This years inquests include the case of Vincent, which demonstrates that people actually did live in shepherds huts, which we generally see nowadays as scenic items in country estates. The Roberts case shows that soldiers never have been given a hero’s welcome back into civvie street. The Burden case clearly demonstrates the dangers of cycling, both to the cyclist not capable of handling a sudden steep hill, and the pedestrian who, faced with a new hurtling thing approaching – years before the motor car became a common sight – panics like a rabbit and jumps in front of the oncoming device.
There are two most interesting cases this year. One is the case of William Wicketts, a shunter who was stood in slightly the wrong place amongst lines of full sidings when the express trundled round the corner and killed him, it being the common practise to couple trucks using a coupling-pole and thus standing aside in the neighbouring trackway, even when that neighbouring track was the mainline. Inspector Alvis, who finally states that he was in charge of the shunting operations, stated that he tried to warn the deceased, and to try to back this up Inspector Trump (of the Company) brings in a late witness who much to his annoyance denies this evidence outright. In many of these cases there is an undercurrent clearly demonstrative of the pressure the Company puts on its employees, and the threats it hangs over the witnesses of inquests like this, to try and force them to say the right thing, irrespective of the truth.
The second case is that of the newborn infant child of Louisa Thomas. The full range of this common scenario is gone through, there is a hint of the master/servant relationship, and despite the story of the ‘defendant’ the forces of law and medicine give enough evidence for the jury to bring in a verdict of Murder, and at the end of the murder trial – having spent the interim period held in a ‘London Institution’ – the poor young lady is offered the chance to ‘redeem her character’ by marrying a man provided by the authorities (one assumes from another institution elsewhere). How society and its morals have changed in a hundred years.
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