Don't miss a story sign up to Sidmouth Herald's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

Ex-spy’s wife killed herself with cyanide

14:18 22 January 2014

Fire service tape has been used to seal off this property at Dalditch. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 6731-04-13SH

Fire service tape has been used to seal off this property at Dalditch. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 6731-04-13SH


Inquest hears of intriguing secret life of Budleigh Salterton couple

Fire service tape has been used to seal off this property at Dalditch. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 6728-04-13SHFire service tape has been used to seal off this property at Dalditch. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 6728-04-13SH

A Budleigh Salterton pensioner drank deadly World War Two chemical cyanide to commit suicide, an inquest heard on Wednesday.

Widow Noreen Orange, 85, of Nuthayes, in Dalditch Lane, had been married to a wartime spy who served in intelligence and was said to work for the Russians during World War Two.

Childless Mrs Orange, a retired journalist, was found dead in her bed in February last year after drinking a deadly mix of potassium cyanide.

A handwritten note left next to the small bottle containing the brown liquid poison – often used by the Germans as a genocidal agent in World War Two – told of her intention to end her life.

It is thought the deadly chemical had been stored in the couple’s garage.

The brown bottle found on a bedside table next to the pensioner was clearly labelled potassium cyanide.

The inquest heard how Mrs Orange’s husband, John, who served in the army at Sandhurst and worked in intelligence, had been a spy in the war for the Russians.

An intensively private couple, John, who spoke fluent German, kept secret a gunshot wound he received in the war and ‘rarely’ spoke of his wartime background.

It was revealed he spent six months hiding in a loft space in Vienna during the conflict.

The court heard how ‘possessive’ Mr Orange would wait at the gate of their home, looking at his watch, if his wife went out alone.

Family and friends of Mrs Orange say she took her own life for fear of becoming a burden – or going into a home - once her health began to deteriorate.

The inquest heard how Mrs Orange, who was suffering from skin cancer, plus back problems, had hinted of her intention to commit suicide, telling friends she would not be around in the springtime.

In her suicide note – written days before she drank the lethal chemical - she apologised for taking her own life, saying she was suffering as a result of a long-term illness.

Mrs Orange’s body was discovered by her niece, Sarah Richards, and her husband.

Mrs Richards said her aunt’s health and mindset changed after the death of her husband, family, and dog.

She believed her aunt planned her suicide ‘in detail’, but would have shied away from cyanide had she known the after-effect of the chemical on anyone coming into contact with the deceased, or house – which was quarantined for several weeks.

Coroner Elizabeth Earland, who was unable to carry out a post mortem because of the deadly chemical, said she was satisfied Mrs Orange intended to take her own life after ingesting potassium cyanide. She recorded a verdict of suicide.

Speaking after the inquest, niece Sarah Richards said: “Noreen was somebody that was very intelligent in her own right. John was absolutely devoted to her.

“He was definitely a patriot. He would have been in the British Intelligence.

“I didn’t become aware he was involved in that level until I found some old military maps when we were clearing out the house. He was a very private person and he didn’t tell people what he got up to.”

She said the couple were married for more than 60 years, having met when they were working on a newspaper.

Mr Orange was an expert on clocks: auctioneers Sotherby’s and Christie’s used him as a consultant.

He dreamed of studying medicine, but his hopes were thwarted by the outbreak of war.


Other News Stories

Sidmouth Royal British Legion raised the Union Jack which was donated to Sidmouth Conservative Club. Ref shs 5980-19-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth’s Royal British Legion chairman said it was ‘bloody horrible’ to see that the Union Flag had been stolen from the town’s Conservative club.

Read more
Thomas King with his WW2 Medal. Ref shs 6995-48-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

France’s highest military award has been bestowed upon two 91-year-old war veterans from Sidmouth.

Read more
Yesterday, 06:59
Eastleigh shed, 8 May 1959 (c) C Boocock

Enthusiasts have a unique opportunity to invest in part of Sidmouth’s rail heritage as a £300,000 locomotive restoration project has been put back on track.

Read more
Saturday, November 28, 2015
New Kennaway House manager, Nikki Dawkins, with Michael James, David Leach, Bryan Dawkins and Michael Gordon-Lee. Ref shs 4446-47-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

A new manager and chairman have taken the helm at a charity-run arts centre with a growing reputation in and beyond the Sid Valley.

Read more
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Betty Williams with Lamb and Flag landlord, Ron Miles, and Ottery mayor, Glyn Dobson. Ref sho 4475-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton

A widow, whose generous gesture to people facing Christmas alone last year touched hearts around the world, has spoken of her delight that preparations are under way for another festive feast.

Read more
Friday, November 27, 2015
An ariel view of the PegasusLife plans for Knowle.

A developer lined up to buy the East Devon District Council (EDDC) offices at Knowle has unveiled its vision for a retirement community on the site.

Read more
Friday, November 27, 2015
The Sidmouth Friends of the Samaritans held their AGM this week. Pictured are chairman Sue Kensdale with from left Ron Harbour (treasurer), vice chairman Gerald Hayne and Denis Jones (sec). Photo by Simon Horn. Ref shs 3446-08-14SH. To order your copy of this photograph go to

The loss of Sidmouth’s Samaritans support group will have a ‘major impact’ on the running of the service, says the leader of the charity’s Exeter, Mid and East Devon branch.

Read more
Friday, November 27, 2015
MP Hugo Swire visit the King's School this week where he is pictured meeting students in the Teen Health Group. Ref sho 7123-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Hugo Swire praised students for their ‘passionate determination’ to address important issues

Read more
Friday, November 27, 2015
Sally Neal has become Sidmouth's first female Crew Manager. Ref shs 7512-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

A firefighter has made history after becoming the first woman in Sidmouth to reach the rank of crew manager.

Read more
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Plans have been lodged for Hillside House

A former hotel and restaurant in Newton Poppleford could be converted into a 13-bed care home.

Read more

Local Weather



max temp: 13°C

min temp: 12°C

Most Read News

Great British Life

Great British Life

Useful Links

Family notices
Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Submit a Story
Buy Photos
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition E-edition

Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Find a job in Sidmouth

Find planning applications