IT was shortly after 8am that civil servant Daniel Devonshire said goodbye to his wife as she sat at the living room table finishing breakfast with their 18-month-old son.

He returned home at about 5pm to be met by Robert Howard who occupied the top half of the house and had tried to open the front door with his latch key but couldn't because the catch was down. He had also to the back door but found that equally shut and locked.

He knocked on both doors but got no answer.

Assuming she had gone out, the pastry cook waited.

Half an hour later, Devonshire arrived and together they went to the back door where the Ordnance Survey employee immediately smelt gas. Fearing the worst, he peered through a kitchen window and to his horror saw his wife lying on her back close to the gas oven cradling the child.

Smashing his way in through a scullery window, he rushed over to turn off the gas, handing his son to his neighbour.

Frantically he carried his wife outside, hoping the fresh air would revive them.

But to to no avail. Tragically both were dead.

Two days later on May 13, 1931, Devonshire told the inquest, conducted at the Oliver Cromwell public house, how he and his wife of four years, Kathleen, had been devoted to each other, recounting her cheerful nature and general good health.

But he told the town's coroner Percy C Ingoldby that she had been recently complaining of noises in her head and ears but though depressed, she had never threatened suicide.

They had no financial or domestic problems but her worries grew after an accident when their son Michael fell off off a chair at their home in Rownhams Road and fractured an arm and she could not sleep at night.

On the day of their deaths, she was supposed to have taken him to Southampton Children's Hospital for treatment.

Her cousin Lena Oliver said the hospital had told her they were afraid Michael would never recover the use of his arm but she had decided not to tell her husband as it would worry him.

Her cousin, she added, was completely deaf in the left ear.

That prompted the coroner to suggest: "Perhaps she misunderstood the message from the hospital."

She replied: "Well, I had that impression."

Confirming mother and son had died from the effects of coal gas poisoning, Dr F W H Robson said the fact she suffered periodic noises in her head indicated mental disease.

The jury - returning a verdict that she had murdered the toddler and then committed suicide - expressed deep sympathy with her husband, which was reflected by the court standing in silence at the end of the hearing.