Yarlett, Sarah

Yarlett, Sarah              1882 June 24th

On Sunday morning, long before daybreak, the body of a married woman named Sarah Yarlett, who had resided with her husband at Spring-place, Endless-street, Salisbury, was found in the Avon by her husband, who, having missed her, had gone in search of her. The unfortunate creature had been unhappily addicted to drink, and when in this condition – as there was too good reason to know she was on Saturday evening – had been heard to declare that she would make a hole in the water. The husband himself renounced drink some six months ago; but the unfortunate woman had not followed his example. Of late months their lives had been a comfortable one, excepting when interrupted by the unfortunate habits of the poor woman. She leaves behind her four children, most of whom, however, are grown up. The suicide is believed to have been committed with great determination. She walked to Bull’s-court in Castle-street – where she had previously lived, and along the bottom of which the water ran; and as the water is very shallow there she must either have lain or knelt down in it before she could have accomplished her unhappy intention.

The inquest was held at the Council Chamber, Salisbury, on Monday afternoon, by Mr C W Powning (deputy city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr J Parsons was foreman).

The first witness called was Henry Yarlett, the husband of the deceased, who said that his wife – who was about 55 years of age, and to whom he had been married 20 years – told him on Saturday evening, at about seven o’clock, that she had lost some money – 4s 7½d. No words passed between them as to the loss of the money. Shortly after he left the house, not returning till half-past ten. She was, at the latter time, apparently attending to her domestic duties. As he was reading his paper, she went out into the yard. That was the last he saw of her, though a minute or two later she came back to the door again – as he could tell by the sound of her footsteps.

After that he heard her go down the yard. His wife was, when he came home at seven, the worse for liquor; it was evident she had had beer, but how much he could not tell. He had seen her – though not recently or frequently – in that state before. Where she got the beer he could not say; certainly not in his house, as, not drinking any himself, he did not keep any there. No angry words passed between them during the whole of the day. Anticipating her return he waited up for her. As she did not appear, he went out into the street, but as there was no sign of her appearance he asked a policeman if he had seen anything of her. He was replied to in the negative, but promised that an observation should be maintained.

Not hearing anything further, at three o’clock he went to the police-station. There nothing had been heard of her. Afterwards, intending to walk up Fisherton to meet his son who had gone there in search of her, he thought he would first look around the Town Mill. The first thing that caught his eyes was the body of his wife in the water. A man named Corbin, who had accompanied him, at once went for PS Goodridge, who shortly after returned and aided them in taking the now-cold body of his wife from the water. It was fear alone that impelled him to go the Mill. On no occasion had he personally heard her threaten to commit suicide. They had lived happily together; but during the last month she had been in a very low desponding condition. His occupation took him often away from home; of course, it was impossible to say what she drank then. But he certainly had not seen her so bad as this for a month previously.

Henry Charles Yarlett, aged 19, the son of the deceased, stated that on Saturday afternoon he gave his mother a half-sovereign. She then appeared as if she had had a glass or two. On returning from work at four, she appeared certainly the worse for drink. He left the house shortly after, not returning till about eight, being then closely followed by his father. He afterwards went out again, remaining out till a few minutes before eleven. His mother was then not at home; but just at eleven she returned, but left immediately afterwards, never in any way letting them know where she was going. As she did not return he went to look for her, first going as far as Laverstock Bridge. He feared that she might have drowned herself, as he had often heard her say – when she was the worse for drink – that she would throw herself into the water. She and his father had lived happily enough together since he had signed the pledge, which he did on Boxing-day, and had stedfastly kept since.

John Bonner, who resides with his mother in the same yard as the deceased, said that at five minutes to eleven on Saturday night, Mrs Yarlett came to the door and said, “Here, Mrs Bonner, take my snuff box,” adding, “Good-night, Mrs Bonner,” and turned away directly. Both he and his mother noticed that at the time she looked very wild. He at once took the snuff-box into Mr Yarlett’s house and gave it to him, explaining how he had come by it. Yarlett asked where she had gone, and he told him down the yard; and shortly after he saw the son go out of the yard with the apparent intention of trying to find her. He knew, from his own knowledge, that the deceased had had some beer during the evening.

Mr Superintendent Mathews proved seeing the body of the deceased after it had been taken out of the water. Afterwards he searched along the river bank, and at Bull’s-court, in Castle-street, at the bottom of which the river ran, he found a bonnet, which had since been identified as belonging to the deceased. Just at that point the water was very shallow – insufficient to drown a person. There were two footprints at the edge. Where the body was found it was 4ft 6in deep.

Mr Harcourt Coates, surgeon, of Salisbury, who was sent for to see the body by Mr Mathews at about a quarter to four, said that the deceased had probably been in the water three or four hours. There were no marks of violence on the body. Death had resulted from suffocation by drowning.

The jury returned a verdict of “Found Drowned.”


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