One day in 1954, Mrs Joan Yendell, from Armley, called the Police in a highly agitated state to report that, in a telephone call, her estranged husband had just threatened to shoot her, her mother, their two young children and himself. He then said that he had the gun to his head and would shoot himself unless Joan told him she still loved him. Joan said that she couldn’t answer then heard a shot and nothing more.
Police found 35-year old Malcolm Melhuish Yendell dead at his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, still holding the phone in one hand and his gun in the other. By a remarkable quirk of fate, Joan and Malcolm’s young daughter Jane later attended the same school as Hilary Marsden (my mum) whose father, Jim (an officer in the City of Leeds Police), had met Joan in the aftermath of Malcolm’s suicide.
Malcolm, originally from Bridgewater in Somerset, was one of Mr & Mrs Tom Melhuish Yendell’s three sons. Tom was a long-serving employee of P & O and spent almost the whole of World War One aboard an armed merchant vessel, HMS Macedonia, in the South Atlantic. The Macedonia gained honours during the Battle of the Falklands in December 1914 after capturing two German coalers and all on board. This photograph of unidentified members of Macedonia’s crew was taken shortly afterwards.
A letter which Tom wrote home to his family during this time is held in the archives of the Blake Museum in Bridgewater and I’m trying to obtain a copy. He returned to civilian naval duties after the war before retiring on ill health grounds in 1928.
Young Malcolm, after leaving school, became a motor apprentice and, in 1936, was prosecuted for holding onto a car whilst riding his bike. The case against him was dismissed as reported in the Taunton Courier, 11th March 1936:
Five years later, Tom was tragically killed in a car accident near Basingstoke whilst en route to London. He was 72 years old. His funeral was reported in the Somerset County Herald on Saturday 9th August 1941:
Meanwhile, Malcolm had enlisted in the RAF at the outbreak of World War Two and flew Sunderland flying boats which were primarily used to spot German submarines. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to flight officer and was de-commissioned on health grounds in 1946.
After the war, he married Joan and they lived together in Leeds with their two children until the tragic events of April 1954 as recorded in detail in the following newspaper report on the inquest (the Northern Daily Mail, 19 April 1954).