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"Death Under Melancholy Circumstances"



   Report from "The Thetford & Watton Times" dated December 8th 1894

~ HILGAY ~

DEATH UNDER MELANCHOLY CIRCUMSTANCES.

An inquest was held by Mr. HARRY WAYMAN, (Deputy-Coroner) on Monday last, at the Rose and Crown Inn, Hilgay, on the body of Martha PALMER (33), wife of an engine-driver. Mr. Arthur Firth was foreman of the jury. In opening the proceedings the CORONER informed the jury that he had deemed it expedient to hold an inquest in consequence of the medical attendant on the deceased having, in his certificate, stated the primary cause of death to be "shock, followlng on a fall downstairs." The death would therefore appear to have resulted from an accident, and it would be the duty of the jury to enquire into the circumstances attending such accident. The Coroner added that two children of the deccased were then lying dead in the house, having suffered from diphtheria, and that the husband was also ill of the same complaint. If, on investigation, such proved to be the case, he intended to advise the jury to make a departure from an established rule which he believed was unusual if not without precedents viz:, to conduct the inquiry without going through the usual formality of viewing the body. He considered that in the interests of themselves and the public he would be justified in freeing the jury from the serious risks to which they would be exposed in entering a house infected with a virulant disease. Such an unusual course as that which he proposed would probably give rise to comment, and might, perhaps be brought under the notice of the Lord Chancellor, but, he (the Coroner) was prepared to take the responibility upon himself. Dr. Nesbitt, the medical attendant of the deceased woman and her children, was then called into the room, and in reply to the Coroner, stated that in his opinion, neither the deceased children nor the father suffered from diptheria, but from ordinary sore throat. In neither case were there any diptheretic appearances, and he considered that persons might enter the house without any risk of infection. The CORONER thereupon said that after the statement of Dr. Nesbitt there did not appear to be any reason why the jury should not view the body, and they acordingly proceeded to do so. It appeared from the evidence of a son of the deceased and the nurse, Mrs. Veal, that on Friday last the little girl Daisy, just 71/2 years, died. Just before her death the husband called his wife up to the bedroom to see her, and the mother had gone up three or four stairs, when she fainted, and slid down on her side, but was prevented from falling entirely by her son, a boy of 13. She did not cry out or speak, and her husband carried her up the stairs and placed her in bed. She did not complain of being hurt, either then or afterwards, and the nurse stated that she had no bruises. On the following day the baby died, and on the Friday following the mother died. Dr. Nesbitt stated that the deceased was a delicate woman, with a weak heart, and of a highly nervous and melancholy temperament. She was confined a little more than a fortnight before her death, and up to the Tuesday was recovering her strength. She got over confinement very well, being able to get up at the end of 10 days. He was of opinion that death resulted from shock to the nervous system occasioned by the mental distress which she suffered through the illness and death of her child. The CORONER then summed up the evidence, and directed the jury to return a verdict of "Death from natural causes," expressing his opinion that the inquest need not have been held, as the evidence adduced did not warrant the supposition that death was attributable to accident. The Jury returned a verdict in accordance. Ryfealyer, Martha and their three children, Daisy, Alfred & baby Louis were all buried together in an unmarked grave at All Saints Church, Hilgay, in early December 1894. Apparently, it was so cold that winter, that the cart carrying their coffins was able to cross the frozen River Wissey to All Saints Church, Hilgay for the funeral.
With thanks to Thetford Library for locating this report.
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This page created 10 September 2001 and amended/updated 20:13 30/01/2005