Friederich, Walter

Friederich, Walter            1882 November 4th

On Thursday morning, an inquest was held at the Angel Hotel, Salisbury, by Mr G Smith (city coroner) and a jury of whom Mr Blake was foreman, on the body of Walter Friederich, a young man a comparative stranger to the city, who was on Tuesday morning found dead in his bed at a Fisherton coffee-house. Poison was evidently the cause of death, for by the side of the deceased was found a bottle containing cyanide of potassium, and in his clothes a letter – addressed to a lady at St. Leonards-on-Sea, who afterwards proved to be his sister – which on being opened by the coroner was found to be an admission of his intention to take his life. The letter was written in a free, mercantile hand; and beneath the signature was an ornate flourish. Mr Friederich, who from his appearance seemed a commercial but was really a photographer, was not absolutely without friends in the city, for on Monday he took tea with Mr Bingham, jnr, an old schoolfellow of his – at that time he appearing perfectly sane. As his name betokens deceased was of Swiss extraction, but the police have been unable to trace directly where he came form. The following was the evidence adduced.

Mr W D Wilkes, medical practitioner, said on Tuesday morning he was passing the refreshment house kept by Mr Dyer when he was asked by Mr Supt Mathews to step into the house to see the deceased. He found the deceased lying in bed quite dead. The face was pale and placid; the eyes were half open and the pupils dilated; the mouth was half open and saliva had trickled over the right cheek. On removing the clothes he found the left arm folded over the chest, the right arm by the side of the body; and the left leg was crossed over the right. The face and the limbs were cold but the body was warm. Deceased was a well-nourished, stout man, about 5ft 10in in height and apparently about 30 years of age. He was shown a wide-mouth stopper-bottle which would hold about an ounce and a half of fluid, and was about one third full, which was on the drawers within reach. He was also shown a white crystallised mass wrapped in paper torn from a book containing written receipts for photographing.

On examining the fluid, the crystallised mass, and the saliva, he found – by chemical tests – that all contained cyanide of potassium, a deadly poison, which is much used by photographers. He was of opinion that death was caused by that poison. From three to five grains of the poison would destroy life, and the mass was sufficient to destroy twelve persons. It was very dissoluble, like sugar – probably deceased dissolved a portion of the mass and took it from the fluid. Death, he should say, was very rapid. From the letter which he had seen and from what he had heard he should think the deceased had been suffering from extreme mental depression.

Andrew Dyer, lodging and refreshment house keeper, of Fisherton, said that he first saw deceased on Thursday evening; he, however, left his house on the following morning. He again saw him on Monday evening at about five; he left the house till about eight, on neither occasion having anything to eat. He sat in the coffee-room for about half an hour, when he went to bed. He noticed that the deceased seemed tired, but not at all strange. The next morning, at about a quarter past nine, as the deceased had told him to call him about nine, he went up to call him, and receiving no reply to his knocks and calls he entered the room. He then saw that he was dead, and at once sent for Mr Supt Mathews. The deceased took no nourishment at all while he was in the house.

Mr Supt Mathews deposed that on responding to Mr Dyer’s message, he found the deceased in bed quite dead. He found a bottle in the bed about a third full of liquid. His clothes were at the foot of the bed and on searching them he found a pill box containing a crystallised mass, which on being examined was found to be cyanide of potassium. He also found four pawn tickets and a letter in his coat pocket addressed to Miss C Friederich.

This was opened in the presence of the Coroner and was as follows,

DEAR Charlotte., An act so rash as the one I am about to commit cannot be forgiven by God. I once told you I would never apply to you for help any more. Forget me and forgive me if you can. I don’t know what I am saying. Farewell. Extravagance and sin have brought me to this. My last request is to pay the people in this house for their convenience. Farewell

Walter Friederich.

God have mercy on you and bless and protect you.

He had since communicated with the police at Hastings, and found that the lady referred to, who was the sister of the deceased, had left there and gone to London. He received a telegram yesterday (Wednesday) saying she would be in Salisbury that morning. She had, however, not yet arrived. He might add that no money was found on the deceased, but his pockets contained two knives, a silver pencil, a pipe, tobacco pouch, and a pair of scissors; a walking stick was also in the room. He found by the date on one of the tickets that he was in London on the 28th of October.

A juror : Did he pawn anything in Salisbury? No.

The juror : I heard he had on a watch-chain when he first entered Salisbury, but that he hadn’t after.

Mr Mathews, continuing, said he had found that deceased applied to a local photographer for work. He had not been able to trace where he bought the poison, but he found that he applied to Mr Rowe, chemist, of Fisherton, for an ounce, and that it was not served him.

Mr Walter Bingham, draper, said that he knew the deceased. They were schoolfellows at St. John’s College, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Even at that time he had no relatives living, excepting his sister who then lived at Hastings. He had not seen the deceased for 12 years before Monday evening. He recognised him, but for the moment forgot his name. Deceased told him he had come from Bristol that afternoon and was going to London on the following morning. He took tea with him and remained with him till about a quarter to eight; he was in the best of spirits and talked pleasantly over their old schooldays. He mentioned that he had been out of a situation for about three weeks and added that he had never been out so long before. He in no wise alluded to his distress or want of means. On leaving he promised to call the next morning and go over the Cathedral. He was, he should say, about 26 years of age; and by trade was a photographer.

In a few remarks, the Coroner called attention to the probabilities of the deceased’s state of mind. In his letter he stated that “I don’t know what I am saying,” and Mr Wilkes believed him suffering from great depression. That he was bright early in the evening was to be accounted for by his meeting an old schoolmate and recalling the scenes and acts of youth.

The jury returned a verdict of “Committed Suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind.”


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