Dewey, Ellen & Dewey, William

Dewey, Ellen and William               1920 July 16th              Upavon

Mother and Child Drowned in the River

On Sunday there was a very sad tragedy enacted at Upavon, a Wiltshire village between Netheravon and Pewsey, when Mrs Ellen M Dewey, aged 38 years, the wife of a carpenter, jumped into the river with two of her children. One of them, James Dewey, aged 8 years, caught hold of a branch of a tree and saved himself, but his little brother, William Cecil, aged 3 years, and his mother were drowned.

His evidence was the most pathetic of that which was laid before the Coroner (Mr Sylvester) at the enquiry on Tuesday. He said that he and his little brother Cecil went for a walk with their mother on Sunday afternoon over the bridge towards the Flying School. His mother said, “Let us go down by the bathing place,” and they did so. They walked up and down by the river bank several times. His mother said, “that we get into the water and get drowned,” adding that there was no one to do her washing and “she wanted to be drowned.” He wanted to cry when she said “let us jump into the river.” She got hold of witness with one hand and his brother Cecil with the other and dragged them into the river. His foot went into the water first, and then they all went in together. It was deep. He caught hold of a tree and managed to get out. When he looked round Cecil was floating down the river and “mum” too. He saw two ladies coming across from near the bridge and some men when he was near home, but there was no one near the river he could call to for help.

Medical evidence showed that Mrs Dewey’s health had been affected by three operations she had undergone since October, but on the Sunday she seemed normal and there was nothing in her behaviour to indicate if she contemplated suicide. It was stated by the husband that there was insanity in her family.

The jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind.

After evidence the Coroner said he was afraid it was impossible to find other than that death was due to the mother’s act and it would be for the jury to decide whether or not she was guilty of murder or manslaughter. He suggested a verdict of manslaughter because the evidence showed that the act was due to momentary impulse. They had sympathy for the poor woman and her memory should not suffer as she was not responsible for her act.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, expressing sympathy with the family in their great trouble, and with this the Coroner concurred.

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