Conisborough Suicide – Died at Balby Workhouse

July 1905

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 22, 1905

Conisborough Suicide – Died at Balby Workhouse

Mr Frank Allen, the deputy coroner, held an enquiry at the Work house, Balby, respecting the death of Henry Oxley, aged 71, a retired butcher, of Conisbrough, who died at the institution on Friday last.

The Deputy Coroner, at the outset, explained that the main reason why there was to be an inquest at all was because, before the man was admitted to the workhouse, he attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat. He was taken to the infirmary at Doncaster, and next day removed to the workhouse at which place he had since died. From enquiries he had made, it might appear that the actual cause of death was congestion of the lungs, but without fully recovering from his cut throat the man died. It will be for them to say whether his death was a result of his attempt to commit suicide, or whether he died from natural causes.

John Edwin Booth, a timber merchant, of Conisbrough, was the first witness called, and said the deceased lived at Burcroft Terrace Conisbrough. He was 71 years of age, and had not worked for 12 years. He was married, but had lived apart from his wife for some considerable time. On Wednesday, 21 June, witness took him his supper about 9 o’clock, and he then seemed all right, although he had suffered from asthma and bronchitis, and had been ailing several days. He helped him to bed, and he seemed to be quite cheerful and asked him if he would call him up in the morning. About a 7:45 o’clock the next morning one of the neighbours came to the works, stating that something had happened. He went into the house, and found deceased throat was cut. They got him into bed, and bound his throat up with a towel, and sent for a man belonging to the ambulance corps, and he looked after in until he fetched medical aim. He had never heard him threaten to commit suicide.
The Coroner: Was he in any way weak minded?

Witness: he was in delicate health.

Was his mind affected?

A little, yes: I have seen in once or twice go out into the yard without being properly dressed. Continuing, in answer to further questions, witness said deceased had lived apart from his wife for 14 years.

In answer to a jury man, witness said deceased was in receipt of parish relief, whilst witness’s mother used to keep him.
Mrs Emily Pontefract, a neighbour, said on the morning of Thursday, the 22nd ult. she heard the deceased making peculiar noises, so she went into the house about 7.30. Deceased’s bed was downstairs, and she found him standing against a chest of drawers, making a most peculiar noise. She noticed that his throat was cut, and she got him into bed as soon as possible, and sent for Mr Booth. She did not find a knife until afterwards, when the one proof was discovered staying with blood, near the bets I. She had noticed sometimes that he did not seem quite right. He had gone into the yard partially dressed.

Dr Battersby said he had attended the deceased at the infirmary. He first came under his care on 23 June, and he was then suffering from a jagged wound in the throat, extending four inches across, and 2 ½ inches to the left side, it had notched the windpipe of the right side. He was in a debilitated condition. The wound had already been attended to, and he was removed the next day from the infirmary to the workouts. He was got to bed as soon as possible, and he was a very low state the whole of the time. He wandered in his talk, was very restless, tore his dressings off, and certainly appeared to witness not to be quite in his right senses. The wound went on fairly satisfactory, and healed up in the deeper parts, and at the time of his decease there were only superficial wounds.
The immediate cause of death was congestion of the lungs, brought about by the wound in this throat in the first instance. The injury necessitated his lying in bed for three weeks. In his opinion the cause of the congestion of the lungs was brought about by the wound in his throat and his confinement to bed. In such a case there was always a certain amount of blood to be taken into the lungs. The windpipe was not, and a certain amount of blood passed into the throat, and was then taken into the lungs, and that very often set up congestion. One must say that the congestion was what one would naturally expect to follow after such an injury to the throat. The deceased died at five minutes past 11 on Friday night, the 14th inst.

The Coroner said it was clear that the deceased attempt to take his own life, and was not directly successful. They had heard Dr Battersby evidence, and the question out to decide was whether this man’s death was a consequence of his attempt to take his own life, or whether he died from natural causes set up by his attempt to take his own life.

Dr Battersby, recalled by the jury, was asked by the Coroner why the deceased had to be removed from the Doncaster Infirmary to the Workhouse so soon after he was taken to the Infirmary.
Dr Battersby: He was only in the Infirmary one night?

Why was he brought here?

Of course, a case of cutthroat requires very special attention, and we don’t usually give them in a general infirmary. If we can possibly get them removed we do. They generally give rise to trouble. They are generally restless and disturbed the other patients, and is quite usual thing to have them removed.

There is no provision for the treatment of insane patients at the Doncaster Infirmary?

No, there is not.

What would be the effect upon other patients?

Such a case would have a bad effect upon the other patients.

In answer to further questions, the doctor said at the workhouse there was provision for isolation. There was no risk incurred in transferring the deceased from one place to the other. He was removed with every care and precaution. The wound was carefully bound up. In fact, there was less risk than in bringing him from Conisborough to Doncaster. When he got to the workhouse witness examined him, and the wound had not commenced bleeding again.

A Jury man: Was it possible to bring from Conisborough to the workhouse?

Witness: yes, and I think it would have been a lot better.

The Coroner: Can his death be attributed to his removal here?

No, not at all. The proof is that he lived three weeks after.

After a long deliberation the jury returned a verdict that the deceased died from congestion of the lungs, following upon an attempt to commit suicide during a stage of temporary insanity.