Whitlock, Ruth

Whitlock, Ruth          1883 August 25th

Sad Case of Suicide of a Salisbury Notoriety

Ruth Again.” But this time Ruth Whitlock’s name figures before the public with the most sorrowful prominence. On Thursday she put an end to her wrecked life. Entering the closet adjoining her house in College-street, Wyndham Park, she – with her husband’s razor – severed one of the main arteries of her arm, and thus bled to death. The poor creature had evidently become insane. Of late – in fitful moments of her low despondency – she has startled the neighbourhood by her vagaries. Returning from gaol on the 1st inst. – whence she had been sent after something like her fortieth appearance before the magistrates, she had first given way to drink, and then had settled down into a gloomy sullenness relieved by startling acts of silly humor. The inquest was held at the “Wyndham Arms,” this (Friday) morning before Mr W C Powning (deputy coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr S Parker was foreman).

George Whitlock, the husband, was the first witness. He stated : I live in College-street, Wyndham Park, and am a porter. My wife would have been either 54 or 55 next March. I last saw her alive at 11.15 yesterday morning, when she was doing a little work; and I asked her about some lining for a pair of trousers for our little grand-son. I heard her go into the closet; and whilst she was there I again asked her about the lining, but she made no reply. I then went to shave myself, but missed the razor, which I usually kept in the back kitchen. I again called to her – this time about the razor, but, receiving no reply, I went to the closet. The deceased I saw in a kneeling position, with the razor closed on the bench, which was “spattered” with blood. “For goodness sake,” I said, “what have you been doing,” but she made no reply. I then rushed out for assistance, and outside found a Mr Chew, who – coming back with me – lifted her out. Afterwards he went for the police. She had been sober for some time past. The last time she came out of gaol was the 1st inst., she having been there for drunkenness. For the first few days on coming out she again rushed to drink; since she had been quiet but very low-spirited.

A juror here remarked that about a week ago the deceased appeared in the street with her husband’s shirt on.

The witness, further replying to the Coroner, said he had of late treated her with kindness.

The Coroner : But what meant those bruises with which she was covered a week ago and of which she complained to the police?

Witness : I don’t know.

Mr Supt Mathews : She was simply covered with bruises and showed me places where she said her husband had kicked her. Her arm was one mass of bruises.

A juror : I saw her here a week ago and she was in a shocking condition – having two black eyes and many bruises.

The Coroner to witness : Now, you are on your oath, have you struck her since the 1st ? No. Well, I did give her a slap on the face more than a fortnight ago for trying to get through the window.

How many times have you struck her? I can’t say, sir.

What, because of the number of times you have struck her? No, sir.

The Coroner : Is it true she hadn’t slept in the house for many nights? The witness made reply that she usually slept in the house down by the fire. “But there,” he added, “she’s out all hours of the night; and I couldn’t tell what to do.”

A juror (who had previously spoken) said that before she went to be tried on connection with the offence with which she was last sent to prison she told him she did not fear going to prison for she hadn’t slept in her house for seven weeks.

The witness further said that the deceased was in the closet for about half-an-hour. According to his evidence when he saw her kneeling he did not attempt to touch her – indeed he did not touch her from first to last.

The Coroner and the jury severely animadverted on this.

Frank Chew, gas-fitter, living in College-street – who gave his evidence very intelligently – said that on going into the closet he found the woman kneeling with her arms resting on the closet seat. He took hold of her and laid her on the floor; and putting his hand over her heart he at once found she was dead. Blood was on her face and on the closet seat. Whitlock did not touch his wife. The closed razor he saw on the closet seat.

By a juror : He saw no traces of blood leading to the closet or any other marks of blood about the house.

By another juror : I live opposite Whitlock. Lately, however, I have heard no quarrelling between them.

PS Whitbread – who came in response to the last witness to see the body – said on searching the deceased he found a second razor loose in her dress pocket and a penny. On the wrist of the deceased he saw a cut about 1½ or 2 inches deep.

Whitlock, re-called, said that the razor found in her pocket was also his, which he kept for cutting corns. It was kept on the same shelf as the other.

Dr F W Coates – who was sent for to see the deceased soon after one o’clock – said that on examining the body he found an incised wound on the left wrist which divided one of the principal arteries. That wound was quite sufficient to cause death. The wound could easily have been inflicted by her, and must have been caused by a sharp instrument such as a razor. There was no other wound on the body; and he saw no bruises. The body was fairly nourished. After the wound was inflicted he should say she would not live more than ten minutes. Probably a person whose mode of living had been an unwholesome one would die quicker than another.

The Coroner said that the evidence of Dr Coates made the cause of death certain. The fact of having a second razor in her pocket seemed to show that – in her low desponding condition – she had insanely determined to commit the deed.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death whilst in a state of temporary insanity.”

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