poisoning  Inquests in what is described as the greatest poisoning mystery of this generation have come to a conclusion after an inquiry lasting five months. Mr. Duff, aged 59, a former government official in Nigeria, died in April, 1928, and, at an inquest which followed, a verdict of death from natural causes was returned. Subsequently his mother-in-law and sister-in-law died under suspicious circumstances and arsenic was found in their bodies. This led to an exhumation of Mr. Duff's remains and a second inquest. Arsenic was then found, though the analyst at the previous inquest had reported that it was not present. The government pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, gave evidence that from the symptoms death was due to arsenical poisoning probably administered in beer. The jury wished to add a rider to its verdict that the first analysis had not

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