Welstead, Esau 1869 March 20th Romsey
Discovery of the Body of Welstead, the Railway Gate-Keeper
The excitement which has naturally attended the circumstances of this man having disappeared in so mysterious a manner, and the many rumours prevalent as to the cause of his death, were set at rest on Sunday last by the discovery of the body in the river Test, a short distance below the mansion at Broadlands. The discovery was made by a man named Jones, who is a stableman in the employ of Lady Palmerston. Information having been given to the police, the body was taken out of the water, and conveyed to the Three Tuns Inn, Middlebridge-street, and in the presence of S H Simpson, surgeon, was stripped and examined.
On Monday afternoon an inquest was held before R Harfield, Esq., deputy coroner, and a respectable jury, of whom Mr Alfred Cooper was foreman, at the Three Tuns Inn, when the following evidence was adduced.
Edward Welstead, sworn, said : I am a labourer, living at Moreton, near Dorchester. I identify the body of the deceased as that of my brother, Esau Welstead. He was 27 years of age.
Thomas Jones, stableman in the employ of Lady Palmerston, said : On Sunday morning last about half past eleven, I was walking with my two sons in Mr Hunt’s meadows, on the banks of the river Test. We knew the deceased to be missing, and we looked in the water to see if we could see him. A little below Broadlands House there is a bend in the river. I noticed a ripple on the water, which attracted my attention, and which I thought was the body of a man. I sent for assistance, and some of Lady Palmerston’s servants came in a boat. We did nothing further until the police came. PC Maton got into the boat and took deceased out of the water. The body the jury have just viewed is the same I found in the water.
Sidney Soffe : I am a cabinet maker, and lodge at the Angel Inn, in Bell-street. On Thursday, the 18th of February, about eight o’clock in the evening, the deceased came into the Angel with another porter in the employ of the South Western Railway Company. The deceased was very intoxicated, the other not much so. They asked for something to drink, and for a time the landlord refused to supply them, at length she let them have a half quartern of peppermint; which they drank between them. Whilst they were there Welstead asked the other man for his watch, which he refused to give up saying he might get into bad company and lose it. The other man said he would take care of the watch for him. He also asked deceased what money he had, for as he had lately taken his wages he thought he had a pound or two with him. The other man pressed deceased to show him what he had, he put his hand in his pocket and took out 7s 7d and some keys and said that was all he had, and he then put it back into his pocket. Deceased asked the other man to leave the house with him, and deceased said he should not go home that night; they, however, agreed to meet at the Corn Exchange in half an hour from the time of leaving the house, which was about ten minutes after eight in the evening.
Welstead went away first, and the other man about ten minutes after. I saw no more of him until a few minutes past eleven o’clock. He then seemed to be more sober. He had nothing to drink to my knowledge. I asked him if he knew where his watch was, and he answered, “My mate has got it.” He then asked if I could make it right by drawing him a pot of beer, and thinking he wanted to be trusted, I said, “You got some coin,” and he said he had a little. He then went into the tap room, and left with some others shortly before twelve. I never saw him afterwards, nor did I see which way he went.
Spencer Henry Simpson, surgeon, of Romsey, deposed that on Sunday afternoon he saw the body of deceased, and examined it. There was a decided blow over the left eye, which might have been produced by a fall; and also a graze on the nose and forehead, which were quite superficial; it might have been produced either before or after death. Deceased’s clothing was buttoned up, and he had a comforter round his neck. The clothes had not been disturbed until I saw him. He was stripped in my presence. The clothes were very rotten but not torn. From the appearance of the body I should say it had been in the water ever since it was first missed. I carefully examined the skull externally. I could find no fracture, neither were there any marks of violence about the body. If I was to make a post mortem examination do not think I should be able to tell whether deceased was alive when he went into the water or not. I could possibly tell if death was caused in any other way. From external examination I do not see any suspicion of his death being caused by violence.
Samuel Collins, jnr. : I am a tailor of Romsey. On the evening of the 18th of February, about eleven o’clock, I was in company with some other men in the Angel Inn. Deceased went in also. I got him a pot of beer. I did not notice whether he drank any beer himself, but he handed the pot round to show those who were there. Deceased left the house a few minutes before 12. I left with the others at 12. In passing up Bell-street to go home I saw deceased as if asleep, leaning against Mr Ely’s shop. I did not speak to him, but passed on. I noticed deceased had a mark across his nose as if he had been fighting. He was very drunk when at the Angel. During the evening he went out with a young woman.
Elizabeth Tiller, an “unfortunate,” was sworn, and after taking the oath she threw down the book with some violence on the table, saying she took that oath with a clear conscience. The Coroner reprimanded her for her behaviour, and said he, personally, could place little dependence upon the evidence of a person in the state she was. The jury were unanimously of the same opinion, and she was discharged without being examined.
PC George White, stationed at Romsey, was present when his body was taken out of the water; his clothing was buttoned up close, as described by Dr Simpson. I searched the pockets of deceased, and found no money but a few small articles now produced, scissors, knife, bunch of keys, &c. I know that every inquiry has been made to discover the body, both by the superintendent and by the police stationed in the neighbourhood of Romsey, but nothing seems to have been heard of him from that Thursday evening until he was found. He was lying in the river with his face downwards, and his head downstream.
Mr John Harvey station master at Romsey, said he knew the deceased to be a gate-keeper on the London and South Western Railway at Kimbridge Junction.
The Coroner having summed up the evidence, the jury came to the following verdict, “Found drowned, but there was not sufficient evidence to show how deceased came into the water.”