Post-mortem shock to family

19:53, Nov 12 2012

Marjorie Ada Potter was a quiet and reserved woman who generally kept her own counsel.

She was also an outstanding and prolific player at the Parnell Tennis Club where she won various titles.

But the 27-year-old was not her usual self when she turned up to compete in an important match on March 17, 1932 and fellow clubbies were shocked when she broke down in tears just before she was due to play.

No-one knew what was wrong and assumed the pressure of the match - combined with an immensely busy playing schedule - was just too much for the young champion to handle.

Marjorie, in keeping with her usual behaviour, offered no explanation for her breakdown and another two weeks passed with no further incidents.

But all was not well on April 4 when Marjorie, who lived in the family home at Valley Rd, Mt Eden, told her brother Ralph she was feeling poorly.


Ralph made his sister a cup of tea and left the house for the day.

He returned in the evening to find Marjorie dead in a chair, sitting by an open window.

The Potter family was doubly shocked when a post-mortem revealed the death was due to heart failure linked to blood poisoning caused by a botched abortion.

No-one had ever suspected Marjorie was romantically linked to anyone, let alone pregnant.

Police launched an investigation in a bid to find out who had performed the illegal abortion.

Inquires revealed Marjorie had spent the last four nights prior to her death away from her home though no-one knew where she'd been staying.

Stepmother Jessie Potter told a coroner's inquest that Marjorie was an independent woman who "came and went as she pleased".

Her husband, former Mt Eden Mayor Ernest Herbert Potter, agreed his daughter was in the habit of "staying away" - presumably with friends - but seldom told people where she'd been.

Officers interviewed other friends and relatives to see if anyone knew the name of any men Marjorie might have been involved with.

Their efforts were in vain.

Even Marjorie's hired lady servant, Hilda Walsh, had no knowledge of any male acquaintances in her employer's life.

One young man, a clerk named Kenneth Boardman, was interviewed three times by police and admitted to having a friendship with the dead woman.

But he was adamant that he had no knowledge of her whereabouts in the last days of her life or that she was pregnant. The man "responsible for her condition", he said, was certainly not him.

An inquest confirmed the cause of death but shed no further light on the case as Marjorie was laid to rest in a family grave at Waikumete Cemetery.

Coroner Frederick Hunt remained confident the truth would one day be exposed.

Western Leader