A DREADFUL TRAGEDY AT THE
NORFOLK AND NORWICH HOSPITAL
- Dreadful Tragedy at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital: news account as reported in the Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 18th December 1875
- The Inquest opened: Tuesday 14th December 1875
- The Examination of Edwards before the Norwich Bench:
Monday 13th December:
Thursday 16th December:
- The Hospital Tragedy – Committal of Edwards for Trial, Saturday 18th December as reported in the Norfolk Chronicle Saturday 25th December 1875
- The Adjourned Inquest held on Tuesday 21st December and reported in the Norfolk Chronicle on 25th December 1875
- Letters to the Press: January 1876
Dreadful Tragedy at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital
From the Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 18 December 1875
A terrible tragedy occurred at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital on Monday morning under circumstances which demand, and will doubtless receive, the fullest investigation. On the preceding Saturday a weaver 42 years of age, named Robert Edwards, residing at Marsham, having obtained an indoor recommendation from the Rev. J. Gunton, the rector of that parish, was admitted to the institution, Dr Bateman, the physician who examined him prior to admission, believing from enquiries he made of the man that he was suffering from some bodily ailment of a dyspeptic character. It would now appear, however, that for some time past, apart from his physical illness, which may have been but symptoms of the still graver malady, he had suffered from mental disturbance, the rev governor on whose recommendation he was received at the Hospital having stated that ten or twelve weeks since his case was regarded in the light of one of insanity; that he had been restless and violent at times; that he had been under some sort of surveillance by his friends who had kept with him in his room, although the door had not been locked; and that his hands had been tied. Having regard to the unmistakeable nature of these facts, and that, of course, the Hospital is and institution for the cure only of the sane and is in no sense an asylum for the insane, Mr Gunton states that he should not have given the recommendation but for his receiving a letter from Mr Little, surgeon, of Aylsham, by whom the man had been attended.
Anyhow, Edwards was admitted to the Hospital, and in a fit of homicidal mania contrived to escape from the ward – the Catherine or No 6 ward- in which he was placed and, finding his way to the children’s ward, No 12, seized a pair of tongs from the fire-place and before he could be found or secured made a murderous assault upon some of the unfortunate young patients, which unhappily resulted in two being slain outright, a third dying in the course of an hour or so, and grievous if not fatal injuries being inflicted upon two others.
The details of this melancholy and appalling event are as brief as they are painful. On his admission Edwards was, as we have said, placed in the Catherine or No 6 ward, the night nurse in charge of which has also the care of wards Nos. 5 and 7. From the time of his admission he manifested great nervousness, restlessness, and sleeplessness – symptoms which usually attend acute mania- and, moreover, he told the house surgeon that he was subject to sensations in the head and lost all control of himself; but, still, no alarm was excited and nothing apparently foreboded the frightful event which did ultimately happen. He obtained permission from the nurse on the Sunday to walk from his own ward into the adjoining wards, Nos. 5 and 7, but whether he confined himself within the limits of his permit, or made a more extended acquaintance with the Hospital, having then in contemplation any design, is not apparent. On Sunday night, although he went to bed, he does not seem to have slept at all. The nurse, Norcliffe, had her attention divided between the three wards already mentioned, and the greater proportion of her time was spent in No 5 ward, where there was a case of compound fracture of the thigh requiring more constant attention. But she was frequently in and out of the Catherine ward, and Edwards more than once attracted her observation. Once he was sitting up in bed, and she directed him to lie down, which he ultimately did with evident reluctance, and only on her remaining at his bedside until he did so. Another time she caught him out of bed walking towards the fireplace, for the purpose, he said, of warming himself, and she then prevailed upon him to get into bed and again lie down. This was about four o’clock on Monday morning.
Twenty or five and twenty minutes later a patient brought her the information that Edwards had left the ward. With another nurse she immediately went in search of the wanderer, and, failing to find him, promptly aroused the House Surgeon and informed him of what had occurred. Meanwhile Edwards would seem to have made his way from the Catherine ward which is situate on the upper floor of the west wing of the Hospital, to the Boys’ ward, which stands at the remote end of the east wing on the ground floor; the distance between the two being 120 yards. There are two rooms to the Boys’ Ward divided by a passage. Sleeping in one of them were four lads – namely, William Martin; 14 (actually he was 11), of Ryburgh; John Lacey, 10, Griffin-yard, Pookthorpe, Norwich; Joseph Colman, 11, Barton Turf, and Alfred Clarke, 9, Elm-hill Norwich. In the other there were Edward Lubbock, 9, Buxton, and two other lads. On entering the room in which the four were, Edwards appears to have gone to the fireplace, and, having armed himself with the tongs, at once set about his deadly work. As they lay asleep each of the unfortunate patients was attacked in turn and savagely beaten about the head with the thick end of the tongs. With such cruel ferocity were the blows inflicted that the face and skull in every case were battered in, the blood being spattered over the walls and floor in all directions, and Colman’s head and face being left in an indistinguishable mass of flesh, bone and hair. It is not necessary to harrow the feelings by any further description.
Suffice it to say that Colman and Lacey were left dead by the murderer, and that Martin died in the course of a very short time, of course never waking to consciousness. Clarke would appear to have been the last attacked in this room, and the thud of the blows awakening the nurse, who slept in a room opening into the ward, she immediately opened the door to see what was amiss. As soon as she did so – the ward being lighted with gas, which is kept burning during the night – she beheld Edwards in his nightdress, with only the Hospital red cape around his neck and with the tongs in his hands, engaged in his wholesale slaughter. Flourishing the tongs, he at once came towards her in his mad infuriation, but, with great presence of mind, she swiftly with drew herself, closed and securely bolted the door. Whether the poor lunatic returned to the assault on Clarke or not is doubtful, but at any rate, the boy when subsequently seen, was and is still alive, although dreadfully injured.
None having escaped in this room, Edwards crossed over the passage into the other part of the ward, and commenced an assault on Lubbock. But, fortunately, a little boy in an adjoining bed had just previously awoke, and having slipped out of his bed and peeped in at the opposite room, had run in inconceivable terror into the corridor, towards the central hall, where he gave an alarm. Mr Baumgartner, the House Surgeon, who up to this time had been engaged with one or two of the nurses in a fruitless search, at once proceeded to the Boys’ Ward, No 12, where he found and arrested Edwards in the execution of his purpose upon Lubbock. On seeing Mr Baumgartner, Edwards came towards him, but not before Mr Baumgartner had provided himself with some means of defence, by taking the poker from the fireplace of the room, with which he managed to parry the blows now struck at him with the tongs, until eventually he contrived to strike Edwards on the arm with the poker, the blow being one which, although it did not cause him to drop the tongs from his hands, disabled him to such and extent that Mr Baumgartner was able to spring forward, seize him by the throat, throw him down, and hold him securely until the porter, who had been called by one of the nurses, came to his aid and the unhappy man was handed over to the police authorities and by them taken to the police station, where he was charged with feloniously killing the three deceased – namely, William Martin, John Lacey, and Joseph Colman.
THE INQUEST OPENED
Tuesday 14th December 1875
The inquest was opened by the City Coroner (E. S. Bignold, Esq) at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, on Tuesday afternoon, the following being sworn on the jury:- Messrs. W. Varvell (foreman), T. Colman, J. H. Piggott, W. P. Edwards, S. H. Smith, C. Browne, R. Dickerson, W. Huddleston, T. Thwaites, J. Marshall, J. G. Snelling, H. Curl, H. Barrow, J. h. Rolfe, and J. Weyer. Mr F.E. Watson, chairman of the Hospital Board of Management, Dr. Bateman and Mr G. W. W. Firth of the medical staff, the Rev J. Gunton, on whose recommendation Edwards was admitted, and the Chief Constable and Supt Barnard were present during the enquiry.
The CORONER, addressing the jury, said – Gentlemen, this is one of the most shocking and horrible tragedies it has ever been my duty to inquire into. Although it is so very sad, and in some degree very appalling, yet I think it will not occupy very long on this occasion, as an adjournment may be found necessary. Thes poor children came to their deaths yesterday morning, and you will hear the circumstances under which it occurred; and I think there will be no doubt on your minds – as the fact is almost a patent one – that their deaths were caused by blows inflicted by an in-patient of this hospital named Robert Edwards, under circumstances which you will hear narrated. I think the evidence will leave little doubt on your mind as to the nature of the verdict which it will be your duty to come to; but as there is an enquiry going on before the magistrates – held yesterday and continuing on Thursday – I think the right course will be to take some evidence today sufficient to identify the bodies and to enable them to be buried, and then to adjourn for a week probably, so as to give time for the magisterial enquiry to be thoroughly gone into and perhaps concluded before this one is finished. What I propose to do is to call before you Mr Baumgartner, surgeon to this Hospital, and also Dr. Bateman who was the physician who admitted this patient Edwards. You will hear from them some account of the man, and what they knew of him when he was admitted. The facts which you will gather from them, I think, will show that there is no reason to suppose the man was insane on the Saturday he was admitted, or on the Sunday. The law on the subject is this: A man is presumed to be sane unless he is proved to be insane. If a sane man committed such an act as will be proved before you, he would certainly be guilty of wilful murder. Therefore, I do not anticipate that you will have any difficulty in coming to such a verdict. The fact of your finding a verdict of wilful murder will be to send the man for trial at the Assizes, where the case will have every attention. There will be counsel on both sides, and the case will have the benefit of the knowledge of the presiding Judge who will direct the course to be pursued. Still, what may happen hereafter is not a matter for your consideration. It is for you to discharge yourselves now or before the close of this inquest on your oaths be finding a verdict in accordance therewith. The bodies, which we will now go and view, have been left in exactly the same position that they were in yesterday morning. They present a dreadful sight. We will then take the evidence of Mr. Baumgartner and Dr. Bateman, and it will be for you to say what further, if any, evidence you will require. I think it will then be for me to consider at what period I shall bring further evidence before you, whether to-day or at the adjournment.
The jury having performed the painful duty of viewing the bodies, about the appearance of which it is not necessary to make any observations, beyond what we have already written, except it be to remark that in each case the unfortunate lad had his hand to his head as though in the act of warding off the attack, the following evidence was taken:-
Mr J. Baumgartner, house surgeon, said, - The bodies which have just been viewed by the jury, I identify as those of William Martin, John Lacey, and Joseph Colman. On Saturday last I remember John (Robert) Edwards coming to the Hospital, on the recommendation of a governor. He was admitted by Dr. Bateman, and placed in Catherine Ward on the first floor. I first saw him at nine o’clock on Saturday night, when he asked me to give him something to make him sleep, but I told him to take the medicine Dr. Bateman had prescribed for him. I saw him again on Sunday morning. He seemed very nervous and irritable, but nothing to excite my suspicions. I saw him again at nine at night, and he was then asleep in bed. Early on Monday morning, Nurse Norcliffe, who had charge of the ward, came to me and told me she had lost a patient. I searched the passages and corridors with her and another nurse named Hannent, and then went upstairs. While there we heard a voice calling. We were still searching when we heard the voice call, and I at once went down stairs, when I met the third nurse, Denmark, and a boy patient named Harry Frost, aged 14, who had come from one of the boy wards. In consequence of what he said I at once went to No. 12 ward. I went into the room on the right and saw Edwards. He was wearing a shirt and a very small red tippet. He had a pair of tongs in his right hand or in both hands. I am not quite sure. I think the tongs were in his right hand. He was striking at the head of a boy named Edward Lubbock, who was lying in a bed in the corner of the room. Lubbock is still alive. I took up the poker, and Edwards turned round and came towards me, and tried to strike me. I avoided his blows; and after two or three misses, I struck his forearm with sufficient force to make it fall down. I took the tongs from his hand when he was on the ground, after I had seized him by the throat and thrown him to the floor. I held him on the floor until assistance came, and he was properly secured. There had been three boys in the room beside the boy Lubbock, but one of them, named Harry Frost, had run away and given the alarm. The other two were still in their beds. After the man was secured, I went into the other room in consequence of what some of the nurses had told me. I saw there much the same state of things as the jury have just seen. I found the poor boys with their heads in the same condition as you have witnessed. Alfred Clarke was still in bed at the further corner of the room, and he is still alive; and William Martin was still breathing; but he died an hour afterwards. Colman’s face was one mass of pulp, so that it was quite unrecognisable. Clarke had two fractures of the skull, and he is still alive. These injuries to the boys were such as would in my opinion be caused by similar blows to those I saw Edwards striking at the boy Lubbock, and with a similar instrument. I have no doubt their injuries were caused by such blows. The tongs I took from his hand were covered in blood; and the boy I saw him strike had not bled at all.
The jury did not think it necessary to ask any questions of Mr Baumgartner.
Dr Bateman said – I am one of the physicians of this Hospital, and on Saturday morning last I was performing my duty as admitting physician, and in that capacity I admitted Robert Edwards. He told me he was suffering from disease in the stomach, that he suffered pain after meals, and a great deal of flatulency. He said he was obliged to be very particular about his diet, and he could never digest a meal without the assistance of medicine as a corrective.
The CORONER – You saw nothing in his manner to make you doubt his statement?
Witness – No, he answered the questions rationally. I saw no reason to doubt the truth of his statement. His father was him, but I heard nothing either from the patient or his father to make me think that his symptoms were due to t anything else than bodily ailments. He told me he had been severely ailing for about six months, but he had not been well for some considerable period longer. I prescribed for the ailments which he spoke to me about.
You have had considerable experience amongst the insane? – Yes
Have you ever known cases where a sudden paroxysm has taken place so suddenly as this? – I think it is rather exceptional; but I have heard of such cases. Sudden attacks of homicidal mania are not very uncommon – that is, assuming it to be a case of homicidal mania. A sudden attack of homicidal mania is quite consistent with the fact of the patient being apparently well two days before.
Mr Piggott – Were the remarks of the prisoner of such a character as to lead to the conclusion that such results were likely to follow? – Certainly not, or I should not have admitted him.
Did he say that he had been deprived of sleep? – I don’t remember it. Possibly he might have said so; but I don’t remember it.
Do you know anything of the man’s family? – No.
Mr Colman – Does dyspepsia affect the brain? – Yes, sometimes.
The CORONER – Was he in your opinion labouring under dyspepsia? – From the feeble opportunity I had of judging, I thought so undoubtedly – in the absence of any information to the contrary.
You came to that conclusion from what he told you? – Yes. With regard to the question previously asked by a juror, I would say that dyspepsia may coincide with brain disease. It might affect the brain, but I would not like it to go forth that dyspepsia is a necessary cause of brain disease, or that brain disease is a necessary consequence of dyspepsia. There is no particular connection between the two. Dyspepsia is not incompatible with brain disease. Dyspepsia is more likely to arise from disease than cause it.
Mr Piggott – The House Surgeon says the unfortunate man asked him for some medicine to cause him to sleep, and he told him to wait and see what effect his medicine would have? – I did not give him sleeping medicine. I should like to add that I thought him a person of a weak and feeble constitution, and of a nervous temperament.
But still quite harmless? – Quite so. The idea never entered my mind.
Mr Marshall – it seems strange that he, being a man of forty years of age, should have had his father to accompany him? – Judging from what we see now, it would seem strange. We often find patients of that class, though, who come with their relatives. That would not excite attention by itself.
The Rev. J. Gunton being present, The Coroner invited him to give his evidence, but the rev gentleman said he had not attended with the idea of being examined, but merely to show how deeply he deplore what had happened.
The CORONER said that if Mr Gunton wished to reserve his evidence no doubt there would be no objection to his doing so, but matters might be facilitated if now he was present he answered one or two questions.
Mr Gunton manifested some reluctance to be sworn, and went and said something to Mr Watson, upon which the gentleman said – As far as the Hospital is concerned we wish to have the fullest investigation. I have myself taken the greatest trouble in this matter.
Several of the jury intimated that Mr Gunton should be sworn.
The Rev. J. Gunton was accordingly sworn, and in answer to the Coroner said – I am rector of Marsham in this county. I gave Robert Edwards his recommendation for the Hospital. He was a parishioner of mine, and I have known him I should think for thirty years.
Did he appear to you to be suffering from insanity? – Well, whenever I have seen him he has appeared most calm. I saw him on the Friday before he left.
Have you ever heard of his having attacks of insanity? – Not attacks of insanity.
Did he come to you and ask for his recommendation? – No.
Did you volunteer it? –No.
I’ll put the question in this way: What induced you to give him the recommendation? – I was induced to give him the recommendation in consequence of a note I received from Mr. Little, surgeon, of Aylesham.
Saying that it was a fit case for the Hospital, I presume? – The statement was to the effect that he was in a very low condition as to diet, and that if I could get him into the Hospital for a month it might be beneficial to him.
Did the letter say anything about his mental state? – No.
I must ask you this question: Were you ever aware of your own knowledge of his ever having had an outbreak in insanity or of his ever having shown any violence? – I have understood that he has been so violent that they have been obliged to stay up with him.
But you had no reason to consider that he was a madman? – No.
If you had any such idea you would not have given him a recommendation? – I should not have recommended him unless I had had this note from Mr. Little.
Mr. Edwards – Was this man married? – No, he was single.
The CORONER – have you ever known him to be in any lunatic asylum? – I have never heard it.
You have previously told me that you were not aware of the prisoner ever having been insane? – Previously to this?
Previously to this? – No
Previously to his coming here on Saturday last have ever had reason to be believe him insane? - I do not exactly understand because you are asking me to pronounce on him.
Whenever I have seen him he has been quite calm.
I ask you whether you have had any reason to believe he was insane; not what you have now reason to believe. At the time you gave him the recommendation had you any reason to believe he was an insane man – I do not think so at the time or I should not have given him the recommendation.
I want to know whether, quite irrespective of what occurred in the Hospital prior to your giving him that recommendation, you ever had reason to consider him an insane person? – Well, as I said, whenever I have been with him he has been quite calm.
Have you ever known or heard of his committing any assault upon any person? – No, I have not heard of his committing any assault upon any person. I have heard of his being violent. I have never heard of any personal violence, only that he had been restless and violent with his friends. He was never under confinement.
Was he ever restrained to your knowledge as being an insane man? – what do you mean by being restrained?
Are you aware of his ever had on a straight waistcoat, or his arms held? – No.
Have you ever heard of his being kept in his room? - Oh, yes.
Locked in? – Not locked, because they have kept with him.
His friends kept with him. Were they the times he was so restless? – Yes.
You have told us before that if you had not considered him insane at the time, you would not have recommended him. Was your attention ever called to this printed law as to recommendation: “ That no woman advanced in pregnancy, nor child under six years, except in extraordinary cases of surgery, or where any capital operation is required, and no person affected with insanity, confirmed epilepsy, or deadly infectious disease, should be admitted?” – I have observed that rule; and should not have recommended the man unless he brought me the note.
The CORONER, in reading over the deposition to Mr. Gunton, read witness’s statement that he had never heard of Edwards having attacks of insanity, whereupon
Witness said – Well, you are asking me to pronounce upon him as insane.
The CORONER –No, I am not. You cannot, of course say whether he wasinsane, but whether you ever heard of his being insane before you gave him to recommendation to come here?
Witness – His case was viewed in that light at first, ten or twelve weeks ago.
When further evidence had been read by the Coroner
Witness said – His friends have sat up with him.
The CORONER – And yet you don’t know whether they did or did not use any mechanical restraint? – I don’t know, except that it was merely tying his hands; but I cannot say that of my own knowledge.
The CORONER – It will be quite competent for us to have Edwards’ friends here.
Mr Colman – How long is it since he was in one of these restless states?
The CORONER – I think it would be better to have that from his relatives. Witness says he knew Edwards’ friends kept with him when he was restless, as Edwards lived with his friends. (To witness) – You never saw Edwards with his hands tied? – No never.
Mr Marshall – Can the witness give any reason why the father should come with him to the Hospital?
Witness – Physically he was in a very weak state and not fit to come alone.
The CORONER – did you consider him a person of weak or feeble intellect? – Witness: Since Saturday
Not since Saturday. Dismiss that from your mind altogether. – No.
Mr Colman - What occupation was he? – A weaver. He has no followed his trade lately. He has been in a weak bodily state for some months.
The CORONER – Prior to last Saturday you had no reason to consider his mind feeble? - No. I am speaking merely from knowing him. I considered him of about average intellect of the people in his class of life.
By Mr. Piggott – Edwards was not, I think, a member of a friendly society.
The CORONER – Had Mr. Little been attending him? – Not within the last week or so.
The CORONER – Are you aware what medical man attended him previously?
Witness – Mr. Richard Morton, of Aylsham, I believe, though I cannot say I ever saw him there. I think at first Mr. Morton viewed the case as attended with weakness of mind.
The CORONER – There is now more than sufficient evidence on which for me to give an order for the burial of these bodies. I will put it to you, gentlemen, whether you say whether we shall adjourn. If you wish, we will examine Norcliffe, who was in charge of the ward where the deceased were sleeping. We have no witnesses from a distance. Mr. Watson suggests that prior to examining Norcliffe, it will be well to hear the statement of Miss Graham, as to the system of nursing in the Hospital. Miss Graham will describe the condition of the patient on the Sunday night and early on the Monday morning.
Mr. F.E. Watson- There are half-a-dozen patients who were in the ward. Everyone in the Hospital is at the call of the jury.
The CORONER - I am desirous of avoiding calling the patients, because I don’t think they are in a fit state to be examined.
Mr. Watson – I wish on behalf of the Board of Management to have the fullest enquiry.
The CORONER – At the same time I feel that I must protect my inquiry from running too much into a Hospital investigation, because of course the Hospital Board will have a meeting on the subject.
Miss Margaret Graham was then called, and having been sworn, was examined by the CORONER. She said – I am Lady-Superintendent and Matron of this institution. On Saturday evening I saw the patient Robert Edwards, but observed nothing in particular in his appearance. I saw him again several times on the Sunday, and spoke to him about eleven, perhaps later.
Was there anything in his manner then to make you imagine he was an insane man? – No. I thought he was very queer.
Did you see anything of his jumping out of bed? – No; but he spoke in an excitable, queer manner.
Is it your duty or custom in the course of the night to go through the wards? – Yes; nearly always. I was through that ward on Monday morning. I was through it at twelve on Sunday night and again at ten minutes past three on Monday morning. My attention was not then drawn to him.
Was he asleep? – No; I asked nurse if he had slept, and she said he had not slept at all, and that she thought him a “curious patient.” I believe that was the expression. Edwards made no remark to me. Nurse Norcliffe was in charge of the ward. She is a night nurse.
She would not go to bed at all? – No; not at all.
Would it be her duty on any occasion during the night, to leave the wards? – Yes; - she had three wards to attend to.
And in the course of the night she would visit them? – Yes. I told her two or three times to look at Edwards, as I thought there would be some trouble with him.
You thought he had been telling stories? – He said he had been sick, and he was not.
Did you order him to be watched on account of your anticipating any mental disorder? – Oh no.
You have considerable experience, and from what you saw you had no reason to imagine that the man was what you call insane? – No. It never crossed my mind that he was insane. But I thought him nervous and peculiar. Norcliffe has been here a year, and I think her a steady, good nurse, and particularly attentive to her duties. Norcliffe had charge of three wards – 5th, 6th (the Catherine Ward), and 7th. I think there were altogether twenty-six patients in the three wards; but I am not sure.
Mr. Baumgartner – There are twenty-eight beds in the three wards; I think two or three were empty.
The CORONER – Had she any assistance?
Miss Graham – No; she did not need it. There was only one person sufficiently ill to require constant attention, a man with a compound fracture of the thigh. The other patients were or supposed to be asleep.
Then you don’t consider that Edwards required constant attention? – No. I thought he was deceiving me.
You thought he was shamming illness? – Yes; that is what I thought, and that is why I told Norcliffe particularly to watch him.
You have mentioned a case of compound fracture of the thigh, in which ward was that? – In No.5. The Catherine Ward where Edwards was, is No.6.
Then the nurse would be more in No.5 than in the other wards? – Yes, more constantly than she had been in the habit of being there. The night-nurses go on duty at ten at night, and remain on duty until seven in the morning. Though they stay till nine their responsibility ceases at seven. They have means, if necessary, of communicating with the other nurses. The day-nurses sleep in a room adjoining this No.6. The number of nurses depends on the class of patients under their charge; sometimes there are two nurses in a ward, and sometimes one nurse in three wards. On Sunday night last I considered one nurse quite sufficient; and from the description of patients than in the three wards I considered she would have very little to do. The night-nurse is not supposed to leave these three wards except to go from one to another. I saw Edwards on the Sunday morning talking with the house-surgeon; and I saw no reason to call in any further medical assistance. He would not go through No.5, nor pass by its door, in order to get to the boys’ ward.
Harriet Kehoe said – I have been head nurse in this Hospital since 16th May last. On Saturday, an in-patient named Robert Edwards was received into Catherine Ward; and I had frequent opportunities of seeing him on the Saturday afternoon. I was in charge of Nos. 5, 6, and 7 wards, and I had two nurses under me. I did not notice anything in Edwards’ manner that was peculiar, only that he was very nervous. I have had previous experience in nursing before I came here. He did not give me the idea of an insane man – not in the least. I consider there is a great difference between a nervous man and an insane man, and his symptoms were those of nervousness. On the Sunday I saw nothing to alter my opinion with regard to him, although I was in and out of the room frequently. When I say “nervous” I mean that he seemed very shaky, and when he spoke he appeared to be very nervous. He looked rather wild when he came in. I thought he was a very unhappy wretched-looking man. I never heard him express any wish to leave the Hospital. He had medicine after meals. He asked leave on the Saturday or the Sunday to walk through the wards. He said he should like to see them, and I told he might do so. He was in No.6 ward, and he went into Nos. 5 and 7 only. I could not have allowed him to go any where else.
Mr. Baumgartner, in reply to the CORONER, said the tongs were missing from the room in which the boys slept, and that those he took from Edwards he handed over to Supt. Barnard.
Superintendent Barnard produced the tongs, which were indented at the upper part, and stained with blood.
Angelina Norcliffe deposed – I have been a nurse here for thirteen months. On Saturday night last I was in charge of wards 5, 6, and 7. There were 9 patients in No.5; 8 in No.6; and 7 in No.7. There was one case of fracture which required serious attention; but the others required very little. In the course of the night I went frequently from one ward to another, but remained, of course, more in that where the patient with the fracture was. I saw Edwards on Sunday night; and I observed that he was not sleeping. I spoke to Miss Graham about three on the Monday morning, and told her that Edwards was not sleeping. I did not go especially to inform her of this. I did not see anything in Edwards on the Sunday night or early on the Monday morning to lead me to think he required special attention.
Had he tried to get out of bed? – Yes. Miss Graham wanted me to watch him closely to see if he slept. I had not seen him get out of bed till four in the morning, I should think. I went frequently into the ward after speaking to Miss Graham; and when I saw him get out of bed, I told him to get into bed, asking him why he had got up. He replied he had got out of bed to warm himself. He got into bed again; and I observed nothing particular with regard to him except that he seemed very nervous. I never heard him express a wish to leave the Hospital. About a quarter of an hour after I went to his ward again and he was sitting up in the bed, and I told him to lie down. At nearly half-past four one of the patients came to me and told me Edwards had left the ward. I directly went in search of him accompanied by another nurse. When we could not find him I summoned the house-surgeon, and he at once proceeded to search for him. When Mr. Baumgartner went to the Boys’ Ward, I ran and called the house porter; and the porter got up immediately and went to the Boys’ Ward. The porter’s name is John Lloyd. I consider that with the class of patients we had in those wards we had quite sufficient nursing power to do it efficiently.
By Mr.Piggott - On Sunday at midnight I did not notice anything particular in his manner. He was walking towards the fireplace, when he said he was going to warm himself. He did not give me the idea of going to seize anything from the fireplace, as he was walking slowly. I saw him sitting upright in bed at a quarter-past four, and I told him to lie down. He did not lie down immediately, but I stayed at the foot of the bed until he did so.
Mr. Baumgartner said it was between half-past four and five that he was called, and the whole thing was over by a little after five; I can’t say exactly.
Mr. Colman - Then it appears that Edwards was for half-an-hour either walking about the Hospital or hammering these poor boys’ heads?
Mr. Baumgartner – You will be able to have evidence on that point from Denmark, who was night nurse at the time. I was five minutes dressing, and I was hunting about for him for ten minutes.
The CORONER – You might have been in one part of the house while this man was engaged in knocking these boys about.
Mr. Piggott expressed his desire to have the nurse Denmark called before they adjourned, but as it was not anticipated she would be called at this sitting of the inquest, and, being on night duty, she was in bed resting.
The CORONER thereupon adjourned the inquiry until Tuesday next at two o’clock, the jury being bound over to appear at that time.
THE EXAMINATION BEFORE THE BENCH
Monday 13th December
The unfortunate man Edwards was charged on Monday morning before the Norwich Bench with feloniously killing and slaying John Lacey, Walter (William) Martin, and Joseph Colman. The magistrates present were the Mayor (J.H. Tillett, Esq.), the Deputy-Mayor (E.K. Harvey, Esq.), W.J. Utten Browne, Esq., and R. Fitch Esq. Among those present during the inquiry were F.E. Watson, Esq., chairman of the Hospital Board of Management, Sir F. Bolean, Bart., and the Rev. P. Colborne, governors of the institution, C. Wiliams, Esq., a member of the Medical Staff, the City Coroner (E.S. Bignold, Esq.), and other gentlemen. Dr. Bateman was on the Bench, but being a witness he, of course, took no judicial part in the proceedings. Of the general public, a good many were attracted outside the Guildhall by the rapid spread of the news of the terrible occurrence and the arrest of the murderer, but only a comparative few were admitted to the Sword-room.
Edwards was brought into Court between eleven and twelve o’clock, at which time the case was called on. He was in charge of two constables, Noller and Middleton, each of whom throughout the proceedings held him by one of his hands in the seat he occupied by the side of the dock. He is a haggard, consumptive-looking labouring man, with a short light moustache and whiskers. He was attired in corduroy, with a black cutaway coat over a common white shirt. With his hair in wild disorder, the blood stains still upon his shrunken, ghastly-looking face, his eyes moving restlessly and fiercely about, he presented a very pitiable appearance, which was rendered yet more distressing when he sometimes rapidly moved his tongue backwards and forwards by the side of his mouth, now and then made and attempt to release himself from custody, and with loud, unreasoning iteration, said, “Peep at me,” “Peep at me.” There is but little doubt that his mind was a complete blank to all that took place around him, and that not for an instant did he realise the painful position in which he stands.
The Town Clerk (instructed by the Chief Constable) prosecuted; the prisoner was unrepresented.
In opening the case, the Town Clerk having intimated to the Bench the charge against the prisoner, remarked that it was a most lamentable subject for them to investigate; and from the extraordinary acts of the prisoner it might be thought that the authorities at the Hospital might be in some way to blame. However it was right to say that he thought no blame was to be attached to them. He proposed to call sufficient evidence before them to ask for a remand, as the case must go to the Assizes. It would be unfair to the prisoner, and also to the authorities of the Hospital, that the case should be so managed that the facts should not come out fairly before the Bench; and therefore he proposed to offer only evidence sufficient for a remand.
Mr. J. R. Baumgartner, house-surgeon at the Hospital deposed – I know the prisoner Robt. Edwards. He was admitted into the Hospital on Saturday last by a governor’s recommendation. He was seen by Dr. Bateman, and having been seen was admitted as an in-patient. I saw him on Saturday night for the first time. He was in the Catherine ward, commonly called “No. 6.” That is on the upper floor on the male side of the house. The ward is not confined to any particular disease. I saw him between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday night. I did not make much examination at that time. I asked him a few questions and he asked me to give him something to make him sleep. I did not give him anything; I told him to take the medicine that Dr. Bateman had already prescribed for him. On the Sunday morning I saw him again. It was in the course of my rounds between eight and twelve. He appeared to be suffering then from nervous disease. His manner made me think he was nervous and irritable, but there was nothing to lead me to suppose he was dangerous. I saw him again in the evening round, between eight and nine. My attention was not attracted to him then, as he was lying quiet in bed. I believe prisoner had been in bed all day. I was again in the ward a few minutes before twelve, but my attention was not drawn to him then. The name of the nurse who has charge of the Ward during the day is Kehoe. She also has charge of Nos. 5 and 7. The name of the nurse who has charge at night is Norcliffe. Between four and five this morning Nurse Norcliffe came and called me up, and in consequence of what she said to me, I first looked about the passages downstairs, accompanied by her and another night nurse called Hannent, who has charge of the male wards 2, 3, and 4. There is a night nurse in charge of these wards. After searching the passages downstairs and the corridor, we went upstairs, and while there we heard the voice of the third night nurse, named Denmark. That night there were three night nurses. She was in the hall below. In consequence of hearing her I came downstairs, and I met her with a patient, a boy fourteen years of age, who had come from the boys’ ward a long way off, on the ground floor. From what the boy said I at once went to No. 12, where I saw the prisoner. Ward No.12 consists of two separate rooms. They are both on the ground-floor, with the foot of the staircase between them. I went into the righthand room where I saw the prisoner. He had nothing on but his shirt and a small red flannel cape or tippet, such as the patients wear in bed. He had the tongs in his right hand, and with this he was striking repeated blows at the head of a boy who was lying in bed. That boy’s name was Edward Lubbock and he lay in abed furthest from the door. I went to the fireplace and took up the poker, and he then left the boy and came towards me. He struck several blows at me, and I struck several blows at him. Ultimately I struck him on the arm with the poker and his arm dropped but he did not drop the tongs. I then closed with him and seized his throat. I got him down on the floor until two porters came. It seemed to me about five minutes. He was then properly secured. I found only one boy in the room – the one whom I saw the prisoner striking at – but there had been three boys there. The two others had run out; and one of them was the boy who gave the alarm. I went into the room opposite as soon as I gave the prisoner into the custody of the porters. There I saw four boys lying in bed with their heads smashed. One was Martin, who lives at Ryburgh; he was still breathing, but he died within an hour. The next was John Lacey’ aged ten; his brains were scattered on the pillow. The next was Joseph Colman, whose head and face were smashed to a pulp. The fourth was Alfred Clarke, aged nine, who had a severe fracture of the skull; but up to eleven o’clock this morning he was still alive. The two rooms were lighted with gas. There was sufficient light to see the patients. The nurse Denmark had charge of these two rooms and of four other wards – all the female wards, in fact. When I first took the tongs, I had to lay hold of the prisoner; but when I had the opportunity of examining them, I found them covered with blood, and very much bent. The death of the children was undoubtedly likely to be caused by such blows as the prisoner was dealing. There was no occasion for Nurse Denmark to stay in this room, and she had charge of a number of small children in No.13 ward.
Mr Mendham – Upon that evidence I ask you to remand the prisoner.
The MAYOR- Is any one here on behalf of the prisoner?
The Chief Constable – No, sir.
The MAYOR (to the prisoner) - Have you any question to put to the witness who has just given evidence.
One of the constables repeated the question to him and then said- No, sir.
The MAYOR – Does he understand?
The Constable – Yes, sir.
The depositions were then read over.
The MAYOR – Mr Mendham, as there is an application for a remand I should like to ask Dr. Bateman one question.
The Town Clerk – The magistrates will take what course they like with regard to that.
The MAYOR – I think it would be better.
The Town Clerk – If the magistrates wish it, of course I assent to it; but I don’t see the necessity of it.
The MAYOR – It is the suggestion of the magistrates that this would be desirable.
Mr. Kennett – It must be on the depositions as part of the case.
Dr. Bateman then stepped into the witness-box and was sworn. He said – I am one of the physicians to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. I was in attendance there on Saturday last as admitting physician. The prisoner was brought there on the recommendation of the Rev. John Gunton of Marsham. I examined the prisoner, and in answer to my questions he informed me that he had been seriously ill for about six months, but that his health had no been good for a much longer period. He told me that he suffered considerably from the stomach, that he suffered from flatulence and pain after meals. He said that for some time past he had been obliged to be very particular about his diet, and that he had been obliged to take medicine after each meal as a corrective. I saw nothing in his manner or conservation to lead me to doubt the truth of these statements and I prescribed for him accordingly.
Did you see anything to arouse your suspicions as to his mental state? – I saw nothing.
The MAYOR – Were his answers those of a reasonable man? – Quite so.
And there was nothing to excite your apprehension? – Certainly not. He was accompanied by his father; and I saw nothing either from my own observation or from the information given me by his father, to lead me to suspect that his symptoms were otherwise than due to bodily ailment.
Mr. BROWNE – Did you see anything to lead you to suppose he was insane, or had a tendency to insanity? – No; certainly not.
The MAYOR – We understand then that all the usual precautions were taken? – Certainly.
Mr. HARVEY – Have you ever known patients suffering from what you have described to turn out to be insane? - The symptoms which the patient had may coincide with insanity undoubtedly.
The MAYOR – You say his father was with him at the time? – He was.
His father said nothing whatever about such a thing? – Nothing what ever.
Is there an entry made in the Hospital book as to the prisoner’s ailment? – there is generally an entry made, but sometimes it is not made for a day or two. I think on this occasion the entry was dyspepsia.
The MAYOR – That corresponds with what you have reported.
Mr. Baumgartner – It is not yet entered.
Witness - Well, that is how it would be entered.
The MAYOR – Would your prescription come to the knowledge of Mr. Baumgartner? – It would come to his knowledge, or to the dispenser’s knowledge.
He would be aware of what you considered what the case was? – Certainly. He would judge it was something to do with the digestive organs. He would be able to form some idea of the nature of the complaint from the prescription and the diet ordered. I don’t think any medical man, from merely seeing the prescription, could judge positively what was the matter with the patient.
The Town Clerk – I thought the object of this examination was simply to show the public that every precaution was taken.
The MAYOR – That is the only object.
The Town Clerk – Then anything else is perfectly irrelevant.
The prisoner having been formally remanded until Thursday at eleven o’clock, was removed from the Court in the custody of the two constables.
THURSDAY 16th December
The prisoner was brought up on remand yesterday (Thursday), before the Mayor and Deputy-Mayor, J. Wells, R. Fitch, J. Betts, and R. Chamberlain, Esqs. Mr. Watson and Dr. Bateman were again present, and occupying seats on the bench were also the City Coroner, Dr. Eade, Mr Carlos Cooper, and Mr. E.C. Bailey. Prisoner was led into court by Constables Noller and Middleton, and his demeanour was much more calm and composed than on Monday. The Town Clerk again prosecuted; Mr. Clabburn defended.
Mr. C. Thwaites, the City Surveyor, and Mr. W. Lake, assistant Surveyor, produced and testified to the accuracy of certain plans of the Hospital, and the Catherine and Boys’ Wards, with the beds in them and their late occupants numbered and named. The distance supposed to have been traversed by the prisoner from his ward to ward No. 12 was about 120 yards. The nearest way would be from 105 to 110 yards.
Mr. Baumgartner (re-called) desired to amend part of the evidence given by him on the previous occasion. He then stated that two of the children had gone from the right-hand room of ward No.12, but that was a mistake, inasmuch as one of the boys, Richard Watson was still in his bed when he went into the room. Lubbock, who occupied a second bed was being attacked by the prisoner when witness entered the room, and the occupant of the third bed, Harry Frost, made his escape from the room. The fourth bed was not occupied.
Cross-examined by Mr. Clabburn – I had some conversation with the prisoner on Sunday morning, and from what he said I concluded he was suffering from nervous disease.
What did he say? – I don’t know that I can repeat it.
Was it incoherent sentences? – No, certainly not.
Did he make any complaint to you of any kind? – He complained of want of sleep on Sunday. The strangest remark he made was that he had sensations; he could not describe these sensations except that they came over his head.
Did he say what was the effect of them in any way, or did he lead you in any way to suppose what was the effect of them? – He said he lost control over himself.
Anything further? – I took that to mean that he felt faint or something of that sort.
Did he say he might be made to do anything? – No.
Or felt violent? – No.
Did you ask him what he meant by losing control over himself? – I don’t think I did.
Did not that strike you as being somewhat singular? – It certainly struck me as rather singular.
Did you make any further enquiry? – I had asked him other questions previously, but nothing in particular.
Did you give any instructions as regards the prisoner in consequence of that? – No; I gave no special instructions.
Did you receive any complaint as to him from the nurse? – No complaint, certainly; nor any statement that there was anything remarkable about him.
The DEPUTY-MAYOR – The prisoner told you that he had no control over himself. Did you not consider it your duty to communicate that to the physician who admitted him? – No; certainly not. I did not think it had any such meaning as it has turned out to have had.
You did not think it necessary to take any precaution to have him watched? – The remark did not lead me to suppose that his mind was affected.
But he told you had no control over himself? – I attributed that to his nervousness; and nervousness does not necessarily lead to insanity.
It is not necessary to have such persons watched? – Unless the nervousness approached insanity?
Mr BROWNE – You mean to say that you saw nothing in the case of the prisoner’s to suppose that he was of unsound mind?
Witness – No; only that he was very nervous.
Is it not a fact that very many persons may be highly nervous and irritably nervous, if I may so speak, and yet be very far removed from insanity. – I think so.
Mr. BROWNE – So do I.
The DEPUTY – MAYOR – But want of sleep, and restlessness, with nervousness, are a bad sign, is it not? – Yes; but it is a sign that occurs in a hundred cases besides insanity. It is a very common symptom indeed.
Mr. BROWNE – But want of sleep and restlessness may occur in hundreds of cases where there is no insanity.
Witness – Yes.
The MAYOR – Were you present on Saturday morning when Edwards was admitted?
Witness – I was in and out of the room, but I cannot say positively whether I was in the room when the case was admitted by Dr. Bateman. If I was I was occupied and my attention was not drawn to him.
What is the practice of the Hospital on the admittance of a patient? Who has he to go before? – The physician or the surgeon as the case may be.
And the usual course we understand was adopted in this case? – I believe there was nothing exceptional.
Is that only conversation you had as to the state of his brain or nervousness? – I had a short conversation on Saturday night. It was then he asked me for something to make him sleep.
And this further conversation took place on Sunday morning? – Yes. I don’t think I spoke to him on Sunday night at all.
Angelina Norcliffe was called and repeated the evidence given by her before the Coroner.
Cross-examined by Mr. Clabburn – Edwards appeared to be rather nervous but not at all excited. When in bed he did not throw his arms about at all. I pretended to leave the room when I gave him the milk on order that I might see whether he took it or not.
By the MAYOR – I have only been employed as a nurse thirteen months.
Susan Browne said – I am a day nurse at the Hospital, and the head of Wards Nos 11, 12, and 13. My bedroom is situated between the two rooms forming Ward 12. About half-past four on Monday morning, I was sleeping in that room, when I was awoke by a banging noise like someone breaking wood. I at once got up and opened the door leading into the left-hand room in which Clarke and the others lay. At that time I did not know the prisoner Edwards. I saw a man in his shirt flying from bed to bed striking the boys with something which I thought was a stick. He held it in both hands. When he heard the door opened, he turned upon me and aimed a blow at me with the instrument in his hands. I retreated into the bedroom and closed the door. The knocking still went on. I made no noise, as I knew no one could hear me. I was so frightened that I tried to get out of the window, but I could not open it. The door into the other room was closed and I could not leave by that. Shortly afterwards I heard voices, and I opened my door and came out. I then saw Mr. Baumgartner and the two porters holding a man down on the floor at the door inside the right–hand room.
Cross-examined by Mr. Clabburn – You used the word “flying.” Was it an indiscriminate rushing? – Yes. He first banged Colman on the head, and then went to the boy Lacey.
He seemed to make for their heads.
Did he hesitate between each stroke? – No, sir.
Was it one or several blows he gave each boy? – I only saw him give each boy one blow.
The MAYOR – Was he making any noise or saying anything?
Witness – He was breathing very hard. He never spoke.
Harry Frost deposed – I am 14 years of age. I was a patient at the Hospital on Monday last. I occupied a bed in Ward No.12 – n the right hand portion of the Ward. Mine was the third bed from the door. I was awoke by some noise between four and five. The noise was like knocking. I heard a scream in the left hand room of the ward. I got out of bed and looked into the room. I then saw a man striking Alfred Clarke with a part of tongs. I ran out of the Ward and called out “Nurse.” After that I met nurse Denmark, who has charge of the Ward during the night. I went into Ward 13 by direction of Denmark, and Mr Baumgartner came to me and asked me some questions. I told him what I had seen.
By the MAYOR – The man had on a white shirt and a red cape.
Emma Denmark – I am one of the night nurses at the Hospital on the female side. I had charge on Sunday night of Wards Nos. 11, 12, and 13. I had charge of the children in Ward No. 12. During the night I visited them four times. In No.13, I had special charge of an infant. That Ward is a good distance from No.12. At ten minutes or three minutes to five I heard a thumping noise like someone breaking coke. I directly left to see what the noise was. I looked in Ward No. 11, but saw nothing there. Before I got to the end of the passage I heard the noise continue, and I also heard a smashing of glass. I then saw the boy Frost and shouted to him to go back to his Ward. But Frost said something to me which led me to direct him to go into Ward 13 and sit by the fire. I was going for the house porter, when I met Mr. Baumgartner in the passage. I spoke to him, and he went to No.12 Ward immediately. As I was going back I heard him call “Nurse” several times; and in consequence of that I went to the Ward, where I saw a man lying on the floor with Mr. Baumgartner holding him down. I saw a pair of tongs lying close by. They belonged to the left-hand room.
By the MAYOR – I have been a nurse three years and-a-half, and have been at the Hospital since last May.
Superintendent Barnard produced the pair of tongs which he received from Mr. Baumgartner; and Mr. Baumgartner spoke to having handed them to him in the same state as they were left by the prisoner.
This closed the case for the prosecution, Mr. Mendham asking the Bench upon this evidence to commit the prisoner.
The prisoner then stood up and having been cautioned by the Mayor in the form required by the law, was asked if he had anything he desired to say, whereupon
Mr. Clabburn rose and applied for an adjournment, intimating that he was only instructed last night, and that he desired to call several witnesses who were not now in attendance, such as Mr. Morton, surgeon, of Aylsham, who had attended the prisoner, the prisoner’s father, and two or three others. His object was to show the state of the prisoner’s mind.
Mr. BROWNE suggested that those witnesses might be called at the assizes.
Mr. Clabburn replied that he would rather have their evidence on the depositions, because then the Judge would be better able to judge of the whole case in charging the Grand Jury.
The Town Clerk submitted that the plea of insanity could be raised at the assizes, and decided before the prisoner was put on trial for the charge. He doubted whether Mr. Clabburn was legally entitled to what he had asked.
The MAYOR – The object is to put the whole case on the face of the depositions.
Mr. Clabburn – Most unquestionably. Further the witnesses would then be allowed their expenses, and, as this was the case of a poor man, the saving of expense was an important consideration.
The Magistrates’ Clerk having referred to the Act, said the question was whether these witnesses knew anything of the facts or circumstances of the case or the innocence of the prisoner. In such a peculiar charge as this, and an offence committed under such circumstances, he was not prepared to say that the evidence of such witnesses was not admissible.
The Town Clerk submitted that the Act of Parliament did not touch the case, for it could not be contended that the prisoner was innocent of the charge, although if he was shown to be insane the consequence of his act would not be visited upon him.
The Magistrates’ Clerk remarked that at the Assizes the first thing the jury would have to determine was whether the man was capable of standing a trial, and there was no reason why the Judge should no know what the evidence on that point was.
The MAYOR said there was no doubt that in strict law the prosecution was right, but the question was whether in a case of this kind they should exclude any evidence.
The Town Clerk contended that if the application were granted a dangerous precedent would be set, and that, moreover, if the defence of insanity was going to be set up, the prisoner’s state of mind must have been known by someone in connection with his case and that he ought not to have been sent to the Hospital at all.
The MAYOR said that the Town Clerk had better not go into that.
The Magistrate’s Clerk – There is this, sir. You may be wrong if you don’t take the evidence and you can’t be wrong if you do.
The Magistrates having conferred together,
The MAYOR said – Our view is that the prosecution may object to this in strict law, but under all the circumstances, it is better to have the witnesses before us and let all the facts come out.
The application was accordingly granted and the prisoner remanded until Saturday.
The Hospital Tragedy
COMMITAL OF EDWARDS FOR TRIAL
AS REPORTED IN
THE NORFOLK CHRONICLE
25th. DECEMBER 1875.
The unfortunate man, Robert Edwards, charged with the murder of the three lads, Martin, Lacey and Colman, under the painful circumstances detailed last week, was brought upon remand before the Norwich bench of magistrates, at the Guildhall, last Saturday. As on the preceding Thursday, his demeanour had undergone considerable change, since his first appearance in Court, and there was a marked absence of anything exciting or “peculiar” in his look and behaviour. He was again accommodated with a seat by the side of the dock, and during the hearing was in the charge of Constables Noller and Middleton. The magistrates on the Bench were – The Mayor and Deputy-Mayor (J.H.TIllett and E.K.Harvey, Esqs), W.J. Utten Browne, T. Wells and J. Betts, Esqs.
The Town Clerk (Mr. Mendham) again appeared for the prosecution and Mr. J. Clabburn for the defence.
Mr. Clabburn, for the defence, merely said – I propose to call a few witnesses before the Bench. I have written to the doctor, and also telegraphed to him, but he declines to appear here or anywhere else without a subpoena; and I decline to go to that expense. The witnesses I propose to call are James Edwards, the father, Harriet Edwards, Thomas Edwards, Harriett Skipper, and Mr. Wright, the curate of the parish.
James Edwards, the father of the prisoner, said – I am a weaver, residing at Marsham. My son, the prisoner, has been ailing or a long while.
The MAYOR – How many years?
Witness- He was never much in constitution. Twenty years ago I applied to Dr. Ranking about him.
Mr. Clabburn – When was your attention first directed to his state of mind?
Witness – Ten or twelve weeks ago; his feebleness –
Mr. BROWNE – His state of mind. When did you suspect anything being wrong with it.
Witness – Five or six weeks ago.
Mr. Clabburn – About three or four months ago did not something occur to direct your attention to it?
– His despondency of spirits.
About that time did he make any observations to you respecting it? – About two months ago he said to me, “Father, take those things out of the top of the bureau.” I said “My dear, what things, my dear?” He said, “You know.” He referred to my razor, and said he had no control over himself at that time.
Now about six or seven weeks ago, what then? – I saw nothing but he was getting rather weaker and more despairing or desponding at times.
Did you then call in a medical man? – Mr. Morton had been attending him.
Did Mr. Morton, jun., come in at that time? – About that time he examined him.
Now on Friday week, the 3rd of December, how was he the night previous to that week. Were you with him? – I was always with him.
Did not something occur which took you to Mr. Morton again? – Yes; that was the Friday week before he went into the Hospital.
He could not come, I believe? – Young Mr. Morton was out, and his father said he could not leave, as he had so much business in hand.
Did you then go to another medical man? – Yes; Mr. Little.
And you told him the state of your son? – Yes.
Did he come and see your son? – Yes; the next day.
Witness here said – Will you let me say a word. “ I am a poor feeble man under these trying circumstances. The first time I went to Mr. Little was on the Tuesday morning. I said to him, “My dear boy is crazy.” He said, “What are you afraid of him? Go and tell the relieving officer” –
The Magistrates’ Clerk – That is not evidence that can come on here. You must simply confine yourself to what took place. Mr. Little came and saw your son?
Witness – On Saturday.
Your son was not well then? – He was more calm then.
The Mayor – Is Mr. Little the parish doctor?
Witness – Yes, sir.
Mr. Clabburn ( in answer to the Mayor) – Mr. Little is not here.
Examination continued -I afterwards got some medicine. Mr. Gunton subsequently saw him again.
On the Friday night before he went to the Hospital, the 10th of December, in what condition was he then? – Calm, but still very desponding.
How was he on the Thursday night? – He was violent.
On the previous day did you do anything to his hands? – In the evening I tied his hands.
The MAYOR- Why did you tie his hands?
Witness – Because I had not sufficient strength to confine him to his bed alone.
Examination continued – Harriett Edwards, a cousin of my wife, was with me when I tied his hands. I believe I or someone afterward untied them during the night.
Mr. Wells – How long were they tied? – About an hour perhaps.
Mr. Clabburn – Did your son say anything shortly after that?
Witness - All I could make out was that he said, “Take care of your self; I have no control over myself at times.”
Did he say anything more to you? – I believe that was all. I went and laid down after that, for I was worn out.
Were you present when his hands were tied for the second time? – I was not.
Mr. WELLS – We have not heard that they were.
Mr. Clabburn – I know that they were, but I was not aware whether or not he was present.
On the following day – the Friday- he was calm? – Yes, he was.
Did you on that day obtain a recommendation to the Hospital? –Yes; it was yesterday week.
You brought him up to the Hospital on the following day, Saturday? – Yes.
Cross-examined by the Town Clerk – Your son has been worse for the last five or six months? – Yes, he kept declining – despairing and desponding – for the last six months.
His mind has been more affected? – Yes.
Was he visited by the clergyman of the parish? – Oh, yes, the clergyman often comes to mine.
I mean the Rev. Gunton? – Yes. Perhaps he would come once in a week or once in a fortnight, just as it happened.
What is the name of his curate? – Mr. Wright.
Did he visit him frequently? – He has come several times – sometimes once in a week or a fortnight – not particularly to see my son but to see me as well.
When was your mind strongly impressed with the belief that your son was mentally deranged? – About five or six weeks ago.
Did Mr. Gunton and Mr. Wright see your son in that desponding state you speak of? – Mr. Gunton never did, I believe.
Did Mr. Wright? – I believe he has.
Did you communicate your impression as to your son’s state of mind to either of these gentlemen? – I cannot recollect whether I did to Mr. Gunton, except to say he was very bad.
Very bad in what respect? – Not with regard to insanity.
Did you communicate with Mr. Wright then with respect to your son’s insanity? – I don’t know that I ever did.
But I understand you to say that you did tell Mr. Little of it? – Yes.
More than once? – I told him the first time I went to him when Mr. Morton was out.
That was the Friday? – Yes; a fortnight yesterday.
He came and saw your son the same day? – Yes, and examined him. He saw him once more, and that was on the Thursday following.
From whom did you get the recommendation for the Hospital for your son? – From Mr. Gunton, by Mr. Little’s orders.
Did you know whether Mr. Little saw Mr. Gunton about it? - I don’t know.
Did you take any note from Mr. Little to Mr. Gunton? – Yes. I got the note on the Saturday and when Mr. Gunton came to my house on the Monday I gave it to him. I got the recommendation from him on the Friday following. I do not know whether Mr. Gunton saw my son when he came on the Monday. I believe he came between the Monday and the Friday and brought my son a little brandy. I cannot say whether the curate came between the Monday and the Friday. I cannot say whether I communicated to Mr. Gunton or to Mr. Wright the fact that my son was violent on the Thursday.
Was his state of mind known in the village?
Mr. Clabburn objected.
Mr. Mendham – I admit it is rather broad. Was his state of mind known to Mrs. Skipper?
Witness – Yes. She was my chief supporter as regards my son. She livesd about 300 or 400 yards from me.
Was it known to a person named Harriett Edwards? - Yes. She has been out and in, and is a neighbour of mine.
Did any other neighbour know it? – The overseer of the parish, John Lambert, knew it.
Anybody else? – Mr. Thomas Shreeve, miller and merchant, Mr. Thos. Henry case, of Rickinghall, and Mr. LeNeve; but I never told Mr. LeNeve that my son was mad – only very bad, very bad. Mr. LeNeve is a guardian.
What is the name of the relieving officer? – Roe. I don’t know his surname.
Did he know it? – Yes. He is the man I had to go to after I saw Mr. Little.
Now I want you to consider this question, and to answer it truly, if you can remember. This question was put to you – “Did you tell any person as to his state?” and your answer was “Certainly. Dr. Little, my neighbours, and Mr. Gunton.” – I don’t recollect Mr. Gunton.
Did you ever say that to Mr. Hitchman, the Chief Constable of Norwich? – No, sir. A man came down to enquire about it.
Did you tell him that? – If I did it is unknown to me.
Whereabouts in Marsham do you live? – I live in what is known as Crane’s Lane.
How far is that from where Mr. Gunton lives? - Not more than a quarter of mile.
The MAYOR – Why was not your son sent to a lunatic asylum, being crazy?
Witness – Mr. Little gave me the order, saying it was a hospital case.
But if he was crazy, he ought to be sent to the Lunatic Asylum.
Witness – Well, that was the doctor’s doing.
How do you mean it was the doctor’s doing? – Well, I went to him for his advice. When I went first, I told him I thought my son was no better than a crazy man.
Did you tell him about the razors? – That I don’t recollect.
What else did you tell him? – I told him I was afraid he would have to go to the asylum.
Did you say anything about being afraid he would do you or anybody else any harm? – I told Mr. Little that I was afraid of him.
Was he aware you had bound his hands? – I had not bound his hands then.
Did you tell him afterwards before your son came to the Hospital? – I can’t say.
Did you tell the parish officer you were afraid of him? – I cannot say whether I told him that.
When you first came to the Hospital with your son you saw Dr. Bateman? – Yes.
Did he ask your son a number of questions? – Yes.
You were present? – Yes.
Did you tell Dr. Bateman he had been violent? – No
Did you tell him you thought he was crazy? – No.
Did you see any of the nurses in the Hospital? – Yes.
Did you go up into his ward? – Yes.
And saw the nurse who would have charge of him? – Yes.
Did you warn her? – No. I did not.
Did you tell her he was violent? – No, I did not.
Did anybody else? – Yes.
Did you say there that you thought it was a proper case for a lunatic asylum? – I do not recollect.
So as far as you were concerned, you put nobody on their guard? – Well I thought Mr. Little’s knowledge was superior to mine, and that if he had been a man of that sort, he would never have given him the order.
You trusted Mr. Little? – Yes.
Re-examined by Mr Clabburn – When you told Mr. Little that it was a fit case for the asylum, was any appointment made? – Yes. The first time I went and saw Mr. Little, I asked him to come down and see my son, as I thought he was no better than a crazy man, and I was afraid he would have o go to an asylum. He said “Go you and see Mr. Roe, the relieving officer and appoint a time for Mr. Roe and Mr. Gunton to meet me at your house.”
Was that appointment carried out? – No. Mr. Little came and saw him on the day, but he was calmer then.
You say Mr. Gunton used to come and see your son? – Yes.
In what condition was he when Mr. Gunton came? – Calm and composed.
Mr. BROWNE – Do you mean to say he was always so when Mr. Gunton came?
Witness – I believe he was always.
Mr Clabburn – Do you recollect your son engaging in prayer with Mr. Gunton as to the result to arise from his going to the Hospital?
Witness – I don’t sir.
The Magistrate’s Clerk – What was the object of the appointment made by Mr. Little for a meeting with him and Mr. Gunton and Mr. Roe.
Witness – I thought the appointment was for the purpose of signing the certificate for his removal to the Asylum.
The MAYOR - You were surprised, I suppose, when you heard he was come to the Hospital?
Witness – Ah! That I was; but my heart was lifted up, for I looked for worse things than the Hospital.
You looked for worse things? – Yes, that I did.
Harriet Edwards, wife of Frederick Edwards, residing at Marsham, said. – My husband has left me, and is now working in the coal pits in the North. Prisoner’s mother and myself are cousins. On Tuesday, the 7th of December, I went into Edwards’ father’s house.
What did you see there? – I saw his father holding him on the bed. I got hold of one hand and his father the other.
What was the prisoner trying to do? – Trying to get away from us, and we held him as tight as we could. He kept saying, “Oh dear me, what is my disease? I have such bad attacks over my head.” He said he wanted to be going away somewhere. I saw him the next evening. He heard my voice and called me upstairs. When I got there he was eating plums in bed. I stopped with him about an hour. He talked as reasonable then as a man could do. I saw him again on the Thursday evening. He was very outrageous – raging very much. I and his father held him down as well as we could. He wanted to be going and tried to get out of bed. We tied his hands around the wrist. We found we could not do anything with him without doing so. When he was alittle calmer, about an hour afterwards, we untied them. He raged again and got worse, making a great deal of noise with his mouth.
What kind of noise? – Barking like a dog, and opening his mouth and making a hideous noise at times. I cannot remember what he said. He wished to have his hands tied again, because he said he did not feel sure of himself. The attacks were not so strong after that. Three of us were up with him all night. I came out on the Friday morning about six o’clock to call my little boy up. Prisoner was calmer then. I saw him again about half-past seven. He was not so quiet then as he was when I saw him again at ten o’clock. He was then dressed below, and said he should go out, as Mr. Little had given him authority. Mrs. Skipper said he should no go. He came into my house about dinner time. He stayed about ten minutes, and said he should come again, but he did not come. I saw him again at eight o’clock, and he was then quite calm. That was before going to the Hospital.
Cross-examined by Mr. Mendham – I live two doors down from him. Skipper was with me on the Thursday night. Thomas Edwards, a relation, Harriett Skipper, and myself, were the three who were with him on the Thursday night. I have lived near him thirty years. I don’t understand people’s minds, but for several weeks I could see there was something more than I had been used to. His manner had become much more violent. I had only seen him violent on the Tuesday before. There are only two double cottages in the land where we live. There are others within about 150 yards. I never had any communication with people about prisoner’s conduct.
Mr. WELLS - Did you think it was some bodily ailment?
Witness – He was always given to nervousness, and I thought it was that. I thought it was caused by his food.
Mr. Mendham – Did you ever have any conversation about him with Mr Gunton or the curate?
Witness – No. I was never there when the doctor came.
By Mr. Clabburn – He has been very much different in his manner; as he seemed to be always wandering about. I have never known him be violent outside the house. He would come downstairs perhaps, but he would want to get upstairs again in two minutes.
Mr. BROWNE – He was very restless? – Yes.
And uneasy? – He did not seem easy anywhere.
Harriett Skipper said – I am a married woman, and live at Marsham, not far off from where Edwards lived. I have had some experience of insanity, as my husband was confined in an asylum. I thought Edwards was a very weak-minded young man. He came to my house about three months since, and he told me he suffered very much with his head. I got some cold water and bathed it for him. From that time, I considered he got weaker and worse. On the night of 7th of December, I sat up with him. On the Thursday night I sat up with Harriett Edwards and Thomas Edwards. He was then very restless indeed. His hands were tied the biggest part of the night, and then they were untied, and tied again.
Why were they tied the second time? – Because he said he did not feel sure of himself. I was with him all Thursday night, and until Friday morning.
How was he on the Friday morning? – Very moderate the first part of the time; then he began to come to himself.
Calmer? – Yes. During the afternoon he was calm. No strangers came in. On the Saturday I accompanied him to the Hospital with his father; but I did not go into the doctor’s room. When the father and son came out of the room, I went upstairs with them. When in the ward I saw the nurse. I don’t know her name. Prisoner’s things were taken off. I went to the Hospital again in the afternoon, and prisoner was then sitting in a chair near the fire. He told me his head was very bad. When we left, the nurse, who had been in the room, accompanied us to the landing. I said to the nurse, “He is a poor, weak, nervous creature and when those feelings came over his head, he lost his mind.”
Was there anything said about his being violent? – No.
Did the nurse ask any questions upon that? – No.
What did she say in reply? – Nothing that I remember.
Would you know the nurse again? – I believe I should.
Cross-examined by Mr. Mendham – If I had come and asked you before this man came to Norwich whether he was insane, what would you have said?
Witness – I should have said if you take him anywhere, you should take him to an asylum.
Did you see Mr. Gunton there that morning before he came to Norwich? – He was there the night before the prisoner was taken to the Hospital. I saw him there several times. I had no conversation with the rev. gentleman, not with anybody else then.
When did you? – Mr. Gunton came one day while I was there. He had been very bad that day, but we never said anything to him about craziness.; I did not see the doctor there.
Was this young man’s state of mine pretty well known in the village? – It was known among a great many people.
To whom was it known? – It was known amongst many people that he went from his mind.
Re-examined by Mr. Clabburn - I saw Mr. Gunton at the prisoner’s house on the Thursday; and the prisoner was calm then. I saw Mr. Gunton kneel down to offer up a prayer.
Thomas Edwards, dealer, Marsham, who also sat up with the prisoner on the Thursday night, stated that on the following day, the day before he came to the Hospital, the prisoner was more quiet and composed.
The Rev. R. J. Wright, curate of Marsham, said – I have frequently visited the prisoner at his father’s house.
In what condition have you seen him? – Always excitable and very strange.
How long back can you refer? – It is about six or seven months since I first saw him.
Has he gradually been getting better or worse? – Worse, I should say.
You have seen him in one of his worst conditions I believe? – I can’t say that; I have seen directly after one of his worst.
The MAYOR – How do you mean getting worse?
Witness – His symptoms were gradually tending towards getting worse.
What symptoms do you mean? – Symptoms of insanity.
Were these symptoms apparent to anyone? – They were apparent to me very clearly.
And also apparently he was getting worse? – Decidedly.
Mr. Clabburn – Was it restless –
Mr. Mendham – I don’t think you want to ask him that.
The MAYOR – He says symptoms of insanity.
Mr. Clabburn – I wish to ask him whether they were restless symptoms.
Mr. HARVEY – You never knew him rational during the whole time of your visits?
Witness - He would be rational for a few minutes, but there was always something that led me to think he was insane.
Mr. Clabburn – has the Rev. Gunton been away from Marsham?
Witness – He was away during six weeks from the latter part of September to the end of October.
Cross-examined by Mr. Mendham – I have been curate rather more than nine months. I know that Mr. Gunton has been to see Edwards.
Did any conversation take place between you and the rev. gentleman as to the state of this young man’s mind?
Mr. Clabburn objected to the question, but the objection was over-ruled by the Bench.
Now did any conversation take place between you and the Rev. Mr. Gunton? – What do you define as conversation.
The MAYOR – Any words between you and him.
Mr. Mendham - That is surely a question that will admit of a very simple answer?
Witness – Do you require more than one answer?
I want to know whether any conversation took place between you? – I have had conversation with him.
Did you express to Mr. Gunton your opinion as to the state of this young man’s mind? (Hesitation by the witness) Don’t hesitate – Yes.
Did you tell him anything of what you have said here to-day about his getting worse? – I don’t think I said anything about getting worse, but I told him that I considered the man to be quite insane.
Has Mr. Gunton expressed his opinion to you on the subject? – Only indirectly.
How do you mean indirectly? – When I told him that, he said, “Oh, do you think so?”
Did he not express his own opinion? – I think not further than that. He said it in a manner of surprise; and I inferred he did not think so from what he said.
When was this conversation? – When he was away from the parish. He asked me to go over and see him where he was staying at Mundesley.
Did any conversation occur after his return? – None whatever.
You observed he was getting worse? – Yes.
And you did not communicate this fact to Mr. Gunton? – I thought he would form his own judgement.
Are you quite sure that during this time Mr. Gunton ever said anything about this man’s state of mind? – Quite sure.
When did you first hear he was to be brought up to the Hospital? – I did not hear it until he was gone.
Did you know the parish doctor had sent Mr. Gunton a note? – Not until after the crime was committed, I may have heard it on the Sunday night, but I am not quite sure.
Who are the guardians for Marsham? – I can’t tell you. Mr Le Neve is church warden.
Have you ever spoken to him on the subject? – Not until this matter happened.
Nor to Mr. Roe the relieving officer? – I have never seen him.
Not to Mr. Little, the surgeon? - I have never seen him.
Having charge of the parish in the absence of Mr. Gunton, and having your mind impressed with the fact that this young man was not in a sane state of mind, you did not communicate with the parish authorities about it? – I did not know it was required; besides it was a matter of private opinion… I mentioned the matter to some of the villagers.
Did you ever mention it to Mr. Morton? – Yes. I should that was about two months since. He is Mr. Gunton’s medical man.
Mr Clabburn – Were you at Edwards’ cottage when Mr Morton, jun. came in? – Yes.
Did he express his opinion to you? – Yes; and he agreed with me. Mr. Morton, jun. said he would call on his father the next day and they would examine Edwards carefully together. I don’t think that was ever done though.
The MAYOR – What was the date of this?
Witness – About two months ago, as nearly as I can judge.
Mr. Clabburn – I think you said that Mr. Gunton did not agree with your opinion?
Mr. Mendham objected to the question, and the objection was sustained by the Bench.
The MAYOR – You inferred from Mr. Gunton’s tone and manner that he did not agree with your view?
Witness – Yes.
It was more from his tone than the actual words? – Yes.
Now, you have been asked as to the rumours in the village –
Mr. BROWNE – There can be no question about that. That must have been known to everybody.
Mr. Clabburn – Well, I must press it. But since Mr. Gunton has returned to Marsham you have not taken so much charge of the parish?
The Magistrates Clerk asked what this could possibly have to do with the case?
Mr. Clabburn – I wish to have it taken down.
The Magistrates’ Clerk - I shall not take it down. I have now taken down more that I ought to have down, and I quite expect the Judge will make some observations upon it.
The Bench sustained the objection.
Mr. Clabburn – Did you communicate to Mr. Gunton your opinion or the facts you saw?
Witness - Not the facts. I simply communicated my opinion.
Nor the source from which it was derived? – No. I thought it was only a matter of judgement.
The MAYOR – Did you communicate to Mr. Gunton what passed between yourself and Mr. Morton?
Witness – Indirectly I communicated to Mr. Gunton that Mr. Morton agreed with me.
This concluded the case for the prisoner, who was then formally committed by the Mayor for trial at the next Assizes, on the charge of wilful murder, and was at once removed from the Court.
THE ADJOURNED INQUEST
The adjourned inquest was held on Tuesday at the Hospital, before the Coroner, E.S. Bignold Esq.
The CORONER said - In re-opening this enquiry, I may offer one or two remarks which it is necessary to make. It is my duty to tell you that with respect to the evidence already before the jury, it is in my opinion sufficient to warrant you coming to a verdict which is legally necessary in this case. There are two or three matters which arise out of it, and which I think as well to give you the law upon. One is the question of the sanity or insanity of the man Edwards. That is a question which this jury cannot go into, and which must be left for decision at the Assizes. There is another question as to whether some of the internal arrangements of the Hospital are carried out in a fit and proper manner. That is a matter over which the jury have no jurisdiction, but which is undergoing a thorough investigation by the Hospital authorities. At the first meeting of the Board, I believe there were over twenty present, and they evinced their full intention of looking thoroughly into this matter.. The Coroner’s inquiry is legally restricted to the actual cause of death, and I think that not one of you can have any doubt that these poor boys came to their deaths in consequence of blows on the head inflicted by Robert Edwards with a pair of tongs. With respect to the evidence which will come before you today – although I think you have at the present time sufficient to enable you to come to a verdict – I propose to complete what we commenced on Tuesday last, by calling before you the night nurse Denmark. I don’t think she is a very important witness, but if you wish to see her I will call her. Then I propose to call Nurse Brown, who I think is an important witness, in as much as she corroborates Mr. Baumgartner, if indeed, any corroboration be necessary a she saw this unfortunate man in the act of striking the unfortunate boys. I see here in the room the Rev. Mr. Gunton, who gave some evidence on the first occasion, and who I did not consider it necessary to summon again.. Bit he is here, and if he desired in any way to make any explanation or alteration in what he said on the first occasion, I shall feel it my duty to hear it. There is another gentleman here, the Rev. Mr. Wright, the curate whose evidence was given before the magistrates, and probably you are well acquainted with what his evidence was. That evidence falls into the category of that which I have before spoken of as relating to the sanity or insanity of the man Edwards; and therefore it is unnecessary to be given here. But with respect to any evidence which is here, it is my wish to comply as far as possible with the wishes of the jury – if they express their opinion. You really now have sufficient evidence to find a legal verdict; but if in the course of taking the additional evidence this afternoon you express your opinion that you are satisfied you have evidence enough to warrant you coming to a decision, I will stop the inquiry.
The Rev. Mr. Gunton here proceeded towards the Coroner and seemed desirous of making some statement.
The CORONER – I think I would rather take Mr. Gunton’s evidence after hearing the witnesses. (To Mr Clabburn); I believe you appear here, Mr. Clabburn to represent Edwards?
Mr. Clabburn – I do, sir.
The CORONER – Edwards or his family, or his solicitor, have really no locus stand here, as there is no accused. However I am glad to see you, and you will see what takes place, and if you suggest anything you desire to be asked, I shall be happy to consider it. But I must ask you to consider what I have previously remarked to the jury – that here we have nothing to do with the sanity or insanity of Edwards, and I cannot load my depositions with matters of that character.
Mr. Clabburn –Certainly not. I saw a remark in your previous observations as to some of his friends being here; but the matter has been exhausted before the magistrates, and I could hardly justify the expense of bring them up here.
Susan Brown, the day nurse of the boys’ ward and Hannah Denmark, the night nurse were called and repeated the evidence given before the magistrates on Saturday.
A Juror – I think we have got quite sufficient evidence.
The CORONER – At any time upon receiving and intimation from the jury to that effect, I shall be prepared to stop the enquiry, as I consider you have plenty before you. But Mr. Gunton is here, and if he wishes to make a statement we will here it.
The Rev. J. Gunton said – I wish to make a statement, because I am said to have given evidence before you not in a straightforward manner. I had no intention whatever –
The CORONER – Excuse me interrupting you. You must confine yourself to any statements made to the Court – that is, myself – and the jury. I cannot go into rumours which I have heard outside.
Witness – But with regard to the term violent I have used, I meant it to apply to restlessness.
The CORONER – I will read to you what you said before:- “ I have never heard of his committing an assault upon any person, but he has been restless and bad. I have known his friends have kept with him at times when he was so restless. I thought his father came here with him because he was in such a weak state.” You will see that is not inconsistent with what you now say.
Witness – But will you me to make a fresh statement?
The CORONER – Oh, certainly.
Witness – I find by referring to my pocket book diary that Mr. Wright visited me at Mundesley on Monday October 18th. I inquired about Edwards, and he told me he thought he was insane. I returned home on Friday October 29th, and visited him on Saturday, October 30th; Monday, November 1st; Friday, November 5th, Sunday, November 28th; Friday, December 3rd; Sunday, December 5th; and Friday, December 10th, the day before he came to the Hospital.
The CORONER – I have no doubt all that is very correct, but that does in no way alter what you have said here. What you now say is perfectly compatible with what you said. You said whenever you had seen him he had been calm. At present that has not been called into question.
Witness – I visited him just as I should any other sick patient in the village. I was not at all afraid to sit with him.
Mr. Clabburn suggested that the remarks of Mr. Gunton were made with reference to the newspaper reports on the case.
The CORONER – We can’t go into them. We can only deal with the facts as they come before us. (To Mr. Gunton): Have you any further questions to ask?
Mr. Gunton – Nothing more.
A Juror – Would it be proper to ask the rev. gentleman to give us the conversation that ensued between the relieving officer, Mr. Little the surgeon, and himself, previous to giving the recommendation.
The CORONER - I think not. I think we cannot ask him to give us such conversation. We are now trenching on the point of which I have spoken before. If Mr. Gunton, rightly or wrongly, thought he had been unfairly treated by me or any person here, I was bound in justice to him to allow him to make any statement.
A Juror – I think we have quite sufficient evidence, as it is not in our province to enter into the question of the sanity or insanity of the man Edwards.
The CORONER- Your verdict is complete when you come to a verdict of wilful murder against this man. But the question has been asked me whether or not you can append a recommendation to the verdict. I believe that I am not bound to do so, but undoubtedly should do so in a case like this. Therefore any remarks you may think it right to append, which are not absolutely contrary to the law, I shall deem it my duty to receive and append to the inquisition.
The jury then entered into a private consultation together which lasted for an hour; after which the Coroner requested the attendance of Mr. Baumgartner and Miss Graham, the matron.
The CORONER then said – The verdict of the jury, which is unanimous, is one of “Wilful murder” against Robert Edwards in ach case, and they append to their verdict this recommendation, which is also unanimous – “ We the undersigned, being on the jury impanelled to enquire as to the deaths of John Lacey, Joseph Colman and William Martin, having come to a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against Robert Edwards, feel we should not be discharging our duty if we separated without expressing in the strongest terms our disapproval of the conduct of M. Little, who recommended Edwards to the Rev. Mr. Gunton as a fit person to be admitted to the Hospital. We also desire to express further that in our opinion great blame rests with the Rev. Mr. Gunton for giving an order to admit Edwards, as he must have known his antecedents – thus violating the laws of this Hospital.” This id the conclusion to which the jury have come, and as there a fee of 15s. due to the jury they have requested me to hand it over as a contribution to the institution. They have also requested me to express to Mr. Baumgartner, the house surgeon their very high opinion of his courageous conduct no this most distressing occasion. They feel unanimously – and I most thoroughly concur with them – that had Mr. Baumgartner been a little less resolute, or even slightly nervous, probably even he himself might have been murdered and other inmates also. Also with regard to Miss Graham, the jury wished to express their good opinion – in which I heartily concur. Their admiration for her conduct was great, not so much at the time of the occurrence, but ingoing round the wards and mixing with the patients by which means , no doubt, a panic had been prevented, which might have proved very disastrous among the inmates of the institution.
This concluded the proceedings.
LETTERS TO THE PRESS:
The Hospital Murders
To the Editor
Sir, - Before making public the facts of this case so far as I am concerned, I waited until I knew whether the Hospital authorities would make any communication to me on the subject, which I now infer they will not do: and also until public feeling should be in a state better able to judge of the circumstances, and how far I was to blame for this most terrible and shocking event.
I am the medical officer of that district of the Aylsham Union in which Marsham is situate, but I had never in any way attended Robert Edwards, or knew of his illness.
On Friday, December 3rd, Robert Edwards’s father called on me, and asked me to come and see his son, who he said was in a very poor way, and had been so for a long time, and he wished to obtain some relief from the guardians for him. I told him to go to Mr. Roe, the Relieving Officer, and obtain from him a note directing me to attend his son as a pauper patient, but I never said one word to him as to my meeting Mr. Roe and Mr. Gunton at his house, or of dealing with his son as an insane person; for the sufficient reason, that I had not then seen Robert Edwards, nor from his father’s statement had I the slightest cause to infer that there was anything more the matter with his son other than ordinary illness, or that there was any urgency in the case. I saw Robert Edwards the next day, Saturday, the 4th of December. I found him in bed. His face was pale, and he looked worn, as if he had suffered much pain, and his pulse was feeble. On examining, I found him much emaciated. There was tenderness on pressure over his stomach, and he seemed nervous. Complained of much pain and vomiting after his meals, and also of much flatulence. I asked him if he could sit up. He said not more than an hour or two, as he felt so weak. He seemed perfectly quiet and rational. The parents never gave me the least intimation of anything being wrong with his mind, and I saw no symptom of it. I told his father that in my opinion he was suffering from nervous dyspepsia, and seemed half-starved. I then told him I thought the best thing he could do was to get his son into the Hospital, as he had been so long under medical treatment that the change would be of service to him in every way, that he would there have the benefit of the best medical skill, and also a proper and regulated diet, which was essential to his recovery. He said he would see Mr. Gunton. I told him to come to my surgery for medicine, and that I would give his son an order for mutton and wine, which I did.
On Monday, the 6th of December, Robert Edwards’ father called on me, and said his son felt much better and had been free from pain, that he had kept his food down, and had passed a good night; and he added, “He feels better than he has done for some months.” I told him to continue his medicine. The father called on me on Wednesday, the 8th December; he said his son was not quite so well, that he had been without his medicine, and missed it much; that he had a return of the “spasm,” and had a restless night from pain. I gave him more medicine, and 15 grains of hydrate of chloral to take at bedtime. He also told me that Mr Gunton would give his son a recommendation to the Hospital.
I saw Robert Edwards on Thursday, the 9th of December. He told me he had passed a good night, had been pretty free from pain, but complained of his digestion and much flatulence. I said, “You cannot expect to get well all at once having been ill so long.” I asked him a great many questions, and his answers were all perfectly clear and rational. I asked his father if had been at all “out of his head.” He said “No, but feels giddy when he has these spasms.” I never saw Robert Edwards after this. I told the father I would write to Mr. Gunton as I had been asked to do.
On Friday, the 10th of December, the father called at my surgery, and said his son had a return of the spasm in the night, and that he had given him a good dose of laudanum. I asked him how much. His answer was, thirty or forty, drops or perhaps more. I was much annoyed, and I said “You will get yourself into trouble, and make him much worse.” His reply was, “I didn’t know.” He then said that after taking the laudanum, his son had been excited and restless, and that he had called his next-door neighbour to sit with him, and that she had attempted to tie his son’s hands when the spasm was on. I said to him, “You should not have allowed her to do this, as it only made him worse.” I told him to be sure not to give his son any more laudanum, and I gave him another hydrate of chloral draught to be taken again at bedtime. He next day Robert Edwards was sent to the Hospital.
I most distinctly declare that Edwards’ father, in all my communications with him, never once alluded in any way what ever to his being out of his mind or crazy. I believe his whole object was to conceal this from me, and I never saw anything in the son’s manner to lead me to suspect he was insane, or that would in any way have justified me in treating him as such, or which ought in the exercise of proper caution to have prevented my stating that in my opinion he was a fit subject for hospital treatment, not had I ever received from any one a hint that there was anything the matter with Robert Edwards more than I have described.
I wrote a not to Mr. Gunton, stating that Robert Edwards was suffering from nervous dyspepsia, and was in my opinion a proper case for the Hospital, or words to that effect. I never saw Mr. Gunton on the subject.
Such are the facts of the case.
I have suffered much in the thought that I should, however unwittingly, have been in any way instrumental to such an event. I have suffered more from the harsh judgement of those who have so freely condemned me unheard; but my feelings have been rouse in just anger at the extraordinary, unmanly, and un-English want of fair play shown towards me by the coroner’s jury, who without calling me as witness, and without any trustworthy knowledge of my action in the matter, have passed an unfair and harsh judgement on my conduct as a medical man, and ignorantly and illegally (to use the words of a most eminent Judge, speaking of the action of the coroner’s jury in a somewhat similar case, but where they were far more justified than in this) have gone out of their way for the “purpose of expressing their opinion upon a matter which was not in issue before them, and to make an injurious exercise of a power which they unlawfully assumed.”
I am, Sir, your obedient servant.
Aylsham, January 3rd 1876
The above letter appeared on Monday in the Daily Press, and the Rev. R. J. Wright has sent the following reply, on behalf of James Edwards:-
To the Editor.
Sir, - James Edwards, the father of Robert Edwards, has requested me to make the following comments on his behalf, in respect of the letter from Mr. Little, which was inserted in your impression of the 4th inst. To this I now proceed scriatim,
- Mr. Little says that James Edwards told him that “he wished to obtain some relief from the Guardians” for his son. The old man denies that he said anything of the kind, and for the very good reason that he was already receiving half-a –crown per week in the way of relief.
- Mr Little asserts “I never said one word to him as to my meeting Mr. Roe and Mr. Gunton at his house.” This is in direct contradiction to James Edwards, who has already given evidence on this point, and is prepared again to affirm on oath that Mr. Little said, “Go and see Mr. Roe, and tell him I will see him to-morrow (Saturday, December 4th), and appoint a time for Mr. Roe and Mr. Gunton to meet me at your house.”
- Mr. Little states, “I told Edwards I would give his son an order for mutton and wine, which I did.” The old man says he certainly had an order for 2lbs of mutton, but not for wine.
- Mr. Little affirms that on Wednesday, the 8th of December, Edwards told him that Mr. Gunton would give his son a recommendation for the Hospital. This also the father denies.
- James Edwards also declares that Mr. Little did not ask him if his son “had been out of his head.”
- Mr. Little’s words are, “I saw Robert Edwards on Thursday, the 9th of December …….. I told the father I would write to Mr. Gunton, as I had been asked to do.” In direct opposition to this, James Edwards says that Mr. Little offered to write to Mr. Gunton without being asked; that this was not the on Thursday, the 9th of December, but on Saturday, the 4th ult.; that Mr. Little gave him the note the very same day (the 4th), and that he (Edwards) handed it to Mr. Gunton on Sunday evening, the 5th.
- Mr. Little then proceeds as follows:- “On Friday, the 10th of December, the father called at my surgery, and said his son had a return of the spasm in the night, and that he had given him a good dose of laudanum. I asked him how much. His answer was ‘Thirty or forty drops, or perhaps more,’ I was much annoyed, and I said ‘You’ll get yourself into trouble, and make him much worse.’ His reply was, ‘I don’t know.’ He then said, that after taking the laudanum, his son was excited and restless, and that he had called his next- door neighbour to sit with him, and that she attempted to tie his hands when the spasm was on.” This statement James Edwards denies in toto: he says, that some days before the 10th of December he told Mr. Little he had given his son 20 or 25 drops of laudanum; that Mr. Little then cautioned him not to repeat the dose; that he at once discontinued the practice, and that for some days previously to his removal to the Hospital, his son had not had a drop of laudanum; that he told Mr. Little they had been obliged to tie his son’s hands because he was so violent, but not in consequence of taking laudanum, because he had had none.
- Again, Mr. Little bears testimony thus:- “I most distinctly declare that Edwards’ father, in all my communications with him, never once alluded in any way what ever to his being out of his mind or crazy.” In one or two of the paragraphs which precede, Mr. Little also makes statements to the same purport. On the other hand against these “distinct declarations,” James Edwards has given evidence on oath, and now reiterates that at the very first interview which he had with Mr. Little, he told him that his son was no better than a crazy man, and that he was afraid he would have to go to an asylum; he also added that he was afraid of him, and that Mr. Little then said that it was all nervousness; that they were a nervous lot altogether, and as bad as old tom cats.
I forbear to comment upon the respective value of these contradictory statements. I think it only fair, however, to add that James Edwards assures me that he can produce witnesses who will testify to the truth of his assertions, and that he looking forward to the time when he shall be called upon to clear himself from false accusations. All who heard him give evidence before the magistrates, must, I think, have been impressed by the straightforward manner in which he spoke, and by the calmness of his demeanour, especially when we consider the peculiarly trying position in which he was so unexpectedly placed.
I need not, I am sure, appeal to your sense of justice to insert this letter.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
ROGER J. WRIGHT
Curate of Marsham.
Marsham, 5th January 1876.
copyright Davina Martin 2020