In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

Coroners Inquest – Benjamin Turner


Mr. Hawkes (coroner) held an inquest at his court, Moor Street, yesterday, morning, upon the body of Benjamin Turner (32), who lived at 3 Court, 4 house, Hall Street. – Mary Ann Turner said that deceased was her husband, and followed the trade of a caster. Last Tuesday he came home from work about a quarter past ten o’clock the worse for drink. Without speaking to wintess he at once went up to bed in the dark. Witness was sitting on the doorstep when he arrived home and she remained there until half past eleven o’clock. At that time her brother-in-law, Alfred Jones who is living apart from his wife, entered, and went to bed.

Elizabeth Macdonald, witness’s sister, then came to the house the worse for drink. They had a conversation together, and witness tried to persuade her sister to go home. Witness asked Macdonald not to disturb her husband, who was in bed the worse for beer. The sister replied “that she did not mind if she did wake the husband,” and at that moment he came downstairs clad in his trousers and nightshirt only. Witness left the room and heard the deceased tell her sister to go.

She heard angry words, and in a moment after the deceased ran into the yard with his shirt in flames. Witness fainted, and when she recovered her husband had veen removed to the General Hospital. She went to the hospital, and watched by her husband until his death, but the only remark he made was “Lizzie ought not to have done it to me.” – In answer to the Coroner, witness said that by Lizzie deaceased meant Elizabeth Macdonald. No one would have been able to enter the house while witness was in the yard.

Cross examined: Witness admitted that deceased ran at Macdonald, but she did not see him pick up a poker, and she was not aware that he smashed the lamp in Macdonald’s hand before she threw it – Alfred Jones said that he heard screams in the house and ran downstairs. He saw Turner with his clothes on fire. Elizabeth Macdonald was in the yard. She was the worse for beer, and had a baby in her arms. Witness went to the hospital with deceased, but he made no statement as to how he was set on fire.

David Sandford, who lives in the same yard as deceased, said that he extinguished the flames by putting his coat over the deceased. He did not see Elizabeth Macdonald in the yard.

Police-contastble William Davenport (170) said that hearing screams in the yard he ran up and saw deceased with his clothes in flames. Mrs Turner lay in a faint and Mrs Macdonald stood by the door of the house. He saw that the floor was covered with burning oil, and ran in to put out the fire. As he passed Mrs Macdonald she said “The b- want to kill me, but I’ll kill them first.” He subsequently found some portions of the broken lamp, and received the other part from Inspector Alvey, who had found it in the house.

Inspector Alvey said that he arrested the prisoner at her mother’s house, in Warstone Lane. He removed her to Kenion Street Station, and told her that she would be charged with violently assaulting Benjamin Turner, by striking him on the head with a paraffin lamp, and setting fire to him. She said, “He came downstairs and hit me, and then I hit him with the lamp. Now that’s the truth: he’s alway on to me.” He had further charged her that morning with causing Turner’s death, and she had made no reply.

Mr Nason, resident surgical officer at the General Hospital, said that deceased was received at midnight on the 25th. He was suffering from burns on the back, the right shoulder, forearm and hand, and on the chest and back of the neck. There were also several wounds, two on his back and one on the back of the head. The wounds were such that they might have been produced by a blow from a paraffin lamp like the one produced.

Deceased gradually sank from exhaustion and died at twenty five minutes past nine o’clock on Sunday morning.

A post mortem examination revealed the fact that there were no other marks of violence and that the internal organs were all healthy. Death was due to exhaustion brought about by the injuries.

The Coroner in summing up said that if the prisonerly deliberately and with malicious intent stuck deceased with such an instrument as a lamp, it would be wilful murder, but if they believed that she did it without fore-though and intent then they would return a verdict of manslaughter.

The jury retired, and after a few moments deliberation returned a verdict of “Manslaughter” against Elizabeth Macdonald, who was committed for trial at the Birmingham Assizes.

The Coroner allowed David Sandford 2s. 6d. in addition to his expenses for his promtness in putting out the flames.

Birmingham Daily Post Wednesday, July 3, 1889, Issue 9679
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