Tapper, Edward

Tapper, Edward              1882 April 1st

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber, on Monday afternoon, By Mr George Smith (city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr James Parsons was foreman), on the body of Edward Tapper, an illegitimate child of twenty months, who died that morning at Hill-view-terrace, Milford-hill, in the house of a man named Haylock, in whose care and charge it had been placed by the ecclesiastical authorities of the parish. Some suspicion at first appeared to attach to the death; but this was found to be without foundation – nothing beyond a serious disregard for medical advice could be attributed to the Haylocks. At first there was a slight suspicion attaching to the fact that Mrs Haylock – a relevant witness – was said by her husband to be too indisposed to attend. The husband himself – who gave his evidence very fairly and openly – suddenly fell to the ground in a fit, from which he soon recovered. The following was the evidence adduced.

John Haylock, a hawker, deposed that he lived at 6, Hill-view-terrace, Milford-hill. The deceased, Edward Tapper, who was not related to him, had been living with him for the past four months, before that having been living with Mrs Weeks in Gigant-street. The child was placed in his charge to be taken care of, he receiving 4s 6d a week as remuneration. The child was unwell at first, but after two months had expired it appeared to have considerably improved; it, however, was always weakly. The bruise on the head which the jury had noticed was a result of a blow received by the deceased whilst it was playing with his little girl. The child was seated in a chair, and in the play it struck its head against the chimney piece. At half-past seven on Sunday evening the child was put to bed, and then appeared in its usual state of health. After it was put to bed it remained asleep till half-past nine, when he gave it some milk, which it threw up again. He got it off to sleep again; but at about twelve o’clock it woke and then appeared better and called for “dada and mamma.”

At about a quarter to four he was aroused by his wife, and he then saw it in her arms, she exclaiming that it was in a fit. The child’s head hung back and its eyes were glazed. He at once fetched Mrs Kellow, a neighbour, but she not apprehending any danger he did not then even send for a doctor. The child then appeared to go off to sleep for another hour: during which time his wife, himself and the neighbour remained by its side. At the end of the hour, at about five, he brought the child downstairs, when it was still breathing, and, indeed, still appeared sleeping. A few minutes later noticing how quiet the child seemed, he asked for a light and then was surprised to find that life was extinct. His wife at once hastened off to the charity house of the parish – whence he really received the child; and thence for Dr Kelland. He had never been told to send for a doctor at all by those who gave the child into his care – neither did Mrs Kellow recommend him to send for one.

The Foreman : Your wife told me that the child was running about when it received the blow on the forehead.

Witness : Whilst my little girl might have been leading it about.

By a juror : I never knew the child have a fit before; and I never had medical advice for it.

Martha Mary Kellow, who is a neighbour of the last witness and is the wife of Joseph Kellow, deposed that at four o’clock Mrs Haylock asked her to come and see the child. It was then in its cradle and breathing very heavily. She remained in the house till five o’clock. At that time the child appeared in the same state of health – moaning and restless. She recommended them to send for a doctor, but they said they would wait until they had seen Sister Agnes, who confided the child to their care. At ten minutes to six she was again aroused ; the child was then dead. Her opinion was that the child died from convulsions resulting from teething; certainly she could not think it died from neglect – the people always appeared attentive.

By a juror : She certainly recommended them to send for a doctor at about ten minutes to four; she addressed the observation especially to the last witness. Mrs Haylock, who was now said to be ill, was all right that morning.

Mr James Kelland, medical practitioner, of Salisbury, said he saw the child – which he had never attended before – at about a quarter before seven that morning. His opinion was that the child – which at the time was suffering from scrofulous affection – being a sickly child, was seized by a convulsion and died in it. There was no evidence of teething; and he attributed the convulsion to the general weakness of the child. The bruise on the deceased’s forehead he did not at all consider contributed to the child’s death.

A juror : Do you think you could have saved its life had you been called a few hours earlier? I think not.

Another juror : If you had been called on Sunday could you have saved it life? Of course, I can’t say, but I might have done something for the child.

Mr Supt Mathews stated that that morning he went to Haylock’s house. On examining the child’s head he found the bruise on the left side; and also a sore on the side of the mouth and by the nose. He called Mrs Haylock’s attention to the bruise and sores; and she said that the child had struck its head against the mantelpiece. The child he had ascertained was born on the 1st of July, 1880.

The Rev. C N Wyld, rector of St Martin’s, added a few observations to the evidence. The mother of the child had three illegitimate children beside this one. She at present was in a penitentiary, and appeared doing well. The three other children were in the union. This child was first confided to Mrs Weeks and then on her getting married to these people. The sister of the charity-house of the parish had seen the child; and on one or two occasions had remarked that it looked ill. Her suggestion that a doctor should be sent for, was usually met by the remark that the child was better.

The Coroner, in presenting the evidence to the jury, said he could not but say that the people should have gone for a doctor before; they seemed to have disregarded all advice; and even when death had resulted first sought Sister Agnes.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes,” but certainly thought that medical advice should have been obtained before. The Coroner expressed the view of the jury to Haylock, censuring him – at their request – for his conduct.

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