Cooper, Josiah

Cooper, Josiah          1918 September 6th              Wilton

Tragedy at Wilton – Suicide as the Result of Worry

The first Coroner’s inquiry to be held in the Salisbury district without a jury, under the new powers granted to Coroners, was held on Friday by Mr F H Trethowan at Wilton Town Hall. It concerned the sad death of Josiah Cooper, aged 48, a plumber and painter employed by Messrs C and J Marks, who had been found on the floor of his bedroom with his throat cut. Arthur John Cooper said his father had been worried, particularly since he (the son) had been sent to Trowbridge for medical examination about a week ago. The death of his brother last March caused his father to worry. He last saw him alive at dinner time on Wednesday when he seemed to be about the same as usual. He went up to his bedroom about half past eight, and was called about an hour later, but did not answer. He was left until the following morning, and about half past six witness’ younger brother called him, but got no answer. The door was bolted, but witness could see his father lying on the floor. He forced the door open and then found his father with a nasty cut in his throat. He got help from a neighbour and the police were sent for.

The Coroner : He had never threatened to take his life, had he?

Witness : He didn’t say anything. You had a job to get him to speak at all.

Dr A W K Straton, of Wilton, said he had known Cooper for about eight or nine years, during which time he had attended him and his family. For the last few months he had been working at witness’ house at his trade. He had noticed the man had been depressed since the death of his wife a few years ago, and the depression had become more marked during the past week or two. The eldest son came home and died about last March. That and other circumstances tended to depress him. He was called up for the Army, and he believed he was due to appear before the Tribunal that (Friday) evening. He thought the son had also received a calling-up notice. Cooper was worried about his children, and did not know what would become of them. He did not think he was likely to take his life because he was a most affectionate father, and there was no one to look after the children. He felt sure he was temporarily insane at the time he committed the act. Witness found a severe wound in the throat, severing the wind pipe and other large vessels. There was an open blood-stained razor under his right arm. The wound in the throat was evidently self-inflicted. There was also in the bedroom an open bottle containing some strong acid, probably spirits of salts. It was nearly empty. In his opinion death occurred on Wednesday evening.

PS Townsend, stationed at Wilton, said nothing was found to suggest that the man contemplated committing suicide. He had seen him about lately and noticed he was somewhat depressed. He was in indifferent health, and had been worried since the death of his boy.

A verdict of “Suicide during temporary insanity” was returned.

Reference at the Tribunal (Immediately below)

At the sitting of the Borough Tribunal on Friday the chairman (Mr W E J Stroud) referred to the sad case and said Mr Cooper was well known to them all. He much regretted his sad end, which was no doubt occasioned by the continued worries which he had sustained, having recently lost a son who served in India with the Territorials, while another who was in very delicate health had just received his calling-up notice, and the added fact that the man himself had to appear before the Tribunal that evening was no doubt too much for him, being a widower and having the whole care of his family on him.

The chairman said he felt very strongly that this man had done all he could, both as a citizen and a father, to look after his children, and he thought it was a case in which the Tribunal should do something to prevent, if possible, the calling up of the son who was in a delicate state of health. He proposed that a letter of condolence be sent to the family. This was passed in silence, the members standing. It was further resolved to return to the National Service authorities the calling-up notice of the son, with a request that it stand over for at least three months in view of the state of the young man’s health.


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