Saunders, Samuel 1869 February 20th
On Monday evening a suicide of a most distressing character was committed in the house of Mr C Norton, residing in New-street. It appears that a young person named Jane Martin, was employed at the house in the capacity of domestic servant, and she had been for several years engaged to Samuel Saunders, a young man in the employ of Mr William Jay, of High-street.
It was customary for Saunders to visit the house, and spend a portion of his time after he had finished work, with the servant. On the evening in question, Jane Martin went to Mr Jay’s (as she frequently did) and waited until Saunders had finished work. They then walked down New-street together, when the girl noticed that Saunders was unusually low spirited. He had been for a long time suffering from neuralgia, which at times deprived him of his reason. On entering Mr Norton’s kitchen he complained of a severe pain in his head, and the servant advised him to sit down. He said he was “miserable,” and walked across the kitchen and deliberately stabbed himself with a small table knife. Before medical assistance could arrive, life was extinct.
By the permission of the Coroner the body was removed to the workhouse the same night.
The event has naturally caused considerable excitement, and rumours of an unfriendly character have been freely circulated, but the evidence given at the inquest and the remarks made by the Coroner will remove much of the ignominy which such an act leaves behind, and the unfortunate youth will be more the subject of pity than of blame.
On Wednesday morning, an inquest was held on the body of the deceased, at the Workhouse, by R M Wilson, Esq., Coroner, and a highly respectable jury. Mr J Curtis, New-street, was Foreman. Mr Howe, Mr Feltham, Mr Syms, Mr Waller, Mr Maunder, Mr Carslake, Mr G Strugess, Mr Kemm, Mr Marshall, Mr Broadbere, Mr Dare, Mr Thatcher and Mr C J Whereat.
After the jury had viewed the body,
Martha Saunders, the mother of the deceased, was called, and said : I am a widow, and reside in Castle-street, in this city, my son was 19 years of age, and was apprenticed to Mr William Jay. He lived with me until within the last month, when he went to stay altogether with his master. He came home occasionally to see me, and I saw him last alive on Monday between one and two o’clock. He did not complain of indisposition, but said he had come after his flute, I asked if he were going to sell it? He said, “no, I have my tune book returned to me now, and intend to go on learning the instrument.” He had often complained of much pain in the head. He had been apprenticed to Mr Jay about five years. I have reason to think that his reason was affected about 12 months ago, when he was suffering very much in the head. At times he seemed quite deranged. He has been in the Infirmary, for the treatment of the disease, and also to Bournemouth, where he obtained some relief from bathing. He lived with Dr Wilkes previous to his apprenticeship.
Jane Martin deposed : I live at Mr Norton’s, in New-street, and have been there about eight months. Samuel Saunders was my sweetheart, he was in the habit of coming to see me at Mr Norton’s. On Monday evening I went to Mr Jay’s office, in High-street, to wait until he had finished his work, and as we walked down New-street together, I observed that he was very low spirited. Shortly after we entered Mr Norton’s kitchen he seemed suddenly to be in great pain, and said his head was bad. I asked him to sit down, and he said, “I am miserable.” Shortly after this he walked across the kitchen and took a knife from the box, and stabbed himself. As he stood a moment in the room, I looked at his altered appearance, and said, “You have not done anything me dear, have you?” He raised his eyes to the ceiling and said, “blood.” I drew back his coat and saw the blood streaming from his breast. I caught him in my arms and laid him down on the carpet. Miss Norton heard my screams, and came partly down the passage, and I said, “Sam has stabbed himself.” He lived about six minutes afterwards. The only words he said was, “I am going.” He did not express sorrow for what he had done. There was no other person in the kitchen with us at the time. Once before when he had the pains very severe, he threatened to destroy himself. The pains always came on suddenly.
By the Foreman : I very frequently went to Mr Jay’s office in the evening, to wait until he had done his work. I did not go on Monday evening for any particular reason.
By the Coroner : We had not been quarrelling, but the same affectionate feeling existed between us.
Dr Wilkes deposed : I have known the deceased for some years, he once lived with me for two years engaged as an errand boy. He was recommended to me from the choir of St Thomas’ school. I found him to be a very good boy, and attentive to his work. He suffered at that time from retention of the urine, a disease very unusual to very young persons. I was called to see him last October, he was then suffering from the same complaint. His manner was very strange, and I advised his mother not to leave him alone at night. He however improved in a few days, and I saw nothing more of him until Sunday afternoon last, when he was waiting at the corner of New-street, for a young woman to join him, as I supposed. He then looked very well.
On Monday evening I was called to Mr Norton’s house, and found the deceased lying on the floor in the kitchen. That was about ten minutes after nine o’clock. I examined him and found his clothes in front were saturated in blood, and on removing the clothes I found a small transverse wound on the left side, between the sixth and seventh ribs, such as would have been made by the knife produced (the knife had a sharp point and the stains of blood were still upon the blade when handed to the jury for examination). The wound was just over the heart. I inserted a probe, and it entered the cavity of the heart. I attribute his death to the loss of blood from the wound.
By the Coroner : When I saw him in October last, I thought I detected a tendency to insanity. I had not heard that he suffered from neuralgia.
By the Foreman : The knife entered the heart. I meant by the wound being over the heart, to refer to that portion of the wound being on the surface of the body. If I had attempted scientifically to pass an instrument to the heart, from the same part of the body I could not have done it more skilfully than it was accomplished by the deceased.
Mr William Jay was called and said : The deceased was my apprentice and had been with me for about six years. He was a steady well-conducted lad, and I do not think a better ever entered a shop. He was always regular to his work. During the past month or two he lived altogether in my house. He very frequently complained of violent pains in the head. On the day he committed the rash act, he was as cheerful as any person could wish to be. He worked with me until quarter past eight, and appeared quite well. He was not perfectly sane when the pains visited him with great violence. About a month since he had a very severe attack, and I was compelled to hold him down in bed for fear he should do himself an injury.
This concluded the evidence, and the Coroner remarked to the jury, that it was a most painful case, and from the evidence given by the witnesses, it was clear that the unfortunate young man had passed through much suffering, which had rendered him at times unaccountable for his actions. There was certainly no evidence of premeditation, as he had not carried the knife about his person, nor used any language suggestive of his intention to destroy life.
A verdict of “Temporary insanity” was unanimously returned by the jury.
The Coroner also remarked that he had never before heard evidence given in a better manner than by Jane Martin, she had not said too much, or too little, confining herself to the facts, showing how much a subject of such mournful interest, can so thoroughly absorb the mind as to exclude all things else.