Darke, Emma

Darke, Emma          1881 February 26th

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber on Monday afternoon, by Mr George Smith (city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr Wyatt was foreman) on the body of a young married woman, named Emma Sarah Darke, who had resided with her father, Mr Parsons, in Castle-street, and who, on Sunday morning, was found dead in her bed. The particulars of the sad event will be found in the evidence adduced.

Mrs Emma Collins, wife of Matthew Collins, carpenter, residing at 54, Castle-street, and who had known the deceased from childhood, deposed that she saw her last alive on Saturday evening. On that occasion she went at about a quarter to ten to her father’s house, and, finding she had retired to rest, visited her in her bedroom. The deceased had been a very weak person and often very poorly, but on this occasion she appeared to be in a better state of health. During a conversation which she then had with the deceased, she (the deceased) told her she should not go out on Sunday afternoon, but that in the evening – in accordance with an engagement – she should go to church with a female friend.

By the foreman : She (witness) was in the habit of visiting the deceased in the evening. For some time past, the deceased had been very unwell, but, during the last week or fortnight, there had been something of an improvement in her condition.

James Parsons, of 49, Castle-street, deposed that he was the father of the deceased, who had passed her 29th birthday, and had resided with him for the last seven months as his housekeeper. She was a married woman, her husband (whose name was Henry Day Darke and who was by trade a watch and clock maker) being at present at the Cape of Good Hope. He saw his daughter last alive on Saturday night at about ten o’clock. She had asked him, shortly before that hour, to go and tell her companion that she could not go for a walk on the following afternoon, but that, if she would come down at a quarter past six, they would go to church together. He did as she asked him, and, on returning from the errand, found she had retired to rest. He, however, told her that he had seen her friend; and his impression was that she thanked him and wished him “good-night” but he could not definitely say. During the day, she had complained of being very unwell. On one occasion, she said, “If any human being suffers in this world it is I,” and afterwards she added, “It seems as if I should sink through the floor. I have no strength in me.”

On the following morning, he got up at about eight o’clock, and, a few minutes after, took a glass of milk up for her. Finding she made no response to his call, he repeated it in a louder tone, and then, on touching her hand, he discovered that she was dead. He at once went across for Mrs Short – a neighbour, and Mr Short, at her request, at once proceeded for Mr Gowing.

Replying to jurymen, the witness said he never knew his daughter have a fit; but she had frequently complained of suffering from a heavy pressure on the head.

Mr R C Gowing, a surgeon practising at Salisbury, said that he, responding to a message, visited the deceased on Sunday morning. She was quite dead when he arrived; and the face and the upper extremities that were uncovered were quite cold. She was lying – in a perfectly natural position – on her right side, the legs being drawn up to the body, the right arm lying across her chest and the left lying by the body. The face, which was turned downwards, was quite buried in the pillow. On lifting the face, he saw that it was livid; and from this fact, and the position of the body, he attributed the cause of death to suffocation. Insensibility had, he should say, set in by some means or other; and the face being buried in the pillow all power of breathing had been destroyed, and thus she was suffocated. Previously – though not during the present year – he had attended the deceased, but simply for a disease incidental to females and not of a dangerous character. The pressure on the head spoken of by Mr Parsons would not indicate necessarily a liability to fits.

This concluded the evidence, and the jury returned a verdict of “Death from suffocation.”


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