Horder, Ella

Horder, Ella      1908 Jan 31st

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber on Wednesday morning before the City Coroner (Mr S Buchanan Smith), on the death of Mrs C J Horder, which occurred on Tuesday morning under painful circumstances.

Mr Horder have evidence of identification. He said he last saw his wife alive on Tuesday morning, between a quarter and half-past eight. She then appeared in her usual health. During the last year or two she had suffered from weakness.

Dorothy Mary Horder stated that on Tuesday morning at twenty minutes to eight, she saw her mother upstairs. As she did not come down to breakfast, she searched for her afterwards, but could not find her. They were removing that day from 14, New Street, to “Oakhurst,” Fowlers Road, and thinking her mother must have gone to Oakhurst, she went there, but could not find her, and came back and continued her search, and found her in the shed. She was lying down, and her clothes were burnt. A fire was still smoking underneath her. Witness called her brother to get assistance, and he called in a doctor.

Alice Mary Fuller, the servant, stated that about a quarter to eight on Tuesday morning, Mrs Horder came down into the kitchen carrying some paper. She asked witness if she would light the fire, and she replied “No.” Mrs Horder then asked her if it would hurt to burn the paper at the bottom of the garden, and witness replied, “No,” not thinking her mistress meant in the shed. Mrs Horder put the paper on the table and went upstairs, and witness did not see her again. Questioned by jurors, the witness said she did not know if Mrs Horder had had a fire in the shed before. When her mistress went upstairs she had not her hat and coat on as if ready to go out.

Bertha Annie Beer, wife of Gilbert Beer, of 7, Milford Hill, said she was formerly in Mrs Horder’s service, and had since been employed by her. On Tuesday she went to the house as usual at 10 o’clock, and subsequently went to the shed with Miss Horder. She saw Mrs Horder lying there, but was so frightened that she did not notice anything in particular. She did not know that Mrs Horder was subject to fits, but she was of very excitable nature. On Monday morning Mrs Horder did not look well, and witness told her so, but she replied that she was very well.

Inspector Stroud stated that he was sent for on Tuesday at about 12.15, and on going to 12, New Street, went to the shed. It was full of smoke. He threw several buckets of water down, and found deceased lying on her right side across a stool, two of the legs of which had been burnt off. There was some burnt paper by the side of the body, and several used matches and a box of matches. The paper was smoking.

Dr Armitage stated that when he arrived he found that the shoulders were leaning against an overturned bench in the shed. The limbs were quite stiff, and the whole position was cramped. All the clothes were charred and the skin was browned by heat. Mrs Horder was very badly burnt, and the cause of death was suffocation. A curious thing was that nothing was charred on the bench the body was lying against. There were some sticks quite close to the body that were not charred at all.

The Coroner : Do you think she was suffocated and then fell on the bench? That was what it looked like from the position of the body.

If she hadn’t had a fit, or was suffocated prior to being burnt, she might have got out? Oh yes, quite easily.

And instinct would have driven anybody to do that? Oh yes, I could find no marks of violence, or injury to the head.

This was all the evidence, and the Jury returned an open verdict of “Found suffocated.” They also passed a vote of sympathy with the family.

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