Chapter 6-11. January 18, 1869 — Inquest and Postscript

THE INQUEST

After hanging the usual time the body of the culprit was cut down and removed to a compartment in the basement of the gaol. In accordance with the provisions of the new Act, an inquest was held upon it by Mr L. G. Fullagar, the Coroner for East Sussex, the same morning in the magistrates’ room of the prison. The countenance had a very placid look, but there was a deep red mark on the neck, caused by the rope. The jury were sworn to enquire into the circumstances of the death of a “certain man here lying dead.” The proceedings were merely formal, the following evidence only being taken:

Captain Alfred Prowse Haslar Helby, Governor of Lewes Gaol, deposed that the deceased was Martin Brown, otherwise Martin Henry Vinall. His age was 22 years, according to his own statement. He was received at the gaol in the first instance on the 19th October for further examination on the charge of murder, and was tried at the Assizes, held at Lewes, on the 27th December. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged by the neck till dead. Witness produced the order of the court and sentence. Witness was present this day and saw the deceased hanged within the precincts of the prison. As far as witness was able to judge, the execution was properly performed.

Mr Richard Turner, surgeon of the gaol, deposed that the deceased had been a prisoner in the gaol. Witness knew him as Martin Brown, alias Martin Henry Vinall. He had known him for some years, as he had been a prisoner in the gaol before. Witness was present at his execution, and death was caused by hanging by the neck. After the body was cut down witness examined it, and gave a certificate to that effect. The execution appeared to witness to be very efficiently performed carried out. The various officers efficiently performed their duty.

The Coroner said that the enquiry differed rather from other inquests which had been held. This inquest was held entirely by virtue of a recent Act of Parliament, by which executions were carried out privately within the precincts of a prison, instead of publicly, and the act ordered that a coroner’s inquest should be held with two objects – first to identify the body, and secondly, to see whether the execution had been properly carried out. It was, then, first their duty to be satisfied as to the identity, and then to see whether from the evidence the sentence had been properly carried out. Capt. Helby and the surgeon had identified the body as that of the deposed that the sentence had been properly carried out. He thought, therefore, the evidence was sufficient to satisfy them upon these points.

The jury then returned a formal verdict that the body was that of Martin Brown, otherwise Martin Henry Vinall, and that the sentence was carried out according to law. This terminated the proceedings.

The scaffold was speedily removed, and a hole dug immediately where the drop had been, and quick lime having been placed in the coffin and in the grave, the body was buried in the course of the afternoon.

After the close of the enquiry a notice, in accordance with the verdict of the jury, was posted at the exterior of the entrance of the gaol. The certificate forwarded by the High Sheriff to the Government, on the execution of the culprit, was signed by the prison officials and two of the representatives of the press who had been present.

We may add that Brown, whilst in gaol, was engaged in writing an account of his life, which it is intended shall be published. No record has yet been found of this having happened.

Postscript for the Baldys

Life went on for the Baldy family. A memorial stone was erected and a photograph was taken of it by Reeves the photographers of Lewes. Whether there was a memorial service at its erection we have not discovered, nor do we know of David Baldy’s last resting place. In the 1871 census his children were back with the first of the two Harriets that David Baldy had married. What happened to the younger of the two Harriets that he was living with at the time of his murder we do not know. It is interesting to note that in 1876 David Baldy junior married John Rich’s niece, Florence Elizabeth. Florence Elizabeth Rich’s uncle was the previous tenant of Newmarket Cottage.

Previous: Chapter 6-10. January 1869 — Confession and Execution

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Next: Chapter 7. Life After Death — 1871–1908

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