Jones, Henry 1884 July 26th
Mr Henry Jones, of Exeter-street, Salisbury, came by his death in a shocking manner on Monday morning. The deceased was cleaning the firearms belonging to Captain Graham, the adjutant of the Wilts Yeomanry, who occupied apartments at his house, when a charge from a revolver, which he then held in his hand, entered his right chest and traversed to the left, the bullet striking against a rib. The unfortunate man fell down dead. At the time there was a considerable question whether the deed was by accident or by design. The position of the wound, the manner in which the pistol would have to be held to be cleaned, the demeanour of the deceased during the morning, point to an accidental cause.
Mr Jones himself was well-known in the city. A few years since he carried on business as a brewer. During his retirement his only activity was in the cause of the Tichborne claimant, in whose honesty he had a firm and unflinching faith. To Mr Jones’ energy in the cause must be attributed the advent of Dr Kenealy to the city and the remarkable gathering which assembled to hear and to laugh at the energetic advocate in the Market-place. Every phase of the question he followed; and every point in favour of the Claimant was to him a matter of personal rejoicing.
The inquest was held at the Council Chamber in the afternoon, by Mr George Smith (city coroner). Mr Berry was foreman of the jury. Mr A Coates was present as representing the family. In opening the inquiry Mr Smith said he believed sufficient evidence would be adduced to show that the death was the result of an accident.
The first witness called was Mrs M A Jones. She stated : I reside at 97, Exeter-street. The deceased was my husband, and was 56 or 57 years of age. I was in the kitchen this morning at about half-past ten or eleven. Mr daughter was in the next room but in sight of the kitchen. My husband was in the kitchen, and was engaged in cleaning and oiling some firearms belonging to Captain Graham. It was a part of his duty to occasionally see to these arms. There was, I believe, a pistol among the arms. During his work he talked in an ordinary manner. His back was to me. He appeared neither excited nor depressed. Nothing occurred whatever – either then or previously – to lead me to think he would commit suicide. I was suddenly frightened by a loud explosion. Just at that moment my husband was not talking, but a few minutes before he had been talking to a boy who assisted in the house, explaining to him the method of cleaning the arms. Immediately the explosion took place he exclaimed “Oh,” and fell down. I think he died at once, though I did not know it at the time. I ran to Capt. Graham, who came down, and at once, I think, saw that he was dead. I had never heard my husband threaten to commit suicide.
By Mr Coates : These firearms were usually kept in Captain Graham’s room, and were not in my husband’s custody except for the purpose of cleaning. I was in the kitchen when the firearms were brought in by the boy who fetched them, and I believe the deceased had cleaned a gun and a carbine before he took up the pistol. I saw my husband cleaning the pistol with taw and oil; but I could not say which way it was pointed. He had not lately been depressed. This morning he was in his usual state of health.
By the Foreman : I had seen no cartridges about the room, nor any in my husband’s hand.
The Coroner : How long was the boy gone for the arms? Only a minute or two.
You don’t think he had time to put a cartridge in the pistol? Oh, no.
Witness added that she never knew that the arms were kept loaded.
Mr Harcourt Coates, surgeon, of Salisbury, deposed that that morning at about half-past twelve he was called upon to go and see the deceased at his house. On examining the deceased – who was lying on his back, quite dead, the body, however, being still warm – he saw a pool of blood under his head, and a bullet-wound through the right chest wall, between two of the lower ribs. On turning him over, he found the bullet under the skin at the back of the left lung where it had been stopped by striking a rib, which was fractured. He extracted the bullet, which he handed to Mr Supt Mathews.
The Coroner : Is it likely that a person intending to commit suicide would point a pistol in this position in which this was pointed? No. It might not have killed him. The pistol must have been held somehow right across, because the wound I found was on the right side, and I took out the bullet on the left side. The heart was not in the line of fire. What I saw, and from the circumstances related to me, I should say the wound was accidental.
By Mr A Coates : My opinion is formed from the nature of the wound, the general circumstances, and the fact that the pistol must have been held towards the body to be properly cleaned.
By the Coroner : The immediate cause of death was hemorrhage from the lung.
Captain Henry Graham, adjutant of the Wiltshire Yeomanry, said he was a lodger at the house which belonged to Mr Jones. Mrs Jones came to him that morning at about half-past eleven and informed him of the accident. On going into the kitchen he found the deceased lying on the floor. He at once saw he was dead; and he immediately took means for sending for a doctor. It was a part of the deceased’s duty to clean his gun; he , however, never knew him, with one exception, clean the pistol. He never instructed him to clean it excepting on that one previous occasion. He was not in the habit of keeping the pistol loaded. It usually hung over the mantelpiece in his bedroom. He last examined it on Tuesday afternoon; and then, to the best of his belief, the whole of the chambers were unloaded. The ammunition belonging to the pistol was kept about in different places; but he believed there was some on the mantel-piece over which it was kept. Anybody that had access to the room might have loaded the pistol from that ammunition.
Had you ever found the pistol loaded when you thought it unloaded? Yes, once. Several years ago I found it loaded, although I had believed it to be unloaded at the time. I am certain that I never loaded the pistol since Tuesday. I wish to state the reason I then examined it was to see that it was unloaded.
Capt. Graham added that he could not say whether the deceased understood his one request to clean the pistol as a general request to do it when deceased also cleaned the carbine without instructions from him.
By Mr Coates : He examined the pistol during the course of a journey from his home in Lancashire to Salisbury. He carried the pistol in his carpet-bag in which there was ammunition. The bag was open. Everyone connected with deceased’s house had access to his bedroom in which he kept the pistol. He saw Mr Jones that morning, and there was nothing in his demeanour to strike him as unusual.
By a juror ; The pistol was very easy to load, but once a cartridge was in it would be very difficult to take it out. He did not recollect having fired the pistol since he had been in Salisbury.
A juror : The person who loaded it must have been a person of experience in these matters. The breech is very baffling.
Mr Supt Mathews stated that he was sent for that morning at about half past eleven to go to Mr Jones’ house. On arriving there he found the deceased lying in a pool of blood on the floor; he was quite dead. The pistol he found lying on the table. A saucer containing oil, a cleaning brush and oil rag were also on the table; and also an opened case containing a gun and carbine. The gun and carbine had, he should say, just been cleaned, and the pistol oiled. On examining the pistol (a six-chambered one) he found the remains of a cartridge in one of the chambers. On searching the body he found three five pound notes, a sovereign in gold, four shillings in silver, and 2½d in coppers; also an old coin. There were no cartridges on the table, and none in the deceased’s pockets.
There being no evidence as to how the pistol had become loaded, it was thought advisable to send for the boy, who, it was stated by Mrs Jones, had fetched the weapons, and who, it was thought, might have in a moment of inquisitiveness put the cartridge into the revolver. This lad, who is named James Street, stated that that morning at about quarter past eleven the deceased asked him to go and fetch Captain Graham’s firearms that he might dust them. He found the arms in a small place next to the kitchen – not in Captain Graham’s room. The pistol he never saw kept anywhere but there; it was always kept in the gun case. He never saw it before that morning.
The Coroner : You never saw it in Captain Graham’s room? No, sir.
You never fetched it before? No, sir.
Did Mr Jones place it there? I don’t know.
Did you see it the day before? I saw the locked gun case there, in which it is kept.
When he brought the case to Mr Jones he saw him open it, and take the gun out. He did not see Mr Jones take anything else out.
Captain Graham : It would be impossible to have the pistol locked in that case.
Witness, continuing, said that he went out after Mr Jones took out the gun to “wash up.” Afterwards he saw the pistol in Mr Jones’ hands, and he (the deceased) asked him if he had ever cleaned one. He told him he had not. He had occasionally seen cartridges in the Captain’s room.
The Coroner : Have you ever loaded a pistol? No, sir.
Did you ever put a cartridge in this pistol? No, sir.
Will you swear to that? Yes, sir.
The pistol was then given the boy and he asked if he knew how to load it. After fumbling with it a long time, during which he hazarded the opinion that the top of the barrel was where it was loaded, he discovered the breech.
Replying to Mr Coates, he re-asserted that he never saw the pistol in Captain Graham’s bedroom. He had seen cartridges about; but he had never touched either.
The witness – who had evidently mistaken the questions, and confused the pistol with the gun or carbine – afterwards said that his first remark as to seeing the pistol in the case was a mistake. He meant the gun. He first saw the pistol in Mr Jones’ hands.
The Coroner : You only brought the case to Mr Jones? Yes.
So that Mr Jones must have got the carbine and pistol himself? Yes, I think so.
The boy then, in reply to a juror, recalled his previous statement as to never having seen the pistol before. He said that he had seen it hanging in Captain Graham’s bedroom. On being asked when, he replied “On Friday.”
A juror pointed out that on that day it was in Captain Graham’s custody, he not having returned from Lancashire. It was, however, stated that Captain Graham had another pistol in a case in the sitting room. The boy evidently confused the two. The boy added that Mr Jones might have gone up to Captain Graham’s bedroom for the pistol, without his having seen him.
After a brief consultation, the jury returned a verdict of “accidental Death.”