Following the death of her husband, Edmund, Grace Duff moved from South Park Hill Road, where brother Tom and his family also lived, to 59 Birdhurst Rise, to be nearer to her mother. Sisters, brother and mother were all living within a stone’s throw of each other in the respectable enclave of South Croydon. In this atmosphere of middle-class gentility, the family, it was said, were exceptionally close.
Vera Sidney was still living at home with her mother, Violet, as she approached her fortieth birthday. The inheritance from her father ensured she could enjoy an independent life whilst providing companionship for Violet and supervising the running of the house. Vera was a no-nonsense kind of woman who drove her own car and enjoyed long walks and games of golf at the nearby Croham Hurst Club. Rarely did she make a fuss about being ill but in January 1929 she began to feel run-down. Feelings of fatigue and depression persisted through the month and on Sunday 10th February she felt so unwell she remained at home all day, something she could not recall ever having done before.
The following day she felt well enough to go for a walk and play Bridge with some friends but by the evening she began to feel unwell again. At 7pm she had dinner with her mother. She had some soup and her mother joined her for the fish and potatoes, prepared and served by the housekeeper, Kathleen Noakes. Later, Noakes had some of the soup herself and gave some to Bingo the cat. By Wednesday, Vera had recovered enough to have a light breakfast and then visit the garage where her car was being repaired. When she arrived home at noon she began to feel extremely ill.
Around 1pm, her aunt, Mrs Gwendoline Greenwell paid a visit. Vera, Violet and Gwendoline all sat down to a lunch of soup, chicken and vegetables followed by fruit and custard, prepared as usual by housekeeper Noakes. Vera was not happy to see a reappearance of the soup as she felt it had been responsible for making her ill two days before. After a few mouthfuls she pushed it aside. Aunt Gwendoline did not manage to finish her soup either, while Violet had not taken any of it. After lunch, both Vera and her aunt where struck down with sickness and diarrhoea. Visiting the kitchen, Vera checked with Noakes that the soup had been served in a clean bowl. Noakes insisted that it had but stated that both she and the cat had also been sick after having the soup. Aunt Gwendoline returned to her London hotel that evening but spent the next five days in bed, believing she had been poisoned. The following morning Grace paid a visit to her mother and was alarmed to see the deterioration in Vera. Violet told her that Vera had been so ill in the night she had had to call out the doctor and that Dr Elwell had stayed with Vera until the early hours and had administered morphine.
When Dr Elwell returned that night at 9pm, he found his patient with a high temperature, complaining of pains in her legs and with a pulse so weak he was unable to find one in her wrists. After speaking to his partner, Dr Binning, he decided to call in a gastrologist Dr Charles Bolton. Bolton arrived and diagnosed gastric flu. As the evening wore on Vera became delirious. Dr Binning sat with her until Dr Elwell returned with a nurse at midnight. By now Vera was in agony. The doctors could only look on helplessly when at 12.20 am, on the 15th February, Vera died.
The death certificate issued by Dr Elwell stated death was from natural causes. The following Tuesday Vera was buried in Queens Road Cemetery, close to brother-in-law, Edmund.