Taylor, Herbert

Taylor, Herbert           1916 October 13th

FISHERTON TRAGEDY

ATTEMPTED MURDER AND SUICIDE

 

STORY OF A SOLDIER AND HIS LOVER

After a supper party in Clifton Road on Tuesday, a soldier named Frederick Henry Taylor left at about midnight with a girl named Jessie Bolwell, with whom he had been keeping company, and took her to the gate of the house where she was staying. There he attacked her with a razor, then ran across the meadows, and was discovered drowned in the river, with his throat cut in several places.

The tragic story was enquired into yesterday (Thursday) at the Council Chamber by the City Coroner (Mr S Buchanan Smith) and a jury of which Mr J S Rambridge was foreman.

Samuel Francis Taylor, a compositor, living in Tottenham, said that his son, Herbert Frederick Taylor, was a single man and 31 years of age. He joined the Army about six weeks after the war started, prior to which he was employed as a printer’s labourer in London. He had been home three times since joining up, the last time being in February. He always appeared to have average good health, and had had no severe illness. He, however, told his mother that he had not enjoyed such good health since he had been living in Salisbury. He had also written to his brother stating that he didn’t feel quite so well as usual, and suffered from pains in the head and dizziness. The witness added, “We were surprised he did not say anything to us about it, but I suppose he did not want to worry his mother. She has two boys at the front now.”

William Arthur Spires, a sergeant in the Somerset Light Infantry, said he was stationed at the Southern Command Headquarters, and was in charge of the cycle orderlies, of whom Taylor had been one since March. He then belonged to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, but about a fortnight ago was transferred to the Home Service Garrison Artillery, Royal Berkshire Regiment. Witness last saw him alive at one o’clock on Tuesday, when he appeared to be in his usual health. He had made no complaint to him about not feeling well. He had been warned to attend the Medical Board with the other cycle orderlies on Wednesday at 2.30, but on Wednesday morning witness attended at the city mortuary in Salt Lane and identified his body.

Annie Bolwell said she was the widow of Sidney Bolwell, a railway platelayer, and lived at 17, Avon Terrace. She had three children. The eldest was Jessie Emmeline May Bolwell, who was 20 years old, and who had been sleeping at “Meadow View,” 1, Avon Terrace, to keep Mrs Handford and her daughter company, Mr Handford having joined the Army. For six months she had been keeping company with Private Taylor, who lived with Mr and Mrs Jeffrey at 53, Clifton Road, and had been in the habit of taking her daughter out in the evening and then home to “Meadow View,” which was at the bottom of Avon Terrace.

On Tuesday she and her daughter were invited by Mr Beck, of 55, Clifton Road, a cousin of hers, to attend a party which he was giving on the occasion of one of his daughters becoming “engaged.” Private Taylor came in and enjoyed himself, and was bright and cheerful. They had supper together. Taylor only had a glass of beer to drink. She, her daughter, and Taylor left the house at about midnight, and Taylor was perfectly sober. He and Jessie remained about ten minutes in her house, and he said he had enjoyed himself, but was tired. He then said, “Come along, Jessie,” and wished witness good-night. She believed that he was going to take her daughter to “Meadow View” as usual.

The Coroner : About five minutes after they left the house did you hear anything? Yes, I heard screaming.

Did some one rush into your house? Yes.

Who was it? My daughter Jessie.

Did she say anything? Yes, she said, “Oh, Mother, Taylor has been and cut my throat.”

Did you see any blood? Yes, she was bleeding from the face and neck and one finger.

What did you say? I said, “Where is he?” and she said she did not know. I laid her on the couch and put cold water towels on her face and neck.

Did you ask her why he did it? Yes, and she said, “I don’t know.”

In the meantime did someone send for the police and the doctor? Yes.

Did they arrive shortly after? Yes and the doctor attended to her and ordered her removal to the Infirmary. She was taken there immediately.

Continuing, the witness said that her daughter had suffered from rheumatism and was obliged to give up her situation as a domestic servant last December. She had not the full use of her right arm and had been under Dr William Gordon’s care. He ordered her to the Infirmary for a short time, and she had been an out-patient. Last Thursday week she commenced work at the Milk Factory and that was the only work she had done since December. Witness had never heard Pte Taylor threaten to commit suicide, nor had she heard him threaten her daughter. The two always appeared to be perfectly happy and very fond of each other. She had never heard them speak a cross word to one another.

Alfred Henry Beck, of 55, Clifton Road, a stoker employed by the Salisbury Gas Co., said he invited several friends to his house on Tuesday evening as one of his daughters had become engaged to a soldier. The party commenced at about 9.30, and Taylor and Jessie Bolwell appeared to be enjoying it. They were bright and cheerful and joined in the singing and dancing. Taylor drank two glasses of beer at supper, and was quite normal and perfectly sober. They left at about midnight, and all the party had gone by 12.30. Just afterwards he heard someone shout “Murder,” and his son came in and told them that Taylor had cut Jessie’s throat.

The Foreman : Taylor was quite sober? Quite sober.

Dr Armitage said that on Wednesday morning he was called to see the body of Herbert Frederick Taylor. He found six wounds in the throat, five insignificant ones and one serious. Beyond that he could see very little. The wounds were certainly sufficient to cause death, and death might have been due to them, but he could not say it was. There might be other factors.

In reply to the Foreman, the doctor said he heard that the body was found in the water.

Charles Henry Poole, of 33 Clifton Road, a stoker employed by the Gas Company, said he was present at Mr Beck’s party, and left at about twelve o’clock. Hearing screams shortly after he reached his home he went back, and on learning what had happened he went on to Mrs Bolwell’s, where he found Jessie on the sofa with her throat cut. She told him that Taylor did it when he wished her good-night just inside the gate leading to Mrs Handford’s. The police were communicated with, and on their arrival he accompanied them to “Meadow View,” where they noticed blood on the gate. Private Goddard, a soldier, picked up a blood-stained razor. Witness afterwards assisted in taking Jessie Bolwell to the Infirmary. On returning he went with a police constable and a special constable in search of Taylor, and they found his body in the river at Black Well.

Private Goddard, of the 3rd Batt. Wilts. Regt., stationed at Portland, said he came to Salisbury on leave, and soon after mid-night on Tuesday he heard someone shouting “Fred, Fred.” He went outside and then heard someone shouting “Murder.” On going down to Mrs Baker’s yard at the bottom of Avon Terrace he saw blood on he ground and on the gate. He found a razor with some blood on it, and continued the search with the police till the body was discovered.

Replying to a juryman, witness said there was a pool of blood on the ground near the gate and a smear on the fence.

Police Constable Toogood said that at about half-an-hour after mid-night on Tuesday he received a telephone message from Mrs Baker, Avon Terrace, “Please come at once to Avon Terrace. Some man has cut a girl’s throat.” He telephoned to Dr Armitage asking him to go at once to the place, and also informed the Chief Constable. When he got to 17, Avon Terrace, he found a girl lying on a couch with a very bad cut on her left cheek and another near her left ear. On asking if she could tell him who did it, she said, “Yes, a soldier named Taylor, an orderly at Radnor House.” She added that it happened in Mrs Baker’s yard, she screamed and ran home, while he disappeared across the meadows. Police Constable Tucker then arrived and they went in search of the man.

At about 1.30am, on Wednesday, they found him in about four feet of water at Black Well. He was in a sitting position with his face downwards just under the surface of the water. Witness got him out and found that he was quite dead and had his throat cut. They removed the body to the mortuary. There were four letters on the body, and in those addressed to his mother, and Mr and Mrs Jeffrey with whom he had been lodging, he referred to a “terrible crime” he was going to commit. Witness also found a razor case and 9½d in money on the body. He produced the blood-stained razor which had been picked up by Private Goddard.

The Coroner, having briefly addressed the jury in private, the foreman said they had agreed on a verdict of “Suicide during temporary insanity.”

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