A Dose of Ill Fortune.

Robert George Clements British physician and practicing "bluebeard,"

I have been looking around for any murders that took place in this country during The Second World War and I couldn’t find any. However, I did find some that took place during the 1940’s.

The first one took place in Southport in 1947 and is entitled ‘A dose of ill fortune’

The air in Southport can be quite bracing as in any places by the seaside, especially if there is a light breeze right up to a gale force wind.

However, this bracing sea air didn’t suit the wealthy heiress Amy Victoria Burnett Clements who died at the Astley Nursing Home on 27th May 1947.

The death of his wife must have been a particular blow for Doctor Robert Gorge Clements, her husband because, despite his eminent position within the medical profession, he’d had the incredible misfortune to lose his three previous wives, all in similar circumstances.

Edith Annie Mercier

In 1912 he had married Edith Annie Mercier, she tragically died in 1920. She was at that time a very wealthy woman and her husband inherited her money. Only the fact that she was a rich woman softened the crushing blow of losing his wife.

Mary McLeery

Newly enriched, he quickly overcame his loss and married Mary McLeery within a year of his wife’s death. Within just 4 years of this marriage she too passed away. He told his friends that he was devastated, losing his wife so soon after getting married. It was only a substantial inheritance that helped to soften the blow. He mourned for a few months and looked around for a woman to share his life with.

Katherine Burke,

Once again he mustered the courage to marry for a third time to Katherine Burke, there was no denying that the doctor was in love with Katherine, all his friends said so. Sadly Mrs Clements, the third, died in 1939, suffering from cancer. Although the police were suspicious, for some reason an autopsy was not carried out. Such was the doctor’s grief he had her cremated very soon after her death before one could be carried out. This raised the suspicions with the police but nothing was done.


Strangely, having suffered probably more sad events in 27 years of married life than most people would suffer in several lifetimes, George Clements met and later married Amy. He told everyone that he, at last had met the ‘love of his life.’ This appeared to be true to his friends as they were rarely apart – in public. He always called her ‘Vee;’

In 1940 her father died quite unexpectedly, the good doctor must have felt she needed the stability that only a good marriage could bring. Her father was quite well off and left her the sum of £22,000 in his will. This sum of money would ensure they lived comfortably during the next few year but what she really wanted was the comfort of her loving husband.

On the 26th May 1947 she suffered a seizure and went into a coma. Her husband acted quickly and got her into the nursing home, but she died the following day. He just could not believe that Mrs Clements number 4 had died after such a short ‘illness.’

As a result of her death he carried out his own diagnosis of ‘myeloid leukaemia’ and then suggested this strongly to his young colleague, Doctor James Houston, who studied the post mortem report and reported back and then signed the Death Certificate despite having personal doubts and that something happened to be not quite right in in his mind. Growing doubts were in his mind about it and for the real cause; but he had signed the Certificate now. Hadn’t the staff surgeon noticed the pinpoint pupils of the corpse, a sure sign of morphine poisoning? But Doctor Houston passed it all over.

A second post mortem

Doctor Clements was grief stricken once more but he quickly arranged his wife’s funeral, but this time there were so many tongues wagging in Southport, the police had to act. They stopped the funeral and ordered a second post mortem on Mrs. Clements. The good Doctor was mortified and protested about it but another post mortem was going to happen, by orders of the Police. The second post mortem concluded that death was caused indeed by poisoning.

Many of the local people who were now reading all about the Doctor’s misfortune over the years in their newspapers became very interested indeed in Doctor Clements. To many people’s minds it seemed a certainty that Clements would be charged with murder, found guilty and hanged for the four deaths of his wives.


And yet Dr Clements now aged 57 years and a member of The Royal College of Surgeons, never did stand trial for murder. When the police called at his house in Southport to arrest him they found very large amounts of morphine and Doctor Clements dead body in the house. He had died from a he overdose of cyanide administered by his own hand.

Now, with five deaths all due to him, Clements didn’t believe in the fact that doctors were supposed to save lives and not take them. On the 2nd June 1947 Doctor Clements, unable to live with the knowledge of what he had done was found dead at his lab; in his own house.

He left his colleagues in no doubt as to the cause of his death; – his body contained over 300 times the lethal dose of ‘Sodium cyanide.’

So, Doctor Robert George Clements joined a small, but notorious band of medical men who took the lives of people instead of saving them. Indeed, for some time he had reasonable claim to be the doctor with the worst bedside manner  of all time, but even as he took his deadly dose in 1947, a sweet little toddler by the name of ‘Harold Frederick Shipman’ was contemplating his own future as the undisputed holder of that particular title.

That was yet to come!


Robert George Clements was born in 1880 in Belfast, Ireland. He graduated in 1904 aged 24 years.

His first wife, Edith Annie Mercier, died of ‘sleeping sickness’ in 1920 aged 40.

His second wife Mary McLeery died of ‘Endocarditis’ in 1925 aged 25 years.

His third wife, Kathleen Burke died of ‘Cancer.’

His fourth wife, Amy Victoria Burnett died on 27th May 1947.

When Doctor Clements body was found, a note was close by which stated ‘To Whom it may Concern I can no longer tolerate the diabolical insults to which I have been recently exposed.’

When Doctor Houston, Doctor Clements young assistant found that he had missed the presence of morphine, he to committed suicide with cyanide. He too left a note which said, in clearer tones,” I have for some time been aware that I have been making mistakes. I have not profited from experience.”

Researched and written by David Rowland.

Special thanks.  The Law’s strangest cases by Peter Seddon.
Published in 2001 by Robson Books, London.