We are fortunate to live within walking distance of Frimley Park hospital, an institution with a fine reputation, something we can take pride in without wishing to experience it at first hand. The current hospital was opened in 1974. Prior to that there was a cottage hospital, just behind the White Hart pub, which in later years became a Children’s Centre and is now, inevitably, being converted into des res.
The combined resources, though, of the cottage hospital were unable to save poor Hubert Chevis who was the victim of a famous unsolved crime. Born in Rawalpindi in India Chevis in 1931 was an instructor at the Aldershot Training Centre. On the evening of 20th June he and his wife decided to have an early dinner – what was on the menu was Manchurian partridge, which was placed on dining room sideboard by the batman, Nicholas Bulger, and carved by Mrs Chevis.
Taking a mouthful Chevis summoned the batman and ordered him to take the foul fowl away, declaring it to be the most terrible thing he had tasted. His wife who tasted the meat concurred with his critique. The partridges were incinerated in the kitchen by Ellen Yeomans. Soon though Chevis started experiencing stomach cramps and convulsions, a doctor was called and then Mrs Chevis, too, was feeling below par. A second doctor was called and the pair were admitted to Frimley Cottage Hospital.
There Chevis was attended to by five doctors for a number of hours and despite the administration of powerful emetics and artificial respiration he died at 1 am the following morning. Two grains of strychnine were found in his stomach. His old dutch was more fortunate, having only tasted the meat, and made a full recovery.
Two days after announcing Hubert’s demise in the Times (natch) Sir William Chevis, his father, received a telegram from Dublin from a J Hartigan from the Hibernian hotel in Dublin with the message, “Hooray, hooray, hooray”. The police discovered that no one of that name had stayed at the hotel but that a chemist in the city had sold some strychnine to a man who had the same appearance as the man who sent the telegram. Hartigan was never found.
The mystery excited some press coverage and the Daily Sketch actually published a copy of the telegram. This elicited a response from the mysterious Hartigan who wrote to the editor querying, “why did you publish a picture of the hooray telegram?” On 4th August 1931 Sir William received a postcard from Hartigan stating “It’s a mystery they will never solve”.
These words proved prophetic. The consignment of Manchurian partridges was examined but no evidence of contamination found. The obvious suspects were interviewed but none of them could shed any light on the mystery, other than Mrs Chevis’ former husband, G.T.T Jackson of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, who claimed that J Hartigan was a cad and a blackguard. The coroner had no alternative but to declare, “there is no evidence on which you can find a definite verdict; therefore I direct you to find an open verdict”.
And so we have a Frimley mystery. The only theory that has emerged since is that J Hartigan is an anagram of Raj hating. Given the Chevis family’s links with the Raj and the rise of independent fervour at the time, was Hubert the victim of an Indian nationalist hit squad? We will never know.