Smith, Leonard

Smith, Leonard             1916 August 25th

 

Boy’s Tragic Death

Shot in a Garden in Salisbury

The story of the tragic death of a Salisbury boy was told at an inquest held at the Infirmary on Monday evening. The City Coroner, Mr S Buchanan Smith, presided, and Mr E G Kimber was appointed foreman of the jury.

Corporal Albert Edward Smith, of the Royal Defence Corps, stationed at Didcot, the father of the boy, said that his son was 13 years old. He last saw him alive on Monday, August 14th. The boy lived with his mother at 21, Pennyfarthing Street.

Edward James Witt, said he was 11 years of age, and lived with his mother at 9 West Place, Endless Street. He worked as an errand boy after school hours, and on Saturdays for Mr T Butt, greengrocer, of Bridge Street. Last Saturday he was at Mr Butt’s stall in the Market Place, assisting Leonard Smith and Stanley Butt to load the trolley. Afterwards he went to tea, and subsequently he left home at about 7 o’clock. He went to Mr Butt’s stables in Castle Street, and then into the garden where he saw Stanley Butt and Leonard Smith. The latter had an air-gun, and Stanley Butt a small rifle. They were shooting at a target fixed on the back of a square tent made of boxes and canvas. Smith went into the tent to get some slugs and while he was there Butt shouted to him, “Look out ‘Tiger’ I am just going to shoot.” Smith shouted back something but witness did not hear what he said. Butt then fired and the bullet struck the target. They both went into the tent.

The Coroner : What for?

Witness : To see if the bullet had gone through the board.

What did you see? I saw Smith on the ground.

Was he wounded? Yes.

Where? In the side of the head.

What did you do? I shouted to Butt, and he came in and we lifted him into the corner of the tent and got some wet rag, and put it on his face where it was bleeding. I sat with him while Butt ran for the doctor.

Did Dr Gordon come and take him to the Infirmary? Yes.

Have you ever used this gun before? Yes.

Many times? I have used it once.

The Foreman : Is there a wall round the garden? Yes.

The bullet went through the tent? Yes.

Mr Trethowan : Did you think Smith was in the tent when the gun was fired? Yes, sir.

Was the target fixed on a box? Yes.

Stanley Thomas Butt, son of Mr T Butt, Bridge Street, said he was twelve years old. On Saturday at about 5.40pm he went to his father’s stall in the Market Place, and saw Smith and Witt there. They loaded up the stall on a trolley. He told Witt to go and have his tea, and he and Smith drove to the stables. Then they went into the garden to have a shoot. They fixed a target on a shed made of canvas and boxes. He had his father’s rifle and some cartridges, and Smith had an airgun. They first fired at some birds. When Witt came in Smith had no more shots, so he went into the shed to get some. While he was there he shouted to Smith to get out of the way, “Tiger, I am going to shoot at the target.” Smith shouted out something in reply which witness thought was “All right,” and fired and hit the bottom of the bull’s eye. Witt went into the tent and called to him to come in as Tiger was on the ground. He went and saw the blood on the side of Smith’s face, and thought the bullet must have struck him. He put a wet handkerchief on his face, and went for Dr Gordon, Endless Street, who came in a few minutes and took him to the Infirmary. He had permission to use the rifle on Wednesday, but not on Saturday.

The Coroner : When you fired at the target did you think Smith was still in the tent? No, sir, I thought he had gone out.

Mr Trethowan : Were you alone when you had permission to use the gun on Wednesday? Yes, sir.

You had no other boys with you? No.

Could you see the opening of the tent from where you were standing? No sir, the door was round the other side.

The Foreman : Have you been shooting birds with both these rifles? Yes, sir.

Police Constable Millett, of the City Police, said that on Sunday, August 20th, he went to the garden rented by Mr Butt, and saw there a square tent. He found a target fixed on the tent about 3ft 6inches from the ground. It was upside down, and there were four holes in it. He pulled away the canvas and found three holes in the bottom of the box. Stanley Butt pointed out to him the place where he was standing when he fired the last shot, and it was 21ft 9 inches away. He saw a quantity of blood inside the tent, and a boy’s cap with a hole in it apparently made by the bullet. He also found some airgun slugs and two boxes of ammunition. There was a small gun outside the tent, with an empty case still in the breech.

The Foreman : How far is this garden from the road?

The Constable : Some distance, it is at the back of Mrs Marlow’s house.

The House Surgeon said the boy was brought into the Infirmary on Saturday at about 7.20pm suffering from a gun-shot wound in the right temple region, about one inch behind the right ear. He was unconscious. An operation was performed on Sunday morning. There was a lot of hemorrhage and a part of the bullet came out with it. He remained unconscious until his death at 2.15pm on Sunday. Death was due to shock produced by the wound, and hemorrhage of the brain.

Mr T Butt was called at the request of one of the jurymen, who suggested that a rifle was a very dangerous weapon in a boy’s hands. Mr Butt replied that it was a small rifle he always kept in the coach house, and sometimes shot a rat or a bird with it. He said he kept it out of the way, and only gave his son permission to have a few shots with it last Wednesday. He had had the rifle several years.

 

A Juryman suggested that the ammunition should have been kept out of the way of the boy.

Mr Butt : I thought it was out of his way.

The Coroner that Mr Butt could not carry the matter any further.

The Foreman said that they must do all that they possibly could to prevent a recurrence of these accidents.

The Coroner said he quite agreed.

The Foreman said that a bullet from this rifle would go from 150 to 200 yards.

The Coroner thought something should be done to stop youths from firing these guns. He had seen them used in the Green Croft where anyone was liable to be hit, and he had seen them in the street. Whether the police could do anything to prevent these being used he did not know. He believed a license was necessary to carry them.

A verdict of accidental death was returned.

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