Ward, William

Ward, William     1898 June 17th Bulford



Consternation in the District

A melancholy and somewhat mysterious tragedy has occurred at Bulford near Amesbury, resulting in the death of one man, William Ward by name, and the apprehension by the police of another – George Newman, alias Clarke. Both men were navvies, or excavators, working at the reservoir which is being constructed on Bulford Down in connection with the forthcoming military manoeuvres. According to Newman they were mates and very good friends. On Sunday morning Ward was found dead upon Bulford Down, badly knocked about, and with a dark red line round his throat pointing to strangulation. The battered condition of his face was explicable by the confession of the prisoner, Newman, who owned that he and Ward had quarrelled while going to the works after tea on Sunday evening and had fought, but no explanation was found for the line round the throat.

The accused says that after the fight he lay down under a bush on the Down and fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning to his horror he discovered Ward lying near him quite dead. He reported the matter to the foreman of the works and the police were communicated with, and Newman was taken into custody.

The Inquest

The inquest was conducted by Mr R A Wilson. Supt Longstone watched the proceedings on behalf of the police. Mr Thomas Henry William Jenner, of Durrington, was chosen foreman of the jury.

George Newman, the prisoner, was present. He is a young man, under middle height, and thick set. He carried himself with a slight stoop. Though he evidently followed the evidence closely, he did not appear deeply conscious of the serious position he was in. He wore ordinary navvy’s clothes, with a coloured handkerchief tied loosely round his neck. His face was deeply bronzed, and though the hair of his head, which was small and peculiarly shaped, was very dark, that of his slight moustache was lighter. His forehead was low and receded somewhat. He bore one or two marks of the conflict of which he speaks, and his body also, we are informed by the police, shows that he did not have all the best of the struggle.

When the jury had been sworn in they went to view the body. The state of it may be fairly judged from the doctor’s evidence, and we can vouch that that description is true in all the ghastly external details. On the return to the room the following evidence was taken.

Chas. Grover, of 38 York Street, Northam, Southampton, deposed, “I am a contractors foreman employed by Messrs Playfair and Toole, contractors of Southampton, who are carrying on some work at Bulford in connection with the reservoir being created under Government contract. I know William Ward, the deceased. He was an excavator. I know nothing about him except that he was one of the workmen employed by me. He began work last Thursday week after breakfast at 9 o’clock. That was the 2nd of June. I know nothing of him before that. Clarke came on with him as a mate. I did not ask them where they came from. They left off work at 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and I have not seen deceased since. I sleep in my office on the Downs and I have given each man leave to sleep in the cement shed. They had no lodgings, and the police made a complaint to me about the men sleeping out, and asked me to caution them against it. At 10 minutes past 5 on Sunday morning, “Clarke” knocked at the door of the office where I was sleeping. I asked him who was there, and he said, “Clarke; open the door. I want to speak to you, Charlie.” I think I asked him before I opened the door what he wanted, and I think he replied that his mate was dead on the Downs. I am not certain about that, but this I am certain of, that after I had opened the door he told that he had had a row with his mate after leaving the public house and that they had lost their way. He further said, “I just passed him coming up to you, and I believe he was dead.” He didn’t say anything more.

I put on my slippers and trousers, and threw my coat over my shoulders, and went with him where deceased was lying. It took about eight minutes down to where I found him. The deceased was lying in the open on a kind of drove where some traffic had been in the direction of the farm. He was lying on his back and his left leg was doubled under his right. His right hand was on his hip and was partly clenched. His left hand was lying down on his side, that was partly clenched also. His shirt sleeves were turned up just above the elbows, and the front part of his shirt was pulled up so as to expose his right breast. His coat and waistcoat were lying on the left side of his head, not quite underneath it. His neckhandkerchief was lying about six foot from his hip in an angular direction. The bottom was torn off his shirt collar and the button hole was burst. I saw the basket (produced). I didn’t notice this rope (produced). The basket was three or four yards away from him. I touched the body and found that it was cold. I took hold of his wrist and placed my hand on his breast, but I did not move the body. There was a lot of blood on his face and arms but not much on his hands. One of his eyes was completely closed and there were clots of blood on it. In fact both of his eyes were closed but the right was the one covered with the clots of blood. “Clarke” gave deceased’s mother’s address to the constable. Before the constable came prisoner told that they had fought, and when they separated he went to sleep under an elder bush. He pointed out one to me which he said was the one. When he was making his way up to me in the morning he saw his chum lying down dead and asked me to come and look at him. After I had satisfied myself that the man was dead, I asked prisoner if he would remain with me until I got a constable. He was perfectly willing to do so, and we went together part of the way down to Bulford. We met a man named Weeks and I told him what had happened and asked him to fetch a policeman. He then went back to the deceased till the police came.

The Foreman : Do we understand that the shirt button was torn off? It was resting on the shirt. I think the doctor picked it off when he was making a superficial examination.

A Juryman : Was the handkerchief close by strained at all? It appeared to me just the same as usual. It was not twisted in any way.

A Juryman: Was there any sign of a struggle where you found the body? About 3ft away from the left of the deceased there was a long streak of blood about 3ft long, and several inches wide.

Another Juryman asked if it appeared as if the body had been dragged, but a fellow juryman pointed out that the ground was very hard and would not show anything of that sort.

The Foreman: Was it on the grass? Yes.

The Coroner asked witness if he could tell them deceased’s age, but he replied that he did not know, and Supt Longstone stated that as far as he could ascertain he was about 30.

PC Stow (Durrington) stated: On Sunday morning, the 12th of June, about 6.30, George Weeks came to my house and reported to me that a man was found dead on the Down, and that Charles Grover had sent him down for me to come up at once. On going up on the Down, I saw Charles Grover standing near the deceased. The body was lying on its back quite dead and covered with blood – face, shirt, and hands. I found him as stated by the last witness. The basket with the vegetables in was close to the head. The head was partly resting on the basket. The piece of rope produced was on the basket tied to the handles, and there were marks on the ground and a quantity of blood. The prisoner was standing on the side of Charles Grover. His face was covered with blood and his hands also. I told him I should detain him until the Sergeant and the doctor came. He said he would like to go and wash his face, but I said, “No, you don’t go from here or do anything. I detain you till the Sergeant comes.”

A Juryman : Only the rope attached to the basket was found? Yes, sir.

Continuing, PC Stow said : I searched the body and found 7s 3l in money in a purse, a knife, and several other articles. The handkerchief (produced) was at the side of deceased, and the shirt collar was torn. The braces were slipped off his shoulders, and he wore the belt produced.

PS Barter deposed : I am police sergeant stationed at Amesbury. On Sunday morning I received information that a man was found on the Down dead. I went for the doctor, and I then went to Bulford Down. The doctor was there when I got there. There were several standing round and the prisoner among them. After the doctor had examined him we carried the body to the barn, and I called prisoner aside. I cautioned him and I told him that I would charge him with causing the death of the deceased, and should take him to Amesbury. He said, “We were both drunk. We had words. He struck me and we fought. I slept in a plantation, and this morning I found my mate lying down, and I thought he was dead. I am sorry for it as we have been like brothers, even dividing our money.” He told me that they were both natives of Upper Holloway, and that that “would be something for his old mother.” Prisoner’s face was covered with blood, and his hands and his shirt. His shirt sleeves were turned up and so was the deceased’s. Witness then produced both deceased’s and prisoner’s shirts and showed that they were covered with blood. All the blood was on the shirt and the trousers. But there was none on the coat and waistcoat. The braces were also stained.

John Barcroft, medical practitioner, of Amesbury, said : I saw the body about 1 o’clock on Sunday. It had been removed to the barn. I made an examination of the exterior in company with Dr Erwin, and found that the body was that of a well-nourished man, aged about 28 years. It was 5 feet 8 inches high and had light hair and brown eyes. The colour of the body was normal, except the head and face which were congested. The lips were swollen, the upper one most, and the marks on the mucous membrane of each lip corresponded to the teeth. The ears were very livid and there was an incised wound on the lower part of the right ear. The eyelids were swollen and discoloured, and there was a small wound below the left eye. There was a rectangular contusion on the chin an inch by an inch and a half in size. The face was covered with blood which had come from the nose.

On the neck there was a dark reddish brown line extending from the trapezius muscle on the left side, across the larynx on the level of the thyroid cartilege to the posterior edge of the sternomantoid muscle. The line is much more marked on the left side than the right and deeply depressed. If you put your finger in it you can feel the depression. There was a small contusion on the chest about an inch internal to the right nipple. There was also a similar contusion below the last rib on the left side. The arms and hands were covered with blood, especially the left. In accordance with the Coroner’s directions I made a post mortem examination in conjunction with Dr Erwin, and found that the brain and membranes were much congested with a quantity of dark red fluid blood in the sinus. The windpipe was also congested and contained a quantity of frothy bloodstained mucus. The larynx was engorged but otherwise healthy. The heart was normal but both sides contained dark red fluid blood. The remainder of the organs were healthy. As a result of these observations and in the absence of any organic disease we concluded from the congested appearance of the organs mentioned and the dark colour and the fluid condition of the blood that death resulted from asphyxia. None of the wounds were sufficient to cause death, and all might have been formed by the fist except perhaps the one on the ear which might have been torn.

The Foreman : It was in a rather dangerous place, was it not? Oh no, it was on the lobe of the ear.

The Coroner asked what might have caused the mark round the neck? It looks as if it had been done by a cord. It could not have been done by the handkerchief produced or by the shirt collar. There was a stud in the shirt and there was no mark of that.

The Foreman : Was the neck much swollen? Not much.

The Coroner : Could it have been self-inflicted? Hardly, because the twisting must have been done from behind.

A Juryman : The mark on the neck could not have been done by the hand, could it? No, certainly not.

John Erwin, registered medical practitioner, and assistant to Dr Barcroft, deposed : I saw the body yesterday morning between half past 9 and a quarter to 10. It was lying on the Down in the position stated by the witnesses. I made an examination of it and found that the body was cold and I should say it had been dead about 10 hours. I removed some of the blood from the face, to better examine the wounds, and the result of my examinations have been the same as Dr Barcroft’s. I assisted in the post mortem examination and I agree with him in his decision.

A Juryman : Did the stomach show that he had been drinking heavily? No, the stomach when we examined it had very little fluid in it.

The Foreman : Might the blows from the fists cause asphyxia? No. If it had been through the blows there would probably have been a fracture at the base of the skull, but there was no evidence of such a thing.

Henry James Westbrook said : I am a native of Chichester in Sussex. I have been at work about three weeks at the reservoir at Bulford Down. On Saturday I was in the company of Ward. About 8.30 he entered the tap-room of the “Rose and Crown,” and prisoner and deceased were there together. I stayed there till 10 o’clock, when the house was closed. We all went out together. I went away to my lodging, but which way the deceased and prisoner went I don’t know. They had a fair amount of drink. They were not perfectly sober, but I should not say either was drunk. I have known them only since they have been working there, and they have been mates together since they have been up there. They always seemed very good friends.

A Juryman : Did they take any beer away with them? Not at night.

The Coroner then addressed the prisoner and told him that he did not want him to say anything, but if he wished to say anything he could do so. At the same time he cautioned him saying that anything he might say would be taken down and might be used as evidence against him should there be any occasion. At first prisoner said he did not wish to say anything, but in reply to the Coroner’s last remark he said, “There will be no occasion, what I say will be the truth.”

The Coroner : You would like to give your statement, would you?

Prisoner : Yes, sir. My name is George Newman. “Clarke” was the name I used when I came to these works. I belong to London, a place called Upper Holloway. When we left this ‘public’ and got on the Downs and lost our way. We got arguing the point which was the right road. Ward lost his temper and turned round and hit me in the mouth. I turned round and hit him back. We took off our jackets and waistcoats and had a fair fight. We had several rounds. He said he would get his own back for a row we had a fortnight before, and we started slogging into one another. We had several rounds. In the last one we had we both went down together. I got up and took my coat and went away. I saw no more of him. I thought he had gone to the cabin perhaps. I laid down by the side of the bush. When I woke up about quarter past five I was making my way to the cabin thinking to find him there, when I ran across him about 100 yards from where I was. I went straight to the foreman’s hut and told him all about it, and stopped there till the constable came. It was a fair fight.

There was no rope or anything else in the matter.

This was all the evidence produced before the jury, and the Coroner in summing up said : These two men were having a fight. If a man kills another in a fight it is a question of manslaughter even if he did not intend to kill him. It seems to me that the principal evidence here of course is the evidence of the medical men. This man had marks of blows upon him evidently where he had been fighting, but what caused his death was asphyxia, the same as strangulation. He re-read the doctor’s evidence to the jury, and Dr Barcroft again traced the direction of the mark of the rope. It was impossible, added the Coroner quoting from the doctor’s evidence, for the man to have done it himself. How was it done then? They could not possibly say for certain. The evidence in those cases must always be circumstantial. The principal duty of a jury was to find the cause of death. The jury was to consider whether there was sufficient evidence before them to say that that man’s death was caused by his mate. On the other hand if they did not think there was sufficient evidence they might leave an open verdict and simply say that that man was found dead and strangled on the Down. The thing of course would be further investigated, but that was all they had to consider.

The jury, after deliberation in private, found that death was due to asphyxia, the result of a fight, and returned a verdict of manslaughter against the prisoner, George Newman.

Magistrates hearing 1898 August 5th

George Newman was brought up before Salisbury Magistrates court, initially charged with Wilful Murder, but in the course of the hearing, the prisoner questioning the doctor’s evidence as to whether the rope was used to strangle the victim, the charge was reduced to manslaughter, and sent on up to the Assizes.

Assizes Trial 1898 October 28th

At the Assizes trial, the evidence was much as before, except that Newman’s defence counsel was able to question the evidence of the doctors further, to the point that the jury found they could not convict Newman with positively causing the death of Ward, and found him Not Guilty.


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