Gertrude Hullett

Gertrude Hullett

Gertrude "Bobby" Hullett (1906 – July 23, 1956), a resident of Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, was a patient of the suspected serial killer Dr John Bodkin Adams, who was charged with her murder but never tried for it.

Jack Hullett

On 14 March 1956 her husband Alfred John (Jack) Hullett died, aged 71. He had been treated by John Bodkin Adams and shortly after his death, Adams went to a chemists to get a 10 cc hypodermic morphine solution in the name of Mr Hullett (containing 5 grains of morphine) and for the prescription to be back dated to the previous dayCullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9] . The police, when they later investigated the case, presumed this was to cover morphine Adams had given him from his own private supplies. Mr Hullett left Adams £500 in his will.

Her treatment

Gertrude Hullett, 50, became depressed after the death of Jack. Adams prescribed large amounts of sodium barbitone and also sodium phenobarbitone. [Over 80 days 1512 grains of the former and 6¼ grains of the latter were prescribed. (Cullen, pp. 158)] She had told Adams on frequent occasions of her wish to commit suicide.Cullen, pp. 156-159]

On July 17 1956 Hullett wrote out a cheque for Adams for £1,000 - to pay for an MG car which her husband had promised to buy him. [Cullen, p. 569] Adams paid the cheque into his account the next day, and on being told that it would clear by the 21st, asked for it to be specially cleared - so it would arrive in his account the next day. [His bank account at the time was not low on funds, it contained £12,069. (Cullen, p. 569) Furthermore, special clearance was usually given in cases where a cheque might bounce yet Hullett was one of the richest residents in Eastbourne. If she had died before the cheque cleared though, it would have been stopped by her estate. (Cullen, p. 568)]

On July 19 Hullett is thought to have taken an overdose and was found the next morning in a coma. Adams was unavailable and a colleague, Dr Harris, attended her until Adams arrived later in the day. Not once during their discussion did Adams mention her depression or her barbiturate medication.Cullen, p. 569] They decided a cerebral hemorrhage was most likely, due partly to contracted pupils. This however is also a symptom of morphine or barbiturate poisoning. Moreover, her breathing was shallow, typical of an overdose-induced coma. [A cerebral haemorrhage is usually accompanied by heavy breathing.] On the 21st Dr Shera, a pathologist, was called in to take a spinal fluid sample and immediately asked if her stomach contents should be examined in case of narcotic poisoning but Adams and Harris both opposed this. After Shera left, Adams visited a colleague, Dr Cook, at the Princess Alice Hospital in Eastbourne and asked about the treatment for barbiturate poisoning. He was told to give doses of 10 cc of a relatively new antidote Megimide every five minutes, and was given 100 cc to use. The recommended dose in the instructions was 100 cc to 200 cc. [Cullen, p. 585] Dr Cook also told him to put Hullett on an intravenous drip. Adams did not.Cullen, p. 571]

The next morning, at 8.30 a.m. on the 22nd, Adams called the coroner to make an appointment for a private post-mortem. The coroner asked when the patient had died and Adams said she had not yet. Dr Harris visited again that day and Adams still made no mention of potential barbiturate poisoning. When Harris had left, Adams gave a single injection of 10 cc of the Megimide. Hullett developed broncho-pneumonia and on the 23rd at 6.00 a.m. Adams gave Hullett oxygen.Cullen, p. 153] She died at 7.23 a.m. on the 23rd. The results of a urine sample taken on the 21st were received after Hullett's death, on the 24th. It showed she had 115 grains of sodium barbitone in her body – twice the fatal dose. [Cullen, p. 161]

Later, before Adams' trial in 1957, the Director of Public Prosecutions's office compiled a table of patients treated with Megimide and Daptazole for barbiturate poisoning at St Mary's Hospital in Eastbourne, where Adams had worked one day a week as an anaesthetist, between May 1955 and July 1956.Cullen, p. 577] Six patients had been treated in the first half of 1956, before Hullett's death. All but one had been put on a drip and several had taken a higher dose than Hullett. It was presumed by the DPP, therefore, that he must have heard of these cases and the use of Megimide.


Hullett left Adams her 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn (worth at least £2,900) in a will dated July 14. Adams changed the car's distinctive vanity registration (AJH532 ["AJH" stood for "Alfred John Hullett", the victim's deceased husband. (Cullen, p. 577)] ) on December 8 and then sold it on the 13th. He was arrested six days later on the December 19.


An inquest was held into Hullett's death on August 21. The coroner asked Adams why there had been no intravenous drip, to which Adams answered, "She wasn't perspiring. She had lost no fluids." A nurse however described Hullett as "sweating a good deal" from the 20th till her death.Cullen, p. 179] When asked if he read the instructions for the Megimide, Adams answered, "No I didn't." The coroner also described the use of oxygen as "a mere gesture". [Cullen, p. 180. The nurse had described Hullett as "cyanosed" (blue), indicating that oxygen should have been given earlier. (Cullen, p. 159)] In his summing up, he then said that it was "extraordinary that the doctor, knowing the past history of the patient" did not "at once suspect barbiturate poisoning".Cullen, p. 185] He described Adams's 10 cc dose of Megimide as another "mere gesture".

The inquest concluded that Hullett committed suicide. [The inquest itself has been described as a "travesty". In the opinion of Cullen, with an ongoing police investigation, the inquest should have been adjourned until the investigation had concluded. (Cullen, p. 184)] The jury were directed by the coroner not to find that Hullett died as a result of Adams's criminal negligence. After the inquest, the cheque for £1,000 disappeared.


Adams was indicted for Hullett's murder, but tried on a different count—that of murdering Edith Alice Morrell. He was found not guilty in 1957.

Controversially, the Attorney General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller entered a plea of nolle prosequi regarding the Hullett case, an act later described by the presiding judge Patrick Devlin as "an abuse of process". Adams was never tried for her death. Francis Camps, however, suspected him of killing 163 patients.


ee also

*Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire - another suspected victim of Adams

External links

* [ Gallery of those involved in the Adams case, including a photo of Hullett]

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