Smith, James

Smith, James         1886 October 23rd           Shrewton

Mr R A Wilson held an inquest on Monday at the house of Mr Thomas Knight, Shrewton, relative to the death of James Talbot Smith, labourer, of Shrewton, who committed suicide by jumping down a well on Saturday night or early on Sunday morning, and who on the preceding Friday cut his throat, but the wound inflicted was not a very serious one, being about an inch in length and not extending in depth more than just through the skin. We understand that in his younger days the deceased was a farmer in very good circumstances. He was, it seems, put into a farm by a relative and ran through a large sum of money. After that he had several windfalls, but this money also disappeared and he got into such reduced circumstances that for some time before his death he was in receipt of parish relief.

James Payne, labourer, of Shrewton, said that on Sunday morning he was asked to go down a well at the back of Smith’s house into which he was supposed to have thrown himself. He went down and found the deceased in the water at the bottom. Deceased had only his night shirt on. Witness assisted to bring him up.

John Smith, bricklayer, Fisherton, said that the deceased was his father and was 76 years of age. Witness went to his father’s house on Saturday night as he had heard that he was ill. He found him in his usual state of health and he talked rationally. Witness had heard that he had attempted to cut his throat on Friday morning, and he spoke to him about it. The deceased replied that something came over him at the time but he should not do it again. Deceased talked to him about religion and said that he was saved. They went to bed about 11.30. Witness’s mother was in the same bed as his father. When witness went to bed he asked for the key of the house to lock up the latter. Witness dropped off to sleep and woke up at six o’clock in the morning, when he found that deceased was not in the room. He went to the well and found that the cover was off. Subsequently deceased was found dead in the well.

Charles Eddowes, surgeon residing at Shrewton, said that he had seen deceased walking about, but his attention had not been particularly drawn to him. He heard that he had cut his throat on Friday morning and his (witness’s) son attended him. Witness reported that it was a slight cut and he (witness’s son) stitched it up. Witness himself saw the deceased during the day. The cut was very superficial. The deceased made no answer to his questions as to what induced him to do such a foolish thing. He appeared melancholy, but said that there was nothing troubling him and he had no complaint to make. He was in receipt of parish relief. Witness cautioned him that the police would take him into custody if he attempted anything of the kind.

The jury found that the deceased committed suicide whilst suffering from temporary insanity.


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