Saunders (Vere), Ethel

Saunders (Vere), Ethel       1919 July 25th         Amesbury

Fatal Motor Collision

Member of a Local Concert Party Killed on the Amesbury Road

Police Enquiring for a Car That Did Not Stop

A serious motor accident occurred on the Amesbury Road on Thursday night in last week when an unknown car ran into one in which Mr Austin Pilkington and his concert party were returning to Salisbury after an engagement at Parkhouse Camp. All the occupants of the car were thrown out, one member of the party, known as Miss Ethel Vere, was killed and several sustained injuries.

The City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) held an inquest at Salisbury Infirmary on Monday, a jury being called, of whom Mr E J Case was chosen foreman. Mr F H Trethowan represented Mr Pilkington.

Joseph Daniel Rose, a bank clerk, living at Brixton, said that Ethel Louise Saunders was professionally known as “Ethel Vere.” She was his eldest daughter and the widow of Henry Saunders. She was 33 years of age.

Arthur Austin Pilkington, a concert party proprietor, living at 72, Endless Street, Salisbury, stated that on Thursday, July 17th, he was returning from Parkhouse Camp to Salisbury with his party, “Ethel Vere” being among them. He was driving the car in which they rode and between 10.45 and 11pm, when they were about seven miles from Salisbury, they passed a touring car going the same way as they were. About a mile nearer Salisbury he saw the lights of a car which was overtaking him, and he presumed it was the same as he had passed previously. He allowed it to pass, keeping well into his left side of the road. As near as he could judge he was then going at anything from 15 to 20 miles an hour. When the car came abreast of him, travelling at a good rate of speed, three-quarters of it passed, then it swerved to its left, with the result that its back part struck the off front wheel of his car. He was driven into the bank. He could not remember what happened afterwards till he picked himself up from a field in which he was lying, about ten or fifteen yards from the road. The others in the car were his wife, and Miss Vere, Miss Sammons, Miss Verton, Mr Harvey White, and Mr Basil John White. They were all thrown out of the car on to the field by the side of the road. Miss Vere was riding in the front seat between his wife and himself. He was a bit shaken, but with the other male members of the party did what was possible to assist the ladies. His wife and Miss Sammons and Miss Verton were injured. Miss Vere appeared to be unconscious and had signs of blood about her mouth. She did not speak but they heard her groan. A taxi-cab then came along from the direction of Salisbury, driven by Miss Payne, who, on being stopped, immediately turned round and took the injured ladies to Salisbury Infirmary.

The Coroner : With regard to the car that passed you, what sort of a car was it?

Witness : I was driving and my mind was centred on keeping my own car in the road rather than taking particular notice of what passed, but I have the impression that it was a touring car full of people.

Was it an open car? It appeared to be.

What position was your car in after the accident? It was standing on its wheels in a field in the reverse direction to that in which we had been travelling.

Was your car smashed? Yes, badly smashed; the top of the radiator, the wind screen, mudguards, side lamp brackets and lamps, and the panels of the body were damaged.

From that damage and the position in which you found the car after the accident, what do you think happened? The car, after striking the bank, must have turned a complete somersault.

Is there a distinct mark on your car? There is a distinct mark on the off front wheel. It is a dent caused by some metal object.

You think that mark was made when their car collided with you? I am perfectly sure in my own mind.

The Coroner : Did the other car stop? No, it went on.

After the collision it went straight on without stopping? Yes.

Up to the present they have not been able to trace that car? So I understand.

Why did not the car stop? Can you give me any explanation? I am afraid I can’t.

Might it not have been possible for the driver not to have known he hit you? I don’t think it is possible.

As a matter of fact, it is rather rare in the case of an accident for a car to drive on without stopping? I should think it was rather rare.

So there is a possibility that this driver might not have known he struck your car? No answer.

You are perfectly positive that this car actually struck yours? Absolutely certain about it.

Was your steering gear broken? The steering column was badly bent.


Mr Trethowan : Did you notice your tyres afterwards?

Mr Pilkington : Yes, the back tyre had burst.

In your opinion would that have caused any noise? Yes, it must have made a terrific report.

Have you had an expert examination of your car made? Yes.

The Coroner : You have driven a car a good many years? Between two and three years.

You are often driving at night? Almost every night.

You always drive yourself? I always drive myself.

So you have had more night driving than the ordinary driver? I should say so.

The Foreman suggested that the impact between the cars must have been very great, and that the other car would need to be repaired, therefore it ought to be possible to trace it.

In reply to a juror, Mr Pilkington said that the place where the accident occurred was a dead level, and the road was perfectly straight.

Ernest Harvey White, a comedian, at present living at 100, Milford Street, corroborated Mr Pilkington’s evidence.

Jessie Payne, motor driver, employed by Messrs Rowland, and living at 98, Gigant Street, said she was driving a taxi-cab to Durrington on the night of the accident. When she was about five miles out of Salisbury on the Amesbury Road at about ten minutes to eleven she saw a car coming towards her with very bright head lights. The lights almost blinded her and she had to pull into the bank to avoid it and nearly stopped. The driver appeared to be very nervous or drunk, as his car was swerving about the road and did not appear to be under proper control. It was a touring car with people in it, and was going very fast. It might have been covered with dust, but as far as she could see it was a light coloured car. About five minutes after it had passed she saw the lights of a car in a field, nearly facing the direction of Amesbury. Somebody stopped her and asked her to take some ladies back to Salisbury as there had been an accident. They were put into the car, one being unconscious, and she brought them to the Infirmary.

Dr Yahilevitz, house surgeon at the Infirmary, gave evidence to the effect that Mrs Saunders was admitted at 11.30 on Thursday night. She was dead. She had a fracture of the lower part of the neck, six upper ribs on the right side, the fifth and sixth ribs on the left side, and her collar bone on the right side. These injuries might have been the result of a bad motor smash, and were quite sufficient to cause death.

The Coroner, addressing the jury, said that that was all the evidence that he was in a position to lay before them at present, and it was for them to decide whether they were satisfied that it was sufficient tor not. Unfortunately, up to the present, though the Police had made enquiries, they were unable to trace the car which Mr Pilkington and Mr Harvey White said emphatically ran into them. Quite rightly, Mr Pilkington pulled into the side of the road to allow the overtaking car to pass him and was very emphatic that it struck him. In view of the evidence they must enquire whether it was being driven in such a reckless way that it might be possible to say it was being driven in a criminally negligent way. When a collision occurred between two cars, it was not the usual practise for one to drive on without stopping, and there was just the possibility in this case that the driver did not know that he had struck the other car.

The jury retired to consider their decision, and on returning the Foreman said they desired to adjourn the inquest temporarily so that an endeavour might be made to find the driver of the other car, as they were of opinion that it was not under proper control.

The Coroner subsequently announced that the adjourned inquest would be held on Thursday, July 31st.

The Chief Constable asks us to say that he will be glad if persons who were on the road on the night of the accident and are able to give any information about the car of which the complaint is made, will kindly communicate with him.


Adjourned Inquest 1919 August 8th

I will overlook the initial recapping passages of the report.

The Coroner said yesterday that he had not much further evidence for the jury. The Police had communicated with the Police of over 29 different districts, and made enquiries at every possible place they could think of, including Old Sarum Aerodrome, but they could not find any trace of the car which it was stated collided with Mr Pilkingtons’. The only further evidence was that of Police Constable Beard, of Amesbury.

PC Beard stated that at 1.30am on Friday, July 18th, he received a telephone message from the Salisbury City Police stating that an accident had occurred on the Amesbury road. He at once went to the spot and saw a motor car on the down by the side of the road in a damaged condition. The near side was smashed and the wind screen broken, as well as the lamp on the near side. He did not notice any other damage. It was dark and no one else was there. The bank on the side of the road was cut away, apparently where the car struck it. He made enquiries at all the camps and aerodromes in the Amesbury district but had not been able to trace the car which was alleged to have collided with this one.

Mr J D Rose, father of Mrs Saunders, was given leave to put questions, and in reply the constable agreed that the road was about 17 feet 9 inches wide, that it was straight and level, and that there was plenty of room for two cars to pass. He thought that if another car hit this one it would be through carelessness.

The Coroner intimated that though he could call expert evidence as to the damage done to the car it was not necessary, and the jury took the same view.

In announcing their decision to return a verdict of “Accidental Death,” the Foreman expressed their sympathy with the relatives of the lady who was killed and also with Mr and Mrs Pilkington.


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