Enter the Forensic Pathologist

The Hong Kong inquest into the death of superstar Bruce Lee in 1973 required a professor of medicine to be flown in from London. This is the story of that man.

An old box of Equagesic tablets.
The photo of the “winkle-picker” shoes responsible for head injuries made with a shod foot in Professor’s Teare essay on the Scotland Yard autopsy. The shoes look like a formal pair of black leather shoes with sharpish points, but they are lethal if used to kick someone in the head.
From Professor Teare’s essay on the Scotland Yard Autopsy.
Professor Teare in a hat, carrying files to a waiting car. He looks bemused and competent.
Professor Donald Teare
In this publicity still for Fist of Fury, Bruce Lee has his hair slicked back and displays the rippling muscles of his arm.
Publicity still from Fist of Fury.
A movie still from Fist of Fury. Lee is leaping at the camera, screaming in passion, while a crowd of his associates watches.
Reminiscent of the “Boxer” War of 1899-1901, Lee charges down a firing squad empty-handed in the final scene of Fist of Fury.
Bruce Lee with his wife and children: Linda, Brandon and Shannon. They wear kaftans and look very much like a 60s flower-power art-orientated family.
Linda Lee believed that the family had the best period of their lives together in Seattle.
A black and white photo of Bruce Lee’s pall-bearers. James Coburn and Steve McQueen are in front and most prominently seen.
Steve McQueen and James Coburn carrying Lee’s coffin
Raymon Chow in a sharp suit at his desk. He looks very business-like but not very trustworthy, very much a film business executive.
Raymond Chow
A glamorous photo of actress Betty Tie Ping. She is very a long dress and her hair is mullet-like.
Betty Ting Pie
A Carter-Wallace advertisement for Miltown targeting men. It blames computers for creating anxiety.
Frank Berger in his advance years. He has a white moustache and is bald.
Frank Berger
The poster advertised Pespsin Tabloids, Cod Liver Oil, Valoid Fluid extracts…
A Burroughs-Wellcome corporation poster
The bottles of the first generation of anti-anxiety pills. They include Valium, Placidyl, Librium, Valmid and Miltown.
Meprobamate created the market for anxiety pills
A photo of serial killer John Christie. He deceptively looks neat and decent.
John Christie
An old copy of Ludovic Kennedy’s major book. The cover says: “10 Rillington Place, Christie and Evans: the first full story of an appalling miscarriage of justice.”
Kennedy’s book impacted the capital punishment and abortion laws of the UK.

“As far as acute cerebral edema is concerned taking cannabis or taking a cup of tea or coffee would be identical.”

Elaborating his thesis, Professor Teare continued that the cause of the acute edema was either was either meprobamate or aspirin, or both in combination. According to him, that kind of allergic reaction was “very rare indeed”.

A Miltown add that boasts about the benefits of tranquilising children.

“Contraindications: Previous allergic or idiosyncratic reactions to meprobamate.”

The specificity of the advice suggests that meprobamate’s unpredictable allergic reactions in certain cases was known to its manufacturers. Whether Frank Berger or others at Carter Wallace knew of the scale of these reactions or it was within their appetite for acceptable mortality through side-effects is difficult to establish.

The official communication of the European Medical Agency withdrawing market authorisation for meprobamate.
Albert Goldman’s two-part “expose” on Bruce Lee was published in Penthouse magazine
A used crimp of tablets.



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Neel Dozome

I write about type history and books culture, with a particular interest in graphic novels. Can almost do a hand stand.