Brewer, Tom

Brewer, Tom        1888 July 14th        Cranborne

Death from Hydrophobia

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, Mr G Smith (the City Coroner) held an inquest at the Infirmary touching the death of Tom Brewer, of Cranborne, who died in the Institution named on Tuesday morning, from hydrophobia. Mr T Scamell was appointed foreman of the jury.

The Coroner said that the deceased, Tom Brewer, was brought to the Infirmary on Sunday night from Cranborne, where he had been suffering from debility and dysentery. He was a soldier and recently came home from India. He was invalided home and sent to Netley Hospital. On getting better he was sent to Chatham and thence to his father’s house at Cranborne where he was taken ill with the complaint he had mentioned. He was brought to the Infirmary and died on Tuesday. There would be medical evidence brought before them by Mr Wilkes and the House Surgeon, who had had a post mortem examination, and who thought there was no doubt that death was due to hydrophobia. What he wanted to do was to satisfy the public in Salisbury that there was no case in the city.

The jury having viewed the body,

William David Wilkes, surgeon, was called. He said deceased was brought into the Infirmary between 10 and 11 on Sunday night. He was sent by a surgeon of Cranborne and was suffering from symptoms of hydrophobia. His history was that he had been a soldier in the 2nd Hampshire Regiment in India for five years. He was present in the Burmah War and was invalided home, having for some time suffered from dysentery. On the 21st of April last he was sent to join his regiment at Chatham and continued there till the 30th June when he was placed in the Army Reserve, and returned home. When questioned, deceased had no recollection of being bitten by any animal. The symptoms rapidly developed and it was considered a hopeless case. It proved fatal about half-past one on Tuesday morning. At the post mortem examination yesterday (Wednesday) there was nothing they could discover as to the cause of death from any unusual disease. In these cases of hydrophobia nothing could be found on the ordinary inspection, but lately microscopical observations, which required time, revealed causes which probably existed in this case. The staff felt there was no doubt it was a case of genuine hydrophobia.

Levi Stephenson Luckham , house surgeon at the Infirmary, next gave evidence. He deposed to seeing deceased in the casualty ward about half past ten on Sunday last. He had a letter from Mr Van, a surgeon, of Cranborne, saying that he was suffering from symptoms of hydrophobia, and witness admitted him at once. Deceased then wore an anxious look but was perfectly sensible. He was not able to remember having been injured by the bite of a dog or any other animal. When some milk was offered to him he became very excited and only with great trouble was able to gulp down a mouthful. He was fairly collected until 3pm on Monday, when the paroxysms became very violent and he attempted to bite the nurses. At four o’clock on Tuesday morning witness was called up as he had become much more violent. He gradually became exhausted and died about half past one. On Wednesday, in the presence of Mr Wilkes, witness made a post mortem examination which to the naked eye revealed no cause of death. He preserved some of the brain and spinal cord and sent it to Mr Victor Horsley, Secretary of the Government Commission on Hydrophobia, who had promised to send him a report of the microscopical examination. He concurred with Mr Wilkes that it was a case of hydrophobia. They judged from the symptoms that the man showed whilst he was there.

The Coroner : What were those symptoms?

Witness : It was impossible the first evening to show him any vessel in which there was liquid. Even the sound of liquid brought on these extreme paroxysms. These symptoms would not be found in any other disease that I know of.

The Coroner : Are you of opinion that he was suffering from hydrophobia when brought to the Infirmary?

Witness : Yes, I am.

Henry Brewer, father of the deceased, said that the latter was 27 years of age. He was a soldier in the 2nd Hants Regiment. He was in the Burmese War and was invalided home to the Netley Hospital. He got better and was sent to Chatham, whence he came home, having obtained his discharge. He came to Cranborne on Saturday week. He appeared in pretty good health and did not complain at all. He did not sleep at home but with a cousin. Last Sunday he first complained of being unwell, feeling sick. He saw Dr Van the same day and then came off to the Infirmary. He never stated to witness that he had received any bite or lick from any animal.

Mr Luckham was recalled. He stated that he found a scar above the left elbow of the deceased, which was done before the latter entered the army. He also found a small scar on the left index finger and another on the back of the hand, which must have been done a long time previously.

The father of the deceased observed that he thought he could recollect that when deceased was a boy.

Charles Butler said that he brought the deceased to the Infirmary. He saw him last Saturday afternoon at Daggons Road, and deceased complained that he had a rising in the throat, which he thought resulted from smoking. He told witness that he had never been bitten by a dog or cat or any other animal. On the way to the Infirmary he was very timid of the water at Fordingbridge. He said, “I can’t stand water.” He seemed perfectly sensible. They came to some more water, he thought , between Downton and Salisbury. Deceased was looking at it and witness said, “If I was you, Tom, I would not look at the water.” The deceased remarked that he was looking at it to see how it made him feel, and he added, “I can stand it better now.”

The Coroner, addressing the jury, said they had heard the medical testimony and other witnesses. It seemed to him that there was no doubt that this man died from hydrophobia. He thought they would be right in saying that and appending a statement that there was no evidence how or by what means he became infected with it.

Mr Scamell thought it would be well to ascertain whether the deceased came into Salisbury between the time he returned to his home and the time he was brought to the Infirmary.

The father of the deceased was questioned on the point. He stated that he went to Winchester on Thursday, he thought, and came this way by train. He did not stay in Salisbury.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the suggestion of the Coroner.

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