Romantic Suicide of a Salvationist at FolkestoneThe Folkestone Chronicle & Advertiser (Saturday 3rd August 1889)
The Borough Coroner (J. MINTER, Esq.) held and enquiry at the Town Hall on Saturday evening [26th July 1889] touching on the death of Thomas Willes-FORBES, a labouring man aged 27 years, who committed suicide by hanging himself in a tool-house in Langhorne Gardens on Saturday morning. The cord by which the deceased was suspended from a beam was an ordinary piece of venetian blind cord. The body, when discovered, was quite stiff; it was in a sitting position, with the head leaning back upon the cord. It was cut down by a police-constable, and when viewed by the jury was still in a sitting position.
The following gentlemen were sworn on the jury:Messrs. John Woodland RUMBOLD (foreman), Thomas NIXON, William REEVES, Edward DALE, Nelson SMART, Frederick PUTTEE, George RUMSEY, Frederick KINGSMILL, John FRENTIMAN, William CRUMBY, Charles DRAY, William George PREBBLE and James TUMBRIDGE.
The jury having viewed the body,
George SOUTON, a lad, said he lived in Limekiln Cottage, and was a labourer in the employ of the Earl of Radnor. Knew the deceased and last saw him at five-and-twenty minutes to one on the previous day. He was then in Clifton-crescent marking out a lawn tennis ground. Did not see him again until he saw him that morning at the tool-shed, dead. He had not noticed anything strange in his manner. Had seen him every day for the last month or two, but he never appeared to be depressed or in any way strange.
Edward KNOLDEN deposed that he lived at Black Bull Cottage, Canterbury Road, and that he was a labourer employed on the estate of the Earl of Radnor. He had known the deceased for the last twelve months. He last saw him alive on Wednesday, the 24th July. He was then in Langhorne Lodge, where he found him that morning dead. Witness had occasion to do to the lodge about quarter to eight that morning, to fetch a broom and shovel. The door was locked and as witness could see that the key was on the inside, he broke it open. He was startled to see the deceased suspended from the roof. He was in a sitting position, and around his neck was a piece of thin cord, tied in a slip knot, the other end being fastened to a rafter. Witness immediately ran at him and shook him, calling out "Tom," but he was dead, cold and stiff. Witness sent for a policeman at once. Did not cut him down because he knew he was quite dead. He had seen the deceased constantly, but had never noticed anything strange about his manner.
The Coroner said there was a complete absence of any evidence to show as to the state of the deceased's mind. From what the witness had stated, it would appear that the deceased was in a sound state of mind.
From some communication made privately to the Coroner by Superintendent TAYLOR, the witness Edward Willes FORBES, the deceased's brother, was re-called.
A juryman asked whether anything was found on the deceased.
Dr. Marcus YUNGE-BATEMAN was then called. He stated that he was called shortly after eight that morning to see the deceased. He went at once and found him in a lodge at Langhorne-gardens. He was not hanging then. He had been cut down. Witness examined the body and should say that he had been dead about twelve hours. There was a mark of a line around his neck, and in his opinion death was caused by suffocation.
P.C. Frank LAWRENCE deposed that he was called to the lodge that morning and arrived there at ten minutes past eight. He cut the deceased down. He was in a sitting position with the line (produced) tied around his neck and fastened to a beam above. The Coroner then proceeded to sum up. He said the question which the Jury would have to study was as to the state of the deceased's mind when he committed the act, and unless he was insane, their verdict must be felo-de-se. Of course the Jury were aware that the custom of burying a body, in such a case, between a four-crossed road with a stake through it, was quite extinct, but if they did return a verdict of felo-de-se, the deceased would not be entitled to a Christian burial. It was a very curious thing that there was no evidence on that point save that which had quite accidentally leaked out from the brother at the last moment. The deceased appeared to be a man of a most exemplary character. He had read the very excellent references by the Colonel of the Regiment and also by Mrs. PAUL. So far as the witnesses who had given evidence were concerned they all stated that they had never noticed anything curious about his conduct, and one could hardly imagine what could have caused him to do such a rash act. They had heard from the brother of the deceased that he had been engaged to a girl at Canterbury, and that the girl had broken off the engagement about a fortnight ago. He had not asked the girl's name, as it might only wound the feelings of their friends. This he (the Coroner) thought might be a very possible reason why the deceased committed suicide, but of course, it was for the Jury to decide. They had also heard that the deceased was a member of the Salvation Army. He (the Coroner) was not one of those who ridiculed the Salvation Army or their practice or mode of religion, and he thought there was no material evidence affecting this point. It was said by some that no man would destroy himself unless he were insane. He did not say he held that theory, but looking at the fact that the engagement between the deceased and the young girl at Canterbury had been broken off, he thought there was a very intelligent reason.
After a short consultation, the Jury returned verdict that the deceased committed suicide by strangulation, whilst in a state of temporary insanity.
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