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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The Inquest

The inquest on Marie Morisot was held four days later. The first witness called was an elderly Frenchman - Maitre Alexandre Thibault.

‘You have seen the body of the deceased.’ asked the coroner. ‘Do you recognize it?’

‘I do. It is the body of my client. Marie Angelique Morisot.’

‘That is the name on her passport. Was she also known by another name?’

‘Madame Giselle. She was one of the most famous moneylenders in Paris.’

‘Where was her business?’

‘Number 3. Rue Joliette.

‘She travelled to England quite often. Did she also work in this country?’

‘Yes. Many of her clients were English.’

‘Would she always keep the secret of a client’s money problems?’

‘Always.’

‘Did you know much about her business?’

‘No. I was just her lawyer. Madame Giselle ran the business by herself.’

‘Was she a rich woman?’

‘Very.’

‘Did she have any enemies?’

‘I don’t think so.’


‘Henry Charles Mitchell. You are the senior steward on the aeroplane Prometheus?

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘On Tuesday the eighteenth, you -were on duty on the 12 o’clock flight from Paris to Croydon. Had you ever seen the deceased before?’

‘Yes, Sir. I used to work on the 8.45 a.m. service, and she travelled by that once or twice.’

‘Have you ever heard of Madame Giselle?’

‘No, Sir.’

The blowpipe was handed to Mitchell. ‘Have you ever seen that before?’

‘No, Sir.’


‘Albert Davis. You were working on the Prometheus as second steward last Tuesday?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘What was the first that you knew of the tragedy?’

‘Mr Mitchell told me that something had happened to one of the passengers.’

‘Have you ever seen this before?’ The blowpipe was handed to Davis.

‘No, Sir.’


Dr Bryant gave his name and address and described himself as a specialist in ear and throat diseases.

‘Will you tell us, Dr Bryant, exactly what happened on Tuesday the eighteenth?’

‘Just before getting into Croydon the chief steward asked if I was a doctor, and told me that one of the passengers was ill. In fact, the woman had been dead for some time.’

‘How long, in your opinion?’

‘Between thirty minutes and an hour.’

‘The cause of death?’

‘Impossible to say without a detailed examination.’

‘You noticed a small mark on the side of the neck?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Dr James Whistler. You are a police surgeon?’

‘I am.’

‘Will you give your evidence?’

‘Shortly after three o’clock on Tuesday, I was called to Croydon airport, to inspect the body of a middle-aged woman on the aeroplane Prometheus. Death had occurred about an hour before. I noticed a round mark on the side of the neck. This could have been caused by the sting of a wasp or by the dart which was shown to me. The body was taken to the mortuary, where I was able to make a detailed examination. I found that her death was caused by poison. It must have been almost instant.’

‘Can you tell us what that poison was?’

‘No.’

‘Thank you.’

The next person to give evidence was Mr Winterspoon. He was a scientist who worked for the Government, and he knew all about unusual poisons. The coroner held up the dart and asked if he recognized it.

‘I do. It was sent to me for analysis. Originally the dart had been dipped in curare - a traditional arrow poison. But more recently it was dipped in the poison of Dispholidus typus, or the boomslang.’

‘What is a boomslang?’

‘A deadly South African tree snake. The poison causes bleeding under the skin and stops the heart.’


Detective-Sergeant Wilson described finding the blowpipe behind one of the seats. There were no fingerprints on it. Experiments had also been made with the blowpipe. It was accurate, up to about ten yards.


Hercule Poirot had noticed nothing unusual on the journey. He was the person who had found the tiny dart on the floor of the cabin.


Neither Lady Horbury nor the Honourable Venetia Kerr had seen anything unusual. They had never seen the deceased before.


‘You are James Bell Ryder?’

‘Yes.’

‘What is your profession?’

‘I am in charge of the Ellis Vale Cement Company.’

‘Please examine this blowpipe. Have you ever seen it before?’

‘No.’

‘You were sitting in seat number four, right in front of the deceased. From that seat you could see almost everyone in the compartment.’

‘No. I couldn’t see the people on my side. The seats have high backs.’

‘But if one of those people had stepped out into the aisle to aim the blowpipe at the deceased, you would have seen them then?’

‘Certainly.’

‘You didn’t see anybody do this?’

‘No.’

‘Did any of the people in front of you move from their seats?’

‘The man two rows in front of me got up and went to the toilet.’

‘Was he carrying anything?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Did anyone else move?’

‘The man in front of me came past to the back of the cabin.’

‘Did this gentleman have anything in his hands?’

‘A pen. When he came back he also had an orange book.’

‘Did you leave your seat?’

‘Yes, I went to the toilet - and, no, I didn’t have a blowpipe in my hand either.’

Norman Gale, dentist, and Miss Jane Grey, hairdresser’s assistant, we’re also unable to assist the inquiry. Neither of them had seen anything unusual on the journey.


When Mr Clancy was questioned by the coroner, he explained that he had been too busy working out the timetables of foreign train services to notice anything going on around him. The whole cabin might have been shooting poisoned darts out of blowpipes for all he knew.

Monsieur Armand Dupont said that he was on his way to London, to give a public talk. He and his son had been having an important conversation, and had not noticed the deceased until her death was discovered.

‘Did you know Madame Morisot, or Madame Giselle?’

‘No, Monsieur.’

‘You have recently returned from the East?’

‘From Persia.’

‘You and your son have travelled to many foreign parts of the world?’

‘Yes.’

‘Have you ever come across a tribe of people who use arrows with snake poison on the tips?’

‘Never.’

Jean Dupont’s evidence was the same as his father’s. He had thought it was possible that the deceased had been stung by a wasp, because he had been annoyed by one too, and had finally killed it.

The Duponts were the last witnesses.

It was an incredible case. A woman had been murdered in mid-air. In front of twelve witnesses, the murderer had placed a blowpipe to his lips and sent the fatal dart through the air and no one had seen the act. It seemed impossible, but the evidence showed that was what had happened. And the murderer must be one of the witnesses themselves.

Because it was still unclear exactly who had committed the murder, the coroner advised the jury to give a verdict of ‘murder by a person or persons unknown.’ Everyone said they didn’t know the dead woman, and there was no obvious motive for the crime. The police would have to find the connection later. The jury must now consider the verdict.

One member of the jury leaned forward. ‘Can I ask a question, Sir?’ he asked.

‘Certainly.’

‘You say the blowpipe was found down a seat? Whose seat?’

The coroner looked at his notes. ‘The seat was number nine, occupied by Monsieur Hercule Poirot, a well-known private detective who has worked several times in the past with Scotland Yard.’

‘And it was Mr Poirot who picked up the dart?’

‘Yes.’

The jury left the courtroom to discuss their verdict. They came back after five minutes, and handed a piece of paper to the coroner.

The coroner frowned. ‘Nonsense! I can’t accept this verdict.’

The jury examined the facts again, and then gave their final verdict.

Marie Morisot’s death was caused by poison. There is no evidence to prove who gave her the poison.

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