Hibberd, Dinah

Hibberd, Dinah        1888 September 8th


Distressing Revelations at the Inquest


At the London Inn on Friday afternoon, Mr George Smith, the city coroner, opened an inquiry relative to the decease of Dinah Hibberd, which took place on the previous Wednesday. The case was, as will be seen from the evidence, an extremely painful one. Mr T Scamell was chosen foreman of the jury.

The Coroner said that the deceased was the wife of George Hibberd, who would be a witness before them. He (the Coroner) must tell them that the medical man who attended Mrs Hibberd in her last illness certified as to the cause of death. What that certificate was he did not know, but he would tell them in his evidence presently, but friends came to him (the Coroner) with the Superintendent that morning stating that they wished an inquest to be held upon the body of the deceased, consequently he thought it his duty to hold one. It was alleged to him that there were good reasons why this inquiry should be held and it would be for them to inquire what those reasons were and their verdict would be given accordingly.

Hester Harris was the first witness. She said that she lived at East Harnham. She was a married woman; her husband came backwards and forwards to the Post Office, she supposed they called him a mail man. The deceased was witness’s sister. Witness last saw her alive on Tuesday afternoon. She had a few minutes conversation with her; not much; deceased was not awake long enough, she was so drowsy. She complained a great deal of her stomach. She said that the pain was caused by George. “He done it,” she said; twice she told witness so. Deceased meant her husband by “George.” She did not then say what he did. It was on Wednesday, August 22nd, that she told witness how he had used her. On that day (Aug 22) she told witness that he knelt on her stomach and fell across her legs.

The Coroner : Had they been quarrelling or anything?

Witness : No sir, she said it was in the night at half past 12.

Had she been suffering from illness before that? Yes, sir, she had been ill for a long time.

Did any medical man attend her? Yes sir, Mr Kelland in the first place.

Who attended her afterwards? I don’t know the gentleman’s name, sir; but someone for Mr Kelland.

Has she ever complained to you before of ill treatment on the part of her husband? Not since she has been ill. The greater part after she was ill was that he did not get her food.

Before she was ill? Before and after.

Did she complain to you that she had not sufficient food? O yes, sir! a great many times.

Who was living in the house with her and her husband? Her son. Some weeks ago he got married. Then they were alone all but a little girl.

Which son was that? The youngest son, Tom.

The little girl, I suppose, waited upon them? Well sir, she was not old enough. It was the daughter’s little girl, she was only six years old.

Did she complain to you further? Did she say anything to you about it?

Witness : When he ill-used her?

The Coroner : Yes.

Witness : She told me about his pushing of her and dragging her about the bed the same night, and she screamed murder, she said, as loudly as she was able.

Do you know what night it was this happened? It was on the Monday night before the 22nd, in the night. She thought he would have killed her, she said.

Did she say he struck her at all? O yes, sir! before.

How long has she been so ill that she had been obliged to keep her bed? She has kept her bed for – I don’t know how many weeks; not above three weeks, I think, sir.

Then he has not struck her for three weeks? I don’t think he has struck her since she has been so very ill. She has never complained of it.

The Coroner : The jury and myself have examined the body and found several bruises upon it.

Witness : Yes sir.

The Coroner : How do you account for those? She showed it to me and told me he did it, it was in pushing her or pulling her about somehow.

Which bruise? On the arm.

But she did not say how it was done? No, sir; she told me he did it but did not say how.

Is there anything else you can tell the jury about it? I don’t think there is, sir.

Mr Scamell : I should like to ask if you know whether he came home tipsy that night?

Witness : She told me he was tipsy.

And has she complained to you previously – in years gone by – of his keeping her short of necessities? Yes.

And also ill usage? Repeatedly, and striking her as well.

That is years ago? For a long time.

The Coroner : Did she complain to you a long time since of his neglect to find her food?

Witness : All last winter she did come to me repeatedly and tell me.

And also of ill usage and striking? Yes, sir.

Was there any food in the house? Can you tell us that? I don’t think so; if there was it was got for his son. He provided his food. What the son gave her to provide food for him with they all lived off of, for he spent all his money in drink, she told me.

Mr Scamell : This son Tom has been very kind to his mother.

Witness : He has.

How long has he been married? Six or seven weeks, I think. I don’t think it is more than that.

Teresa Shears, wife of James Shears, laborer, said that she lived at No 2, Gas lane, and the deceased at No 8. She often saw the deceased. The latter died at 20 minutes to four on Wednesday. Witness was with her when she died, and had been there all the day. She was also there on Tuesday. Deceased, on the day she died, called for witness to take hold of her hand. She did not say anything to her about the bruises. Witness did not see any food. She did not search the house. There were no necessaries at all for her except a little jam on the table. The husband sat with the deceased a considerable time whilst witness was with her, but was not there when she died.

The Coroner : He brought no food into the house, did he? No sir, I did not see him bring any.

Did he in your presence say whether he would get her some food? No sir, he did not say anything about her having anything at all. All he was for giving her was some medicine, but she was gone too far for that.

Mr Scamell : How long were you with her on Tuesday? The biggest part of Tuesday. At ten o’clock the son came in and asked me if I would mind going in if I should be wanted. I said I would. I went up and I remained with her until three o’clock on Tuesday morning.

During the time you were there Tuesday, what nourishment was there to give her provided she wanted any? I did not see anything there; only a little jam in a tea cup.

Did she ask for anything? Nothing but the jam just to wet her lips.

The witness further said that she would not have anything but jam; she could not swallow it. They all asked her. They would have got her some if she had wanted it.

A Juryman : Do you know if her husband had supplied her with nourishment if she could take it? He had nothing to do it with.

Would he have troubled to get her some? I do not know about that.

The Coroner : Whenever you have gone in there, have you seen food? O yes! Of course they did not get the best.

Still you have seen food? Yes, I have.

Have you ever seen her husband give her food? No, I was not there much meal times.

What sort of food was it? Bread and butter and tea and the like of that.

Mary Cardy, wife of Frank Cardy, laborer, said that she lived in Shakespeare Place, Windsor Street, Fisherton. The deceased was her husband’s sister. Witness last saw her alive on the 29th of August. She was at her house. Witness saw some bruises on the deceased on the 21st of August and on Wednesday last (August 29) deceased told her that they were caused by her husband. She said that she had fought with him for three hours on the 21st August and she called murder.

The witness further stated that the deceased told her that her husband knelt on her stomach.

In reply to further questions she said that after the deceased was knelt upon she could keep scarcely anything down. The husband did not take money home to buy food for her. She depended upon one and another took in.

The Coroner : Then her husband did not provide food for her? No sir, he did not.

Did she ever complain to you that she had not food? Yes, sir.

More than once? She complained that he did not bring home any money at all, more than once or twice.

Has she ever complained to you of his ill-treatment? Yes sir, but not until I saw the bruises myself on her.

Do you know what her age was? 51, last birthday.

In reply to Mr Scamell the witness said she thought the husband of the deceased was a good tradesman. She thought that he had done scarcely anything since he had a seizure.

A Juryman observed that the husband told him once that he had something the matter with his finger or hand so that he could not work.

Mr Scamell said that his heart was bad rather.

In answer to the Coroner the witness stated that on the 21st of August the deceased was seriously ill. She was better that day than she had been.

Tom Hibberd, laborer, living at 9, St Thomas’s Row, Milford Hill, a son of the deceased, said that he would have been married six weeks to-morrow (Saturday, Sept 1). He last saw his mother alive about one o’clock on Wednesday. On August 22nd she said to him and his wife that she was served cruelly the night before. He asked her what was up. She said that his father bruised her arm. His uncle sent for him just afterwards and asked what they thought they had better do. Witness said he thought that they had better have a doctor to examine her the next morning. Witness asked his mother to show him (witness) her bruises. He only saw one on the right arm. He did not wish to see the one on the shoulder because they said it was so bad.

The Coroner : Did she state how she came by these bruises? She said it was father did it.

The witness was asked whether his father and mother lived amicably or quarrelled at the time he was living in the same house, whereupon he stated that since his father had his illness he had taken to drink.

The Coroner : What illness was that? A seizure.

Has he used your mother badly since then? I have seen him strike her, but she always kept things from me because she should keep peace and quietness.

She never told you what happened between them? No, sir.

Do you happen to know that he did use her badly? I could hear him using bad language towards her.

Did he ever bring her any money to get nourishment? Very little, sir. Once upon a time he might do so.

What was “once upon a time?” what would that imply? It might be once in a month or perhaps more than that.

What would he give her on these occasions? I can’t say.

Did he give her £1 or £2? That’s as much as she has had since he has been ill. It might be 6d or 1s, or perhaps less. Last time I know mother told me he gave her a shilling. That was when he went to a funeral.

Is it your opinion that your mother had not sufficient nourishment? Not then, sir,

Within your own mind, from what you could see at home, were you satisfied she would have been supported if you had not been at home? No sir, not with father, unless he had altered.

Did she have any means besides what you gave her or her husband brought her? She had nothing but what I gave her.

Provided you had not been at home that shilling he gave her was all the money she would have had for a month? I dare say it would because there was no other money coming in but what he earned.

A Juryman : Is your father able to work? He says he is not, but he earns a good many halfpence, I think, in the run of the week.

You said he had a seizure. Would not that prevent him working at his trade? It would in making any heavy work, but light work he could do very well.

Could he have got plenty of that if he had liked? I don’t know that he tried.

If he had tried do you think he would have got some? I can’t say.

He used to have a very fair share of work? O yes!

Mr Vincent : When your mother died was there any food in the house? O yes! We provided her. We left him to look after himself.

Mr Raindle asked the witness if his father had not attended several funerals, and witness having replied in the affirmative, he (Mr Raindle) remarked that if he was able to do that he was an able bodied man, and the witness said, “O yes! of course; you want to be strong in your right hand in shoe making.”

In reply to another juryman the witness said that his mother had been in a weak state for two or three years.

The Juryman : You think it is a good deal through her not having proper nourishment? I think so. She has said no-one knew but herself what she went through. I could not do more than I did. I could not go home and eat my own meals and see my mother have nothing.

In reply to Mr Fowler witness said, “If I heard father go on to mother I interfered and that is why he was against me. He has given me a very bad character in the town. If I had known he had ill-treated her like he used to I should have had her away. I begged her to leave him some time ago. I told her we would live together if she would only take and leave him.”

Mr Knight : Then you are satisfied that he neglected her very much? O, yes!

The Coroner (who was deeply and visibly affected) asked the jury if they would like him to express to the witness their approval of his conduct, and a hearty reply in the affirmative having been given Mr Smith, addressing the witness, said : They wish me to express their satisfaction that you have done all you could to maintain and support your mother.

A juryman : I think we are all very well satisfied.

Mr Scamell observed that the witness stated that had his mother left none of this would have happened.

The witness remarked that his mother said she would stay with her husband to the last.

Mr Lywood : You think your father ill-used your mother more than since you left than before? Yes sir.

The witness said that he did not wish to hurt his father in any way.

Eliza Shergold, widow, in service at Mr Evans’s, Fisherton, said that she was the eldest daughter of the deceased. She last saw her mother alive on Wednesday morning, when she was very ill.

The Coroner : Did you have any conversation with her? Yes sir.

What did she say? She told me she was dying, and she was dying through starvation.

Did she say that her husband did not provide her with sufficient food? Did she mention his name at all? Mother told me father had not given her food, and I took her food myself.

Did she complain to you of his ill-treatment of her? Yes sir.

Frequently? Yes sir.

Did she particularise the ill-treatment? Yes, sir, mother showed me the bruises.

And did she say your father had done it? She told me he did it and she was dying from father’s treatment.

Mr Scamell : Did your mother say in what way he ill-used her? Mother told me that he pinched her and beat her and knelt on her.

Had he ill-used her previously? Yes, sir, he had. I never went home without mother always telling me he had been ill-using her. She told me she was in dread of her life.

Mr Vincent : Is it your father, or step-father? My own father, sir.

In reply to another juryman the witness said her mother told her that since her brother was married she had suffered a great deal more.

George Thomas Birkett, medical practitioner, said that until Tuesday last (Aug 28) he was locum tenens for Dr Kelland. He had attended the deceased for about a month. Dr Kelland attended her before that for some considerable time. She suffered from dropsy and a weak heart.

The Coroner : Was that caused by want of food, do you think? O, no!

Or from any ill-treatment. Did you examine the body? Yes, I did.

Did you see a lot of bruises upon it? I did.

Would they at all affect your opinion as to the cause of death? No, I do not think they would.

Did you see them before death? I did.

What, in your opinion, was the cause of death? About a week ago she began to get weaker and in the last few days lung complications set in.

What was your certificate of the cause of death? Heart disease.

But would not the fact of her being ill-treated tend to cause her death if she had heart disease? Supposing she had been fighting with her husband for three hours would not excitement naturally tend to death? It would; O yes!

Had dropsy anything to do with the cause of death? No. Well, of course, it was one of the symptoms.

You still think it was heart disease which was the cause of death? A weak heart. Dropsy was caused by a weak heart.

Would want of nourishment also tend to cause death to a person with a weak heart? It would be better if she had it. She did not want a great lot.

Would not want of nourishment tend to make her heart weaker? If the individual is weak the heart necessarily becomes weaker does it not? Certainly, but she would not require a lot of food. Seeing she was in bed she would want light food.

Supposing she had no food at all? O certainly; of course.

Have you examined the body since she has been dead? Yes.

Did you find she was a well nourished woman who had had good nourishment or very little? Well, she must have had some nourishment.

Yes, but sufficient to maintain her in health? From the outward appearance there is no evidence to show that she has not had enough.

Supt Mathews (to the Coroner) : Will you ask the doctor whether he has not ordered extra nourishment on account of her weak state?

The Coroner : Is that so? Yes.

You were of opinion then that she had not had sufficient nourishment? I could not say.

But have you ordered more nourishment? Of course I do not know whether she got it or not.

The Coroner : At the time you ordered it you must have known she had not sufficient otherwise you would not have ordered it.

Witness : Of course I knew that she would require it.

What did you order her? Milk, beef tea and brandy I think it was.

Did you order that from the Union? No, I told the relatives to get it.

You did not know whether she had it or not? No, I did not.

Mr Scamell : Did she ever complain to you that she could not get nourishment? Yes.

In what way did she complain? She said her husband was not working and did not bring in any money and she could not get it, they had not the means of getting it.

Did she ever ask you to provide her with any nourishment? No.

She did not? No.

Mr Scamell said it was in the power of the witness, if the deceased asked him for nourishment, to order it without going to the relieving officer.

Witness : Yes, but she did not ask me to provide her. She said that she did not get it.

The Coroner : You as a medical man I should think would have ordered it.

Supt Mathews said this case was under the notice of the Guardians and the Guardians ordered the woman to receive 2s 6d a week and any extra nourishment she required. There was a guardian down stairs who could state what the order made was.

Mr Raindle : Has she ever received it?

Mr Mathews : I can’t say sir, I don’t believe the woman had.

The Coroner : Who applied to the relieving officer? I don’t know. It was brought before the Guardians.

The medical witness said he told them to see the Guardians about having it.

Mr Scamell : Do you mean to tell me that when that woman, seeing the state she was in, applied to you for nourishment, you did not order it?

Witness : She did not apply to me for nourishment.

Mr Scamell : You said she did.

Witness : I said she complained. The relatives said they would see the relieving officer. I told the relatives to apply yo the relieving officer and they said they would see to it.

The Coroner : Why go that roundabout way with it? Why not see to it yourself?

Witness : I did not know whether the man could do it or not.

The Coroner : Every parish has a relieving officer.

Witness : Yes, but I did not know whether the husband was working or not.

The Coroner : You might have inquired, surely.

Mr Raindle : Did you not see the husband at all? Very occasionally.

Mr Scamell : She evidently applied for this nourishment.

Witness : No. If she had asked me I would have given it.

Mr Scamell : I understand she did ask.

Witness : She complained.

The Coroner : In her weak state it was the province of the medical man, I should think, to order her some then and there, because if as a medical man he found nourishment was necessary for her cure surely he would make the order.

Witness : But one of the relatives said he would go and see one of the guardians and see what they could do to get it.

Mr Scamell : You see you were medical officer for the time being when Mr Kelland was out of town and if this woman was in a weak state and required nourishment it was your duty to order it at once.

The Coroner : Whatever the doctor orders the guardians must give it.

Witness : Yes, but they took it out of my hands.

Mr Scamell : Who took it out of your hands?

Witness : I don’t know the name. Mrs Hibberd’s brother’s wife, I believe. They came down and saw me and said they would go to one of the guardians.

Mr Scamell : That is all right but for the time being you are the relieving officer.

Witness : She was getting milk and brandy. I saw it on the table. I think she was getting beef tea. They had got it from the neighbours or something like that or some of the relations.

Mr Scamell : If the husband did not provide it, which she told you, she must not be trusted to charity from neighbours. We pay rates and taxes on purpose for doctors to give those things necessary to people who are dying. That’s the point, I think.

The Coroner : The poor creature has died and it was from want of nourishment to a certain extent.

Mr Lywood ; Do you know, doctor, you could provide nourishment without applying? Do you know that yourself, really?

Witness : I beg your pardon; I do not quite understand the question.

The Coroner : Are you aware as a medical man you had power to make an order for nourishment for her without applying to the guardians?


Witness : Yes.

Mr Lywood : Why hadn’t you done so?

Witness : Because she was getting it. I was not quite sure on that point unless she was a widow or her husband ill or something like that.

Mr Raindle : Why didn’t you explain it to the husband and tell him he must get some more nourishment for his wife?

Witness : I left it to the relations. They did not complain until the very last about this nourishment.

Mr Scamell : Were you attending her for any other disease or complaint besides all you have related to the Coroner?

Witness : Before the acute symptoms set in she was very weak and had been suffering from great debility, and her legs used to swell occasionally and she had signs of heart disease.

The Coroner : What would induce the debility and weakness?

Witness : It may be induced by a weak heart.

Mr Fowler : Then this debility would be constitutional, would it not? Yes; I do not know how long Dr Kelland had been attending her.

Mr Vincent : Did you see those bruises on her arm? Yes.

When you were attending her? Yes.

Did she tell you how she came by them? The relatives told me, and she told me a little but not very much. She did not care to tell me very much.

Mr Scamell : What did she tell you?

Witness : The relatives showed me these bruises and told me how it was and then she told me her husband had done it. He came home drunk at night or something.

Mr Knight : Did you ever say anything to him about the state of the woman?

Witness : No; I very rarely saw him in the house at all.

Mr Scamell : If the woman did ask for nourishment and it was not provided I should like to clear that point for yourself, because it will go forth that she did ask for nourishment.

Witness : She didn’t ask me. That was where it was. She just mentioned that she was not getting proper nourishment; that was all, and that was the latter part.

Mr Martin stated that the outward appearance of the body struck the jury. Their general opinion was that it was starved.

The Coroner observed that the doctor said it was not. He quoted the following from the deposition : “From the outward appearance of the body there is no evidence to show that she had not had sufficient nourishment.”

Witness : What I meant to say was this. She might be greatly emaciated although having plenty of food. I have seen lots of patients much thinner than she is but still having plenty of food.

Mr Raindle : Is that your opinion in this case regarding what you have mentioned?

Witness : What I meant to say is this; I cannot say from appearance that she has been starved but they said they were to go to the Board of Guardians and that they would look into the case.

Mr Scamell : But while they are looking into it the woman is dead.

Witness : Yes, but it is two or three days ago they said they would see the Board of Guardians.

The Coroner : It is always the doctor’s duty to sanction things necessary, and if they say they cannot get them it is the place of the doctor to get them until the family can.

Witness : If I did that in every case I go to I would sign a paper in every house.

The Coroner : Here was this poor woman in a very weak and debilitated state and the time was very important and if you had given an order then she might have had it that afternoon, whereas it goes to the relieving officer and it may be delayed a day or two days and then it goes to the guardians.

Mr Vincent said that if a doctor made an order upon a relieving officer for something he (the relieving officer) was bound to supply it.

Mr Scamell said it was the duty of the medical man to leave an order.

Witness : Dr Kelland had been attending her. During that time he had not been giving her anything and she was not worse.

The Coroner : You say yourself that she did require it and that she complained of not having sufficient nourishment.

Witness : Yes, but that was the latter end more than before, after her husband began to ill-treat her. She was no worse, in fact she was better during the time I was attending her. When I first went I think she was in bed. I got her up and she was downstairs. She was getting better. After that I went in again. She was no worse until the last two or three days when acute symptoms set in.

Did she get worse after the 21st of August? Yes, a few days ago from now.

Did you see her on the 21st? I don’t know whether I saw her on that day.

Did she ever complain to you of having been knelt upon or complain of pains in the stomach? She said that her husband had knelt upon her stomach, but she did not complain of very much pain in it at the time. She just said there was a slight pain across her.

Would kneeling upon her stomach cause an internal rupture or anything of that kind? It might cause an internal rupture but there was no evidence.

Did you examine her for rupture? There was no rupture externally. I do not think there would be a rupture.

The witness, on reading over his deposition and coming to the words “still having sufficient food,” said “I mean not taking it internally, but having it if she could take it.”

Supt Mathews (after inquiry) : One halfpenny worth of milk and sixpenny worth of brandy, what the district visitor gave her. That is what the friends say.

The Coroner said he was going to suggest whether the jury were satisfied with the medical evidence they had that day or would like to adjourn the inquest and have an expression of opinion by another medical man, an independent medical man.

One juryman remarked that he did not think it at all satisfactory.

Mr Lywood : It may be satisfactory as to the cause of death, but I think the doctor has been very negligent in not procuring the necessaries for her.

The Coroner : Not only that, he contradicted himself in his evidence. He stated what the cause of death was and said that in his opinion her state would not at all affect his opinion as to what the cause of death was, and then he goes on to say that it would.

Subsequently the Coroner urged that another reason why there should be an adjournment was that it should be ascertained whether there was a rupture.

It was decided that a post mortem examination should be held on Saturday and that the inquest should be adjourned to the following Monday.

The inquiry was duly resumed on Monday evening.

The Coroner said that before they proceeded with the inquest he thought the husband of the deceased woman should be present and give evidence if he thought proper after being cautioned. He did not see why he should not be there if he liked to hear the evidence.

Supt Mathews : He is here.

The Coroner : You had better ask him if he would like to come and hear the evidence.

Hibberd was accordingly called up and had a seat. He looked very miserable and during a portion of the hearing held a red handkerchief to his face.

Mary Uphill, wife of Alfred Uphill, a gardener, living at 10, Gas lane, said that she had been a neighbour of the deceased within the last six weeks. She last saw her on Tuesday (August 29) the day before her death. Deceased seemed in a weak state, scarcely able to speak. Witness generally visited her about every other day but always on Sunday. She did not, however, visit her the last Sunday she was alive. On the Sunday before she seemed quite nice and told witness that she thought she would be able to get up. After that witness did not see her again till Tuesday morning (August 22) between nine and ten. She saw a great change from the Sunday. She said, “You are not so well as you were on Sunday.” Deceased said, “No, I am not, I have had such a bad night.” She stated that her husband came home tipsy at 12 o’clock at night, and tussled with her till daylight; also that she halloed murder and begged him not to touch her and cried very much, but no one heard her except the little girl who was sleeping in the next room, and he carried his intentions with her. She stated that in another half an hour she must have died. Deceased asked witness if she would like to look at her arm. She got her arm out and witness saw that it was very much bruised. Deceased told her that her husband held her down with that arm. She also stated that he hit her twice in the face with his fist and that he knelt on her stomach.

Witness told her that she did not think she was going to live and also said, “If you are going to die don’t send for me for I can’t see the last of you.” Witness wished deceased good bye and deceased wished witness good bye, but witness saw her once after that. She did not see any nourishment in the house. Witness took a good deal into her. Different people gave her some. Some days the deceased had more and some days she was without anything. One day witness’s little girl told her that the deceased had no light, no fire, and no food. That was about eight o’clock. Witness sent a candle and told the little girl to light it for her, which she did. Mr Hibberd came home just after that.

The Coroner : Then you have sent nourishment? I have taken it to her. I don’t think she wanted very much nourishment lately. I have given her food for the last two or three years. I have known her have but one meal a day for a long time, last winter I took several grocery tickets to her from Mrs Thwaites. She had a great many. She was a woman who would not beg herself.

Did you give her tickets or the groceries? Sometimes the groceries and sometimes the tickets. Sometimes the visitor let me have the tickets. I went to the next door neighbour and asked if she heard her halloo “murder” and she said no, she did not hear anything. I never saw Mr Hibberd strike her.

The Coroner asked Hibberd if he wished to put any question to the witness.

Hibberd : Did you not see me take an eel up on Saturday? Yes, I saw you do that, Mr Hibberd. I took some broth. Mr Hibberd was cooking eels and he took one to her. She stated that Mr Hibberd was much kinder and said he would give the drink up.

Hibberd said that he also had another eel down-stairs for his wife in the morning. (To the witness) : Did you ever see me use her unkindly?

Witness : Not any more than not bringing her money. Of course she could not get food. She was not a strong woman. She was not able to work.

You never saw me use her unkindly did you? No, I never saw you hit her or beat her at all.

Mr Scamell : Did she say anything to you particular the day before she died? No, I asked her if she was going and ready to go, and she said, “Yes, I hope I shall meet you in heaven.” She seemed gone off when you went to talk to her.

Hibberd : Was she not subject to be light-headed? I have never known her light-headed. She was very sensible that day when she was so weak, but she seemed to go off to sleep like in the middle of a speech. I saw Mr Hibberd give her some beef tea when I was there one morning, what the district visitor gave her.

Mr Fowler : They lived next door to you, didn’t they, for some time? Yes, five or six years.

James Kelland, medical practitioner, was present and was asked whether he wished to make any statement. He said that it depended whether the jury still held the view that it was what the Journal called a horrible case of destitution. If the jury still held that view he should like to say something about it.

The Coroner : We can’t go into what the jury hold as their view at the present moment until we have heard all the evidence.

Dr Kelland : As to what the foreman of the jury said it is of no consequence, but if the rest of the jury—-

Mr J D Powell : I think that is very personal indeed. We are here to do our duty.

Mr Scamell : I must please ask you to withdraw that.

Another Juryman : I should think so.

Another : Certainly.

Mr Powell : Very unbecoming of you, doctor, to say so.

Dr Kelland : I was not able to be here.

Mr Powell : It doesn’t matter about that. It was uncalled for. We are sworn to do justice.

Dr Kelland : I have a firm and decided opinion that his opinions are not unprejudiced.

The Coroner : This is not a court of inquiry into the conduct of the foreman, but the cause of death of this poor woman. If you have any statement to make I am quite willing to hear it.

Mr Scamell : I must ask you to withdraw that before you speak, please.

Mr Powell : Yes, withdraw that, doctor.

Dr Kelland said he understood the inquest was called as to the ill-treatment by the husband of the deceased. It seemed Mr Scamell had led it off to another question, that of destitution. As to the destitution he should be happy to say anything that he knew about it.

The Coroner : If you have a statement to make, please make it.

Dr Kelland : On Thursday evening the friends came to my house and said they were not satisfied as to the cause of her death. They thought there was some foul play. They had very strong suspicion that her husband’s violence had accelerated her death and they thought that something ought to be done, that the magistrates ought to be applied to or something of the sort. I said, “The only thing you can do is to have an inquest. You had better see Mr Mathews and have an inquest held.”

The Coroner : This is the result probably of your advice to them.

Dr Kelland : Their only idea was that she had received some violence from her husband. There was no question about destitution at all. I think it was only just towards the gentleman who has taken my place, and seems to have had rather rough handling the other day, to state that.

The Coroner : I don’t know about rough handling. He was simply examined.

Dr Kelland : Not from yourself ; I mean the foreman.

Mr Powell : I think you are under a mistake.

Dr Kelland : That report is not fair. At any rate the headings are too strong.

Mr Powell stated that he did not think Dr Kelland was a gentleman when he said what he did.

Dr Kelland : don’t care a rap what you say.

Mr Powell : We don’t care a rap about you.

Mr Scamell : As that poor creature had received brutality from someone was it justifiable for this doctor to give a certificate for her burial without inquiry?

Dr Kelland : I think it was if he did not consider that was the cause of death, If he considered she died from heart disease I think he was justified in doing so. If he considered violence was the cause of death he was not.

Supt Mathews : I may say friends came to me to complain with regard to this case, but I advised them to go to the doctor to get a certificate from him as to the cause of death. They said he had already certified. I sent next day to the doctor to ask him if he was satisfied as to the cause of death. He said he was and had certified.

Mr Powell : I think before the doctor leaves he ought to retract those assertions.

The Coroner : I have no power to compel him to do so. It is a question between one of the jury and Mr Kelland.

Mr Scamell : I do think it is uncalled for, but still if Mr Kelland holds the opinion he is welcome to hold it.

Dr Kelland said he could not help expressing his belief that Mr Scamell’s opinions were not unbiased.

Mr Scamell said that he had never brought Dr Kelland’s name once before the jury since the inquiry had been held. If he could point out to any juryman that he had mentioned his name once either before the jury or privately he would apologise.

Dr Kelland : We all know you have a hobby that luxuries are not supplied quite as freely as they ought to be. That is what I meant. That makes you somewhat biassed.

The Coroner ; This conversation has nothing to do with it. Have you any other statement to make?

Dr Kelland : No, I think not.

Supt Mathews said that he had made inquiries in reference to this case. He found that six weeks Mrs Hibberd received a quart of milk a day for a week, paid for by one of the district visitors. She also received three meal tickets, one on the 18th June for a shillings worth of meat, one on July 3rd, for 6d, and one on August 16th, for a shilling. Mrs Harding had sent her food occasionally. Mrs Butt, of Sidney Street, had taken her dinner and eggs, and Mrs Baker had gave her a dinner a fortnight ago. Several persons had given her food and taken it to her. The friends went to Mr Read, the visiting officer, and he ordered the husband to apply to the guardians, which he did, and they ordered the woman to receive half-a-crown a week and any extra nourishment she required. Mr Read paid her the half-crown personally into her own hands. He did not know whether she had any milk from the relieving officer. He thought that the application to the guardians was made last week.

The husband of the deceased said that the latter received the half-crown the day before she died.

Mr Scamell : The day before she died she had the first half-crown and that was the last.

Supt Mathews said that application had not been made before.

Mr Scamell : It shows she had it more from the outside public than from the proper source.

Supt Mathews : I went to the house with the doctor on the Saturday and examined the body and saw the bruises on the arm and back and the hand as described.

Frederick Fawson Lee, medical practitioner, said he made a post mortem examination of the deceased on Saturday in conjunction with Dr Blackmore. The body was thin, but not what he would call emaciated. There were numerous spots of extravasated blood over the surface of the body – what was known as purpura. There was dropsy in the lower extremities and other parts of the body. There were three spots of discolouration on the middle of the right arm, and on the inner side of the right elbow there was a larger discolouration. The cavities both sides of the chest contained a quantity of fluid, as also the bag surrounding the heart. The lungs were healthy but very dropsical. They pitted on pressure with the finger. The heart and blood vessels were almost empty of blood. The walls of the heart were softened. The liver was large and pale. The gall bladder contained a quantity of dark bile and four gall stones. The stomach contained nearly an ounce of thick dark fluid. On the inner surface of the lower end of the stomach were numerous red spots. The kidneys were extensively diseased, especially the left, which contained a number of small cysts. The —- was natural but very dropsical. The large artery coming from the heart was very reddened in appearance and at the back of the chest that portion presented three were t— discoloured patches. These patches and those in the stomach before mentioned is believed to be due to extravasated blood like those on the skin.

The Coroner : What would be likely to cause those patches? The poor state of the blood.

Would they also be caused by any amount of violence? That on the back of the chest could not, because it would be out of reach. It would be protected by the walls of the chest and the spine behind. Those on the stomach —– have been started during the act of retching, vomiting. Those on the skin were certainly the result of disease.

You don’t think any amount of violence would have caused them? I do not. I am not speaking of the patches on the arm. Those might have been due to firm pressure.

In reply to an observation by the Coroner, Dr Lee stated that it was not one patch on the stomach, but a number of little dotted spots.

The Coroner : Supposing violence had been committed and a person had knelt upon the stomach and caused those patches would they have hastened her death in any way? There was no evidence that they were due to violence at all.

Would that be caused by neglect on the part of a person in not giving her a proper supply of food? I don’t see how that would have produced it. It was the disease, the condition of the blood which caused it.

Mr Scamell : Were there not some dark spots on her left arm? There was, I remember, a small dark spot I noticed on the surface of the back of the hand, a little discolouration, I might say.

Was that not on the left arm? I did not notice anything on the left; it was on the right. The left hand was dropsical evidently from hanging down the lowest part. The witness further said the diseased would have got thinner by the disease.

More nourishment would have been well for her? That I cannot express an opinion upon. She might not have been able to retain food. If she was constantly sick (Hibberd ; She was, sir) she would be starved from that alone. The whole of the organs were waterlogged.

The Coroner : I want to ask you one more question. What in your opinion was the cause of death?

Witness : Primarily disease of the kidneys. Secondarily, the distress of the heart and lungs.

A Juror : Do you think any violence —- within the last ten days would accelerate her death?

Witness : Anything like that would be an extra push on towards death. There was no evidence of anything of the kind.

The Foreman : I should like to ask if it is your opinion that the discolouration on the arms and back of shoulder on the right side and also on the left arm was due to violence.

Witness : It was only a general discolouration owing to the position of the body. Of course a dead body will present a discoloured surface underneath. The blood would gravitate and give it a discoloured appearance.

The Foreman : Provided there was this —– on the 21st of August – and we have witnesses who stated there was and also the doctor has seen the bruises – do you not think it would have been right for the doctor to have an inquiry? The woman herself told the doctor of the ill-usage.

Witness : Unless you have clear evidence of the fact I should not like to say. I suppose that the doctor thought there was clear evidence of disease, and that she would be likely to die anyhow. She must have been in a dying condition under any circumstances.

The Coroner : We have it in evidence that on the 21st he came home and pulled her about the house inflicting several bruises on her body and one on her shoulder. I think it is a wound. Did you see any wound on the shoulder?

Witness : I cannot say I did.

The Coroner : What the jury wishes to know is this : If the deceased received any ill-usage on the 21st would it have accelerated her death.

Witness : It is self-evident. The question answers itself. If the patient was pulled about in the —- it would have accelerated her death.

The Coroner ; You do think such treatment would have accelerated her death?

Witness : It stands to reason that if such treatment were received it would have indirectly accelerated her death.

The Coroner here read the evidence taken relative to violence being used.

Witness : The treatment she received would have made her worse, of course.

A Juror : Would those bruises have cleared off in — days?

Witness : I should hardly think they would affect the dropsical condition in any way modified it. Where there is purpura the slightest pressure will give rise to a bruise-mark.

Supt Mathews : We examined the body thoroughly, sir, and did not find any bruise on the shoulder.

Witness, in reply to a question by the juror, said that by the condition of the brain she would have been light-headed.

Humphrey Parnell Blackmore, medical practitioner, of Salisbury, deposed as follows : In conjunction with Dr Lee I made a post mortem examination on Saturday last. I have heard the evidence given by Dr Lee and can confirm in every way the statement he made as to the organs. I will add we examined the body carefully for any bruises and marks of external violence, and the only discolouration from violence was that on the right arm as described by Mr Lee, and the spot on the hand. There were no bruises or discolouration on the shoulder or back. None of the bones were either broken or dislocated. Looking at the evidence of the bruising on the right arm it might be taken for granted that if others had been present they would have shown.

The Coroner : You heard the question I asked Dr Lee about the acceleration of death, what do you think?

Witness : It is a difficult opinion to give so long afterwards. Had one seen it a few hours after he could have told, but in her weak and diseased state it is most difficult to give an opinion after so long a period.

The Coroner asked the jury if they would like to examine the deceased’s husband, but as the husband did not wish to say much about is wife he was not questioned.

The Coroner : We will go through the evidence we have taken and make any remarks as we proceed. I should like to explain to the jury the definition of manslaughter. “Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice, either express or implied; and is either voluntarily from sudden transport of passion; or involuntarily ensuing from the commission of some unlawful act or from the pursuit of some lawful act criminally or improperly performed or from the negligent omission of some duty. The absence of malice is, as has been already observed, the main distinction between those species of suicide and murder, and though manslaughter is in its degree felonious and in the eye of the law criminal, yet it is im—– by the beginning of the law to the int—— of human nature.” Manslaughter is the killing of another without premeditation, and absence of malice, so that the negligent omission in the part of the husband to provide food would amount to manslaughter. The man was incapacitated from work but that would not be any excuse for the omission because he might have gone to the guardians for relief.

Mr Smith then proceeded to read the depositions. After reading the first he pointed out that it —— the husband to have neglected to have provided food for the deceased, but that was contradicted by another witness. In concluding his remarks on the depositions the Coroner said, “Of course the evidence of Drs Lee and Blackmore is most material. It points out that violence did not accelerate her death, and want of food did not accelerate her death. It is satisfactory to know that she did not die from violence received. From the evidence it seems that the deceased died from natural causes – disease of the heart and kidneys. Will you please consider your verdict.

The jury then retired, and after an absence of about twenty-five minutes, returned.

The Coroner : Gentlemen, are you agreed?

The Foreman : We are.

The Coroner : What is your verdict?

The Foreman : Death from natural causes.

The Coroner : Is that unanimous?

The Foreman : Yes.

The Coroner (to Mr Hibberd) : I am wished by the jury to say that by arriving at this decision they do not exculpate you from a serious neglect of your poor wife. They consider that she was neglected and ill-used by you. They cannot legally find you guilty of manslaughter, but you are within an ace of being sent to gaol. You were bound by law to protect her. It is unnecessary for you to say you were unable to get to work. No one in England need starve. There is the relieving officer to go to for nourishment. I hope you will take this as a warning and in future behave properly to any person under your care. You have a family and you may perhaps have a wife again, and, if you do, behave properly to her.

Addressing the jury, the Coroner said with regard to the medical man, Mr Birkett, he contradicted himself. He then pointed out to the jurymen the conflicting portions of the evidence, in which the medical man stated death was not caused by want of food, and that he certified the cause of death to be heart disease; also that he ordered more nourishment for her, and she complained to him that she had no nourishment, and so on. Having seen, continued the Coroner, that she required more nourishment why did he not order it straight off – instead of going a round-about way?

The Foreman : The woman had only about 2s 6d worth of meat for six weeks, until the day before her death, and that the neighbours had given her. It appears that she trusted solely to the charity of the neighbours otherwise she would have died a week or so before.

Mr Birkett having been called before the jury the Coroner said : The jury wish me to state to you that they are not satisfied with the course you adopted in not giving the order for the nourishment of deceased instead of leaving it to the friends of the deceased. If you had given an order to the relieving officer she would have had nourishment which she did not have. I have said this to you by the request of the jury.

Mr Birkett : When I ordered this to the relatives it was not until about the last week. I told some of the relatives to get it. The persons I told said they would get it, and I understood, speaking to one of them since, that they gave beef tea, brandy and milk.

A Juror : Didn’t you know you had power to order this?

Mr Birkett : Yes, but I told the relatives and they said they would get it.

The Coroner : I think you should have got it from the relieving officer. Continuing the Coroner said Mr Birkett gave the order to the relatives, whereas if he had given the order to the relieving officer it would have come out of the rate-payers pockets.

The Foreman repeated that deceased had only 2s 6d worth of meat for six weeks and that that was given her by neighbours. Her husband gave her nothing.

Mr Birkett : It was not until the last week I ordered those special things.

The Foreman : She had nothing of what we provide the money for. Why did you not order it?

Mr Lywood : That is what we want to know.

The Coroner did not wish the discussion protracted.

Mr Birkett : I should like to say that I did my best. If you think I have not attended her properly will you ask any of the relatives?

The Foreman : You have attended to the patient properly physically, but you did not give her those things that would have helped her on in her illness.

Mr Birkett : I admit that I never thought about it. It was an oversight.

The discussion then terminated.

A large crowd had assembled outside the building to await the verdict, and when the deceased’s husband left the hotel he was greeted with booing which was continued as the crowd followed him down Fisherton, but no other demonstration took place.


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