The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

The grave of Thomas A. Gore in Tregarva Cemetery, according to

On the morning of April 3, 1914, Mr. Speers, of Speers Undertaking in Regina, and Sergeant Dubuque, of the RNWMP, left Regina with a casket wagon and made their way out to the Tregarva cemetery north of Regina. They were there to exhume the body of Thomas Alexander Gore.

Thomas Gore had been a wealthy farmer in the North Regina district, and after his death on the morning of January 8, 1914, the community had been flush with rumors that his death was not the result of natural causes. Because even though Gore had been in poor health for months, he’d only taken seriously ill about 12 hours before his death. Such a speedy demise seemed suspicious, and the word on everyone’s lips was murder.

Sergeant Dubuque was put in charge of the case, and following an investigation, the attorney general’s department ordered that Gore’s body be exhumed and an autopsy done.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 3, 1914

A Coroner’s Inquest began on April 14, 1914, and was presided over by Dr. Mclean. Dr. McCutcheon performed the autopsy and the internal organs were examined and tested by Dr. Charlton, the provincial analyst. When the inquest closed on April 16th, the jury was clear in their verdict. Thomas Gore died of strychnine poisoning.

The following day, on April 17, 1914, police arrested Thomas Gore’s widow, Elizabeth, and a sometimes helper on the farm named John R. Ford.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 17, 1914

The theory was that Elizabeth and Ford had an inappropriate relationship, and had conspired to kill Gore to both preserve Elizabeth’s standing in his will, as well as clear the way for them to be together. Thomas Gore had been between 47-48 when he died, while Elizabeth was 10 years younger. The couple had been married for about 16 years. John R. Ford was only 19-years-old at the time of his arrest.

A preliminary hearing was held for both Elizabeth and Ford on April 24, 1914. The same witnesses that testified at the Inquest testified at the hearing. There had been several people in the house when Gore met his end. Both Elizabeth’s mother and brother, Mrs. Freethy and Mr. Thomas (possibly Thorton) Freethy had been called to the house when Gore became ill. (No first name was given for Mrs. Freethy. Freethy was also seen spelled Freethey and Freetby)

Both gave the same story. At around 11:00 p.m. on the night of January 7, 1914, the Gore’s 14-year-old son, Audrey, had phoned and asked them to come over as his father was ill. When they arrived, Gore had just come out of a spell of convulsions. According to Mrs. Freethy, he didn’t have another until 2:00 a.m. At about 3:00 a.m. he had a severe spell of convulsions and after that, the spells came on at about an hour apart, until the last few when they increased. When she or her daughter talked of calling a doctor, he told them not to, telling his mother-in-law that it was no use.

This didn’t stop them from trying, however. Apparently, they tried to get the central line on the phone several times but it was down and wouldn’t go through. It was a stormy night, with snow and wind, making driving for a doctor impractical, as – according to Mrs. Freethy – they didn’t think it was serious.

At some point in the morning, they’d called their neighbour, John D. Ford (John R. Ford’s father), and asked him to come. He arrived at about 8:30 a.m. and told the court about finding Mrs. Freethy and her son, as well as Mrs. Gore and Audrey at the house. Thomas Gore was in bed. Ford went in and talked to him, and as they were chatting, Gore was taken with a convulsion that lasted about two or three minutes. According to Ford, Gore’s limbs grew rigid, his head drawn back as his muscles jerked spasmodically. Afterwards, he was unconscious for a short time. Ford told the court that Gore had five or six more convulsions before he died. In between, Gore talked with Mrs. Freethy, who sat beside him, holding his hand. When he died, it was shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the middle of a convulsion. Ford was bathing Gore’s head with cold water. He told the court that he’d seen Gore the previous evening at about 5:00 p.m. His wife had gone into town with the Gore family and they’d dropped her off back at home around that time. He seemed to be in fine health at the time and according to Ford, he was a man of cheerful disposition. He couldn’t think of a reason why he’d want to commit suicide.

Strychnine had been found in Gore’s stomach contents as well as in his kidneys by Dr. Charlton. The amount found was more than sufficient to kill a man. A test of Gore’s urine had also indicated strychnine.

But did he take it himself or was he poisoned?

When questioned about his son’s relationship with Mrs. Gore, Ford told the court that his son used to visit the Gore’s place quite often; too much, he thought. The previous summer he’d talked to his son about it, telling him to keep away from there. He thought his son was too thick with Mrs. Gore, although his son said there was nothing to it. He spoke to his son about staying away two or three times and by fall his visits were less frequent. As far as he knew, the last time his son had been over to the farm was about a month before Gore died, when he’d gone with his father to visit because Gore was sick. Gore had had a fainting spell and fallen and hit his head.

Around mid-February after Thomas Gore died, his son had gone to live at the Gore’s place. He was there for about four-five weeks. Ford told his son to stop going over there because it would look better.

Ford’s wife was also called to the stand. She told the court that Gore had complained to her multiple times about John going over there too often. She told her son to keep away. The last time Gore complained was about a month before he died. She was quite sure her son hadn’t been to the Gore’s for at least two weeks previous to Gore’s death.

On April 28, 1914, Mrs. Elizabeth Gore was committed to stand trial for murder, while John R. Ford was dismissed. Aside from rumors of impropriety, there was no evidence to suggest Ford had anything to do with Gore’s death.

On September 29, 1914, Elizabeth Gore’s murder trial began.

The Regina Leader-Post – Sep 30, 1914

She took the stand in her own defense and told the court that her husband had not been in great health since a serious illness many years before. In the past 11 years, he’d been able to work his farm for only two seasons, and found he didn’t have the strength for it. During the last year of his life, Gore had complained of growing weaker and had fainting spells. On November 8, 1913, he’d fainted and they’d called Dr. Ball, who treated him with aspirin, gastric sedative tablets and later, a drug called Nux Vomica, which contains a small quantity of strychnine.

She admitted that Ford had tried to kiss her once, but she’d stopped him and told her husband about it. She swore that there was no romantic relationship between them.

On the night before his death, Elizabeth testified that her husband had told her he would go to bed early, as he was feeling well and thought he’d be able to sleep. She told him it was a good idea and that she’d go to bed with him. He then said she might as well go to bed, that he was going to smoke a cigar first and she left him to smoke. After a while, he came in to their room and said if she didn’t mind he would go and sleep upstairs. She thought it must have been a good while afterwards, just as she was dozing off to sleep, that she heard him calling her. She went upstairs and he told her he thought he was going to be sick. She woke her son and got him to call her mother and together they got him moved downstairs.

Dr. Ball was called to testify and he verified that he’d been called on November 8, 1913 to treat Gore, who’d complained of being tired and weak and looked rather emaciated. He was having pains in his extremities. Dr. Ball diagnosed him with a faulty metabolism and an irritated condition of the stomach. On November 28, 1913, he analyzed a urine sample from Gore and believed him to be suffering from chronic interstitial nephritis, a form of Bright’s disease (a historical classification of kidney disease), for which he’d prescribed the Nux Vomica.

On the evening of September 30, 1914, Elizabeth Gore was acquitted. Although it was clear to the medical examiners that Thomas Gore had died from strychnine poisoning, there was no evidence to show that his wife was the one to give it to him, rather than himself. And so, she was free to go.

Did she get away with murder? Or did Thomas Gore take his own life? Only they would know for sure.

And that is the story of the suspicious death of Thomas Gore.

The Regina Leader-Post – Oct 1, 1914

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Regina Leader-Post: April 3, 1914, April 4, 1914, April 7, 1914, April 15, 1914, April 17, 1914, April 18, 1914, April 20, 1914, April 25, 1914, April 28, 1914, April 29, 1914, May 11, 1914, Sep 11, 1914, Sep 30, 1914, Oct 1, 1914

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more historical true crime from Saskatchewan, give these a try:

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson

Murder Near Vanscoy: The Unhinged James Alak

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