Dance, Frank

Dance, Frank       1882 August 19th            Warminster

Shooting a Boy at the Wilts Reformatory

On Monday afternoon an inquest was held in the schoolroom at the Wilts Reformatory School, before Mr Coroner Sylvester, touching the death of Frank Dance, aged 13 years, an inmate of the institution, who died on Saturday evening from wounds received from a gun. It was at first thought that the wounds were self inflicted, but it will be seen from the evidence that a boy named Baverstock confessed to having shot the deceased. Baverstock was taken into custody. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased in February, 1880, was convicted, at Malmesbury, of robbery from a till, and was on the 16th of the same month received into the reformatory from Devizes gaol.

On Saturday a number of the boys had been hoeing, returning to the institution shortly after six o’clock. A few minutes afterwards the report of a gun was heard, and the officials going to the labour-master’s room the deceased was found lying on a mat outside the door in a pool of blood. The deceased was quite dead, the charge from the gun having entered just behind the right ear, a portion of which was carried away. Other parts of the skull were blown away.

A lad named Baverstock had been in the habit of cleaning out the labour-master’s room, and he at first said deceased shot himself, but afterwards confessed that he committed the act. He said deceased gave him leave to shoot him “in fun,” not knowing the gun was loaded. It was proved that the deceased and Baverstock were good friends, but that Dance had no right in the room in question. It was stated that the gun was used by the labour-master for frightening birds. The Coroner, in summing up the evidence, said there was nothing to show malice.

The jury, after consulting, returned a verdict of “Death from misadventure,” and at their request, the labour-master was censured for leaving a loaded gun in his room. The inquiry lasted two hours and a half.

On Monday, before the inquest, Baverstock was brought up before Mr N F Burton, and charged with the manslaughter of Frank Dance, and formal evidence having been taken, he was remanded till Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, Baverstock was again brought up on the charge of manslaughter of a fellow-inmate of the Reformatory. Mr T Ponting watched the case on behalf of the Reformatory authorities. Considerable interest was taken in the case. After hearing the evidence, the Bench dismissed the case.

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