Cooper, Bessie

Cooper, Bessie              1889 June 8th

Sad Case of a Drowning near Salisbury

At the Railway Inn, Milford, on Friday, Mr R A Wilson held an inquiry concerning the death of Bessie Cooper (daughter of Mr and Mrs Cooper, of the Oatmeal Row, Salisbury), whose body was found in a stream, near the Southampton Road, the same day.

Giles Thorn, laborer, living at Petersfinger, Milford, was the first witness. He said that at about quarter or 20 minutes past one he was walking by the stream in the meadows just below the dairy, about forty yards from the Southampton Road, near the second bridge, and saw a body in the water. He went for the dairyman to help him to pull it out. There was not water then, only about 6 inches – it was not over his boots, at all events. There had been more, but witness had shut off the water about an hour before. The body was in a sort of “crumping” position, and deceased was lying on her face. He could not say whether the body had washed down some distance. Witness looked to see if he could discover a track, but could not find one, except his own. How she got there he did not know. In the morning witness had heard from Mr Cooper that his daughter was missing, and he promised to render any assistance he could. About half-an-hour after the body had been got out and laid on the grass Dr Gordon arrived. In reply to Coroner witness said deceased might have gone under the bridge. There was a pretty good head of water before he shut it off.

The father of the deceased was the next who gave evidence. He said that he was a builder. His daughter was 23. He last saw her alive about half-past two on Thursday, when she said she was going out for a walk. She had been ill, and Mr Blackmore had been attending her for three weeks or a month. Her mother told her where to go if she felt tired, and also told her to have a cup of cocoa.

The Coroner : Had you any reason to suspect that she might do away with herself? I did not myself. She had no wish to live. She was a good young woman, and her affection took the advantage of her. She wanted to get better quicker than she could.

Had she said that she did not wish to live? Not to me.

Then you yourself cannot give any reason? No, not myself, any more than that a little while after taking her medicine she felt the effect and seemed as though she wanted to lay her head against something and make her feel warm.

Has she always lived at home? Yes.

Was she unhappy at home? No, very happy.

She has been depressed lately, has she? Yes, rather.

You went hunting for her body when she did not come home? O yes! All last night and all today.

The mother of the deceased stated that latter left her house at half-past two.

The Coroner : Did anything pass when she left? No, no more than that she was going for a walk.

Witness stated that her daughter had been ill off and on for two years, and for a month past had been under Dr Blackmore. She had been suffering from bad digestion and weakness. The pain passed from her back and went to the top of her head, which caused her to forget everything.

The Coroner : Then she was very depressed at times? No, sir, very lively; never depressed in any way unless at times when these pains came on. When that was on she scarcely knew what she was about.

Has she said anything about being weary of life? No, sir, quite different to that.

Can you give any reason? Not in the least.

Mrs Cooper produced a letter. She stated that one was received on Tuesday (May 28) and her daughter wrote that produced and put it in her drawer. That was all she (Mrs Cooper) had.

The Coroner : Who is this letter from? A young man she is keeping company with the other side of London, a very good young man he is, and of course, he was coming down next week for the Whitsuntide.

Then you can give no reason? No, not in the least; she was always perfectly happy and contented.

The letter written by the deceased contained the following,

I read it all right. God bless you, Will, but I seem as if my body was all gone. No one can tell what I have been like. I seem to have no sense at times. I can’t seem to get stronger, but I look well.”

The Coroner (to the witness) : She never said she was weary of life? No, always very happy and very cheerful at home. Everyone who knew her could speak the same.

She was engaged to a young man at Tooting? Yes, sir.

She lived at home? Yes, sir.

And assisted you? Yes, sir. She has always been assisting me in the shop.

But when she did not come home what did you do? I sent out to a friend’s house where I thought she would stay and have a cup of cocoa in the afternoon – she never drank tea – but I did not find her there. I sent to 12 different places where I understood she had friends and no-one had seen her. When I went up Fisherton to see for her I met Mr Sworn, and he told me he saw her going up Milford Hill. That was the only person I saw who had seen her.

A Juryman : Did you notice anything strange about your daughter? No; in fact she seemed brighter that afternoon than she had before for a long time. She went out between 11 and 12 and came in and had a little beef tea. Then she staid indoors and went out at half-past two.

In reply to the Coroner the witness stated that her daughter did not complain at all on Thursday. She had been quite a cripple and had not been able to get up.

James Henry Gordon, medical practitioner, said that he was passing the spot where the body was found at, he thought, about 10 minutes past two. The body had been taken out of the water and was lying on the grass. He simply looked at it then, but had since examined it. The face was very much scratched as though it had been rubbed on the stones at the bottom of the stream. Death was apparently caused by drowning.

The Coroner said there seemed to be very little evidence to show how the deceased came into the water. If she threw herself in no doubt she was not responsible for her actions at the time. He did not see that they could return any other verdict than an open one that she was found drowned. The police were satisfied with regard to the matter. No question arose that it was anybody did it.

A verdict of “Found Drowned” was returned.


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