Extraordinary Suicide – Pedlar jumps into River

July 1900

Mexborough and Swinton Times, July 13.

Extraordinary Suicide at Conisborough
A Pedlar jumps into the River

The story of a most extraordinary suicide was told to Mr F.E.Nicholson, the Doncaster district coroner, on Wednesday morning, at an inquest held at the station Hotel, Conisborough.

The subject of the enquiry was an elderly man, who on Monday afternoon was seen to deliberately jump into the River Don, near to what is known as the Rainbow Bridge.

It was afterwards found that the man had in his possession a Pedlar´s certificate granted by the Chief Constable of Kendal, Westmoreland, on which it was stated that his name was James Jones, his home was at 148, Highgate, Kendall, he was 54 years, was five feet nine inches in height, had dark brown hair, brown eyes, fresh complexion, and was a native of Stockton on Tees. This description corresponded with the appearance of the body.

The following evidence was tended:

David Shelton, a miner, living at 2 Marr Street, Conisborough, said that on Monday, shortly after 12 o’clock at noon, he was walking around Conisborough cliffs, when his attention was drawn to a man whose body year since identified. The man was stood near the Rainbow Bridge on the opposite side of the River Don with a bag in his hand.

The witness saw him walk from the bridge to a low wall at the bottom of the railway embankment on which you place the back. He watched the man for two or 3 min, after which the man got up, tied the bag to his neck, and walk straight to the River.

The witness shouted “Heigh up mester,” and the man then dive straight into the water. The witness was about 100 yards away, on the opposite side of the river. As far as he could tell the man appeared to have been in the water before. He gave information to the police and afterwards returned to the place where the man jumped from, and saw the body recovered by John Clayburn. That was about 2 PM. The body was conveyed to this Station Hotel, Conisborough, by police Sgt Brown and police Constable Duffin. It was found that he had the bag secured to his body by means of a leather strap fastened round the neck.

The bag mention by the witness was really a large black leather portmanteau in good condition, then in the initials “F.H.L.” painted in white letters. It contained 38 cards of buttons, 65, stumps, to files, a dozen bootlaces, 20 pairs of scissors, 58, combs, a cheap dress ring, spoon, knife and fork, a small quantity of tea, and a box containing pepper. It would probably weigh about 20 lbs

The coroner, after feeling the weight of it, remarked that it was enough to sink a ship.

In answer to the Foreman of the jury, the witness Shelton said he was stood on the further side of the bridge from Conisborough, near where Mr Ferns guarding used to be, and he saw the man very plainly.

John Clayburn, Canal labourer, was the next witness. He said he lived at Ferry Cottage, Conisborough. On Monday, about noon, he received information from a man named Henry Piper that a man was in the River. He went towards the place, and saw the witness Shelton, who pointed out to him the place where the man had jumped in. He borrowed some grapplers, and at once commenced to search for the body. He found it about two o’clock, and hold it to the side of the river, where he remained until the police came down the river with a boat, into which they placed it. The man was quite dead, and had all its claws on except his hat. He had the portmanteau tightly strapped round his neck.

Mr Midgley asked the first witness if anyone else was near at the time he saw the deceased. The witness replied that he did not see anyone.

The coroner remarked that there was no doubt the man committed suicide, but there was no evidence to show the condition of his mind at the time, so that the jury could not arrive at any decision on that point.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased committed suicide by drowning.

Up to the time of the enquiry no information been received respecting the deceased friends or relatives, though communications and been addressed to the cheap Chief Constables of Kendal and Stockton on Tees. The certificate of burial was handed over to the parish authorities.