[Reynoldsʼs Newspaper, 12. Dezember 1869]

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 1009, 12. Dezember 1869. S. 1.
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WORKHOUSE HORRORS.

Dec 12 Anmerkung von Jenny Marx

On Thursday, Mr. John Homphreys, the Middlesex coroner, held an investigation at the Green Gats Tavern, Hoxton High-street, respecting the alleged murder of John Presnall, who was a pauper in the Shoreditch workhouse.

The proceedings created intense excitement in the locality, in consequence of certain statements which had been made with respect to the conduct of a nurse and a wardsman who had charge of the ward in which the deceased man expired. The remains of the ward in which the deceased man expired. The remains of the pauper had been buried at Coloney Hatch Cemetery, but the coroner ordered the body to be exhumed, and it was removed to the Shoreditch dead-house.

The court was crowded. The principal witness was Joseph Hallet, a pauper, who said that on Monday, the 22nd of November, he was in the workhouse. There was a nurse named Hart in the ward in the infirmary. The deceased was then lying on a bed, and he was delirious. He shouted “Tobacco—tobacco!” the nurse Hart then said, “Hold that noise”, or “Stop that noise.” She then went and held a handkerchief over his mouth.

Coroner: How long did she hold it over his mouth?

Witness: For two minutes, and when it was removed the deceased shouted “Murder.” The wardsman, a man named Clark, then said “I will do it.” Clark then went over to the deceased, and he put a handkerchief over his mouth. He was going to tie it at the back of his head, and the nurse said, “That is not allowed; I’ll soon quiet him”. The nurse then left the ward, and she returned with something. Clark then held the deceased down by pressing his hands against the chest. The women then stood on the opposite side of the bed, and she poured something down the deceased’s throat Witness heard the contents of the bottle “rattle” as it went down the deceased’s throat. After the dose had been given to the deceased, he never spoke nor made any more noise. He remained insensible until within about an hour of his death—twenty four hours afterwards. The placing of the handkerchief over his mouth appeared to give him pain, and that made him shout “Murder.”

Clark, the wardsman, said that on the day mentioned the deceased was very noisy, and Mrs. Hart said, “I shall be under the necessity of gagging you.” She then put a handkerchief over his mouth. He was very violent and I thought that I would intimidate him, as I had done the night before, to get him to take a pill, and I went over to him. Mrs. Hart then went and got some of the customary soothing mixture, and gave it to him. He slept until half-past six in the morning, and when he awoke Mrs. Hart said to him, “You ought to be much obliged to me for what I gave you,” but the man made no reply. When I put the handkerchief over the deceased’s mouth it was done for the purpose of stopping his noise and Mrs. Hart did it because the man would not keep quiet. She put the handkerchief over him, and “it was just what a mother would do for a refractory child.”

This statement created intense excitement in court, the witness being loudly hissed, and several persons also cried “Murder, murder.”

The woman Hart admitted placing the handkerchief over the deceasedʼs mouth, and further said; The deceased became outrageous, and I not having my senses about me—nobody always has—said “I will go and get something that will quiet him” I then gave him some soothing mixture which I have for noisy patients. It is supplied to me by the dispenser and it is left to my discretion as to when I shall use it. The doctor never gave me any instructions about using it. There is morphia in the mixture. Half a bottle of it would have done the man no harm.

Dr. John Whitmore, medical officer of health for Marylebone, said that he had made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased man since it has been exhumed. He had found no appearance of death from suffocation caused by placing the handkerchief over the mouth. Judging from the evidence, and finding that the drowsiness did not increase during the day after the morphia had been taken, he was of opinion that a sufficient quantity of it had not been administered to cause death. The morphia would become wholly absorbed into the system, and that would account for its not being found. In the opinion of witness death had resulted from dropsy.

Dr. Forbes, the medical officer of the workhouse, said that he agreed with the evidence of Dr. Whitmore. He had never authorized the nurse to give morphia nor sedative mixtures to any of the patients.

The jury after a long consultation with closed doors returned a verdict “that the deceased man expired from the mortal effects of dropsy; and they are of opinion that the conduct of Mrs. Hart, the infirmary nurse, is highly censurable for administering morphia without the doctor’s sanction, and they are further of opinion that the wardsman Clarke and Mrs. Hart are both censurable for their cruel conduct in tying a handkerchief over a dying man’s mouth.”


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THE ST. PANCRAS GUARDIANS.

On Wednesday evening, Dr. Lankester held six inquests at the College Arms, Crowndale-road, Camden-town, several of which referred to parish cases. The last held was the most important, as it involved a very serious charge—that the foetid air of the nursery had been fatal and still was exercising a fatal influence on the infant inmates. The inquiry was held on the body of William James, aged six months. The coroner prefaced the evidence by stating that he had held three or four inquests lately on the bodies of children who had died in the infirmary and this had caused a feeling that the unhealthy condition of the wards had caused the deaths. It would be for the jury to find whether this had been the case in the present instance. Dr. Hill, resident medical officer of the workhouse, said the child was admitted to the infant nursery on the 17th of November. It was six months’ old. Its mother was in the Fever Hospital and it was therefore fed by the bottle. It was ill on Friday, the 3rd of December, and died on the 6th, of congestion of the brain and lunges. Coroner: Do you believe that death was accelerated in any manner by the action of the air of the ward?—Witness: Yes, sir; I believe it was. Emma Hows, late superintendent of the nursery, but who was summarily discharged by the guardians at their last meeting, was called. She said: The board discharged me without examining me or allowing me to make any defense. I can only think l that I am discharged for giving evidence about the wards at the last inquest. Coroner: This is the second nurse who has been discharged immediately after giving evidence at this court. It seems to me that the guardians are not anxious to discover the truth. Mr. Smith: Myself and Mr. Chandler were opposed to the dismissal. The foreman of the jury, Mr. J. Bromwich, |58 after a few minutes’ consultation with the jury, returned a verdict “That death was caused by the congestion of the lungs and brain, accelerated by the impure air of the nursery; and added that they were very much disgusted with the iniquitous conduct of the guardians in dismissing witnesses who appeared before the coroner’s court.”

Inhalt:

  • Social cases. 1869