Chalke, Frederick

Chalke, Frederick         1884 April 19th

On Thursday evening an inquest was held at the Infirmary by the Deputy Coroner (Mr G W Powning) and a jury (of whom Mr H S Curtis was foreman) touching the death of a boy named Frederick Chalke, who lived with his mother at Alma-place, Endless-street, and who came by his death under circumstances detailed in the evidence.

The first witness called was Elizabeth Naish, wife of George Naish, who lives next door to Mrs Chalke. From her evidence it appeared that at about half-past nine one evening in the month of February, Mrs Naish (Chalke) left her house, leaving the deceased and a younger child there unattended and alone. As she passed witness’s house she asked her if she heard “Freddy ask for her to tell him that she would soon be back.” Shortly afterwards she heard the boy call out, “Come in, Mrs Naish, I’m on fire.” She immediately went into the house, and saw the little boy standing on the stairs with his colored night-shirt on fire. As she lifted the boy up she saw a small benzoline lamp on the stairs still burning. She at once wrapped the lad up in her dress and extinguished the flames, and immediately took him to Dr Gordon, who dressed the wounds. She afterwards took the child back to the house, and waited till the mother came, which was at about 10.15. The witness believed that the child was burnt very much on the right side.

The second witness was the mother, Mary Chalke. From her evidence it appeared that the accident occurred on the 20th of February. She undressed both this child, which was aged four years, and an infant, fifteen months old, at seven, and put them to bed. At about 9.30 she went out, both the children being then sound asleep, asking Mrs Naish to listen if the children awoke. On returning she saw the injured child in Mrs Naish’s arms. On the following day she brought the boy to the Infirmary, where he remained until the time of his death. When she went out she placed a lighted lamp on the top of the stairs. The reason she did this was that the boy was frightened if he woke up in the dark. She added that she had often gone out before, leaving the children alone in the house, and she always left a lamp on the top of the stairs. On these occasions the lad never attempted to go downstairs.

The last witness was Mr Mervyn Wilson, the house surgeon. He said the child when admitted was suffering from a severe burn of the chest and right arm. Every care was taken of the child. It, however, died that morning, the cause of death being exhaustion consequent on the wounds. The child was delicate and “ricketty,” but it was fairly nourished. It was, indeed, wonderful that the child lived on so long. Before it died, it had an affection in the mouth.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death,” but desired the Deputy Coroner to caution the woman against leaving her children similarly in the future. This Mr Powning did. If (he said) such a thing happened again it would be a very serious matter for her.



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