Wilmot, Emily

Wilmot, Emily       1884 September 13th          Winterbourne

Shocking Death of a Salisbury Lady at Winterbourne

A very shocking occurrence at Winterbourne Gunner early on Tuesday morning considerably shocked the city of Salisbury, or, at least, a portion of it. The wife of Mr Samuel Noke Wilmot, the very highly respected collector of the Salisbury Gas Company, having escaped from the home in the Southampton-road, of which her medical affliction had made her and a servant the sole occupants, had walked to Winterbourne Gunner and there cut short her life by one decisive dreadful act. The act was evidently deliberate. It was committed at 9.25. For more than an hour previous to that the deceased lady was seen in the neighbourhood of the spot where the suicide was committed.

At last, she reached the Winterbourne railway arch. Depositing her bag, umbrella, jacket, and hat in the highway, she clambered up the bank and then threw herself in front of an approaching train (which happened to be the 6.20 down goods), her head being on or near the metals. The train itself did not go over her, but the guard’s iron struck the head a fearful blow, death being instantaneous.

Some men working about a quarter-of-a-mile distant witnessed the act. They at once rushed to the spot; but no assistance was required. PC Potter arrived on the scene a few minutes later. He found the deceased lying on her face on the left side of the down line about a yard from the metals, her left hand clutching her breast. The scalp of the head had been cut clean off; and the brain had been propelled about a yard from where the body lay. Her clothing near the feet were wet, evidently the result of an early morning walk among the fields.

At once the body was removed to the “New” inn, Winterbourne Dauntsey. On the clothes being searched, a number of letters were found, the majority tied in a small parcel and addressed to a city solicitor. The contents of these, we have been since told, only too pointedly evidenced the state of the lady’s mind. That, however, had been apparent to medical men for some time. It was not till some hours later in the day that the news was broken to Mr Wilmot. The old gentleman, himself very feeble in health, was very much shocked. The sympathy, afterwards expressed for him in his great trial, was general.

The inquest on the body was held at the “New” inn, Winterbourne Dauntsey, in the afternoon, by Mr Richard Wilson (coroner for this district). Mr Saunders was foreman of the jury. Inspector Oyler, of the South-Western Railway Company’s police, was present as representing that company; and Mr Berry, of Salisbury, brother-in-law to Mr Wilmot, represented the family of the deceased.

The first witness called was William Viney. He stated : I live at Broken Cross near Ford and am a ganger on the South Western Railway. At about 25 minutes past nine this morning I saw the deceased as I was at work on the line. She was then a quarter-of-a-mile from where I was at work, being near the railway arch. Previous to this I had seen her in the highway at about a mile and a quarter from Porton. As I observed her on the line my attention was also attracted by an approaching train. Though I was nearly a quarter-of-a-mile off I could see her deliberately stretch herself from the bank onto the line, her head being on the rail. The train was then almost upon her. I saw the train apparently crash over her. I and my men ran at once to the spot. I then saw that the train had not run over her, but that the guard’s iron had struck her. Death must have been instantaneous. Afterwards I saw that her hat, jacket, umbrella and a leather bag had been left down in the road; it was left by the side of the wing wall of the arch.

George Viney, platelayer in the employ of the company, residing at Winterbourne Earls, stated : This morning I was working about 50 yards from the last witness. I did not myself see the occurrence. I, however, at once went to the spot and saw the body.

Mr Edward Berry, porkbutcher, of Milford-street, Salisbury, deposed : I recognise the body as that of Mrs Wilmot. She was the wife of Samuel Noke Wilmot. Her age was 49. I had not seen her for nearly two months. On the last time I saw her she was in her usual state of health. During this last fortnight, in consequence of her mental health, she did not live with her husband, or, rather, she remained in her husband’s house, but Mr Wilmot lived away.

Mr William Martin Coates, surgeon, of Salisbury, said : I have seen the body, and I identify it as that of Mrs Wilmot. I knew the deceased, having attended her professionally for many years. I think I saw her last about a fortnight ago. She was then quite insane. The illness for which I attended her was imaginary on her part. Until a fortnight ago her insanity did not show any danger to herself or others. Then she threatened to destroy herself. I communicated with her husband and two of her trustees, suggesting that she should be placed in seclusion. Two medical men saw her with a view of giving certificates. It went no farther because, I think, one of the trustees, a Mr Long, did not consider her insane. That is only an idea of mine. This trustee was either her uncle or cousin. I considered her quite insane; so much so that I recommended Mr Wilmot to live apart from her.

This was the whole of the evidence. The Coroner, in summing up, said the jury could not have much difficulty in determining as to the cause of death. The act was evidently deliberate. Then came the question as to what state of mind she was in at the time. Mr Coates’ evidence – the evidence of a medical man of great experience – relieved them from any difficulty in answering that.

The Foreman : I think Mr Long ought not to have opposed the opinion of the medical men. I think he’s to blame.

The Coroner : I don’t think we will enter into a discussion as to the Lunacy Laws after Mrs Weldon’s revelations.

Mr Coates : He was not bound to.

The Coroner : Your duty, gentlemen, is to inquire the cause of death. You have no doubt as to that.

The Foreman : Not the slightest. We believe that she committed suicide whilst of unsound mind.

The Coroner : I mean to say the evidence is rather meagre for us to go into further questions as to whether she ought to have been put away or not. It is hardly indeed within our province.

The verdict was then entered : “Committed suicide whilst in a state of insanity.”

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