Chapter 6–6. October 12, 1868 — Coroner’s Inquest

2pm Monday 12th October 1868 — Inquest

The inquest was opened at the County Hall, Lewes, on Monday afternoon at two o’clock, before Mr L. G. Follagar, Coroner for the Eastern Division of the county. The Jury was chosen entirely from Lewes inhabitants, and had to be conveyed to the cottage and scene of the murder in a two-horse omnibus. This was typically an open-topped double-decker carriage capable of seating 12 downstairs, and 14 on top, though this one had only a boxed in lower storey probably with seating for 12, and 2 outside by the driver, with a flat roof for luggage. On the road thither, the driver went by Falmer, and the jury, dismounting close by the pond, walked thence to the top of the hill, the omnibus following afterwards.

Evidence of identification was taken from the relatives of the deceased at the cottage.

On the road back the jury decided to walk down the hill to the north-east and strike the Lewes road at the Newmarket Tavern. As it turned out this decision of theirs was a lucky one, for soon after starting on the return journey the off rein broke and the driver lost all control over the horses. One was inclined to make a bolt of it; but by talking to them in stable language the driver kept them tolerably quiet. They went on, however, increasing in speed for about a half a mile on the wrong side of the road and making every now and then the closest possible “shave” of the bank or ditch. The omnibus was fully loaded, two or three persons even sitting on the flat roof, and in case of an upset the situation could have been an ugly one. Several of the jurymen jumped off the top of the ’bus’ on to the road or field at the side, receiving nasty falls in doing so, but not hurting themselves materially. At last the state of affairs was made known to police constable Billinghurst of Falmer, who was in the inside of the vehicle. He dropped off the back and then ran forward to the horses, just managing to catch the broken rein and so stopping the dangerous run. The rein was temporarily repaired but having given way on a second start two of the jurymen preferred to walk to Lewes. The rest of the body also elected to pull up at the entrance of the town and walked thence to the County Hall. These delays caused the beginning of the enquiry to be very late, the time being further protracted by the jury having to wait for the coroner. Indeed, some anxiety was even felt for the safety of this gentleman. He rode on his own horse to Newmarket and back, and to the eyes of the jury it appeared as if the horse had bolted with him when galloping down the hill. This, however, turned out not to be so.

6pm Monday 12th October 1868 — Enquiry

The enquiry commenced about six o’clock. Evidence of identification had been taken from the relatives of the deceased at the cottage.

Dr Lewis Smythe was the first witness called. He deposed: “I am a Doctor of Medicine and Fellow of the College of Surgeons. Today I made a post- mortem examination of the body of the deceased. The external appearances of violence were a communited fracture of the nose; and, also, a fracture of the upper maxillary, or jaw, bone. There was also a wound of the lower lip and one incisor tooth had been knocked out. I will add that all these injuries were given after death. There were none of the evidences which would be produced had they been inflicted during life. The wounds were free from coagulum. There were on the back two, – a large and a small, – gun shot wounds; the large one within one inch and a half of the spine. In front there were two wounds of exit of balls. Another ball I extracted over the right pectoral muscle. The bullet of the larger wound fractured the fourth rib on the right side. The smaller, and upper wound, was between the second and third rib on the right side. On opening the chest I discovered much blood extravasated. The right pericardium, or the membrane which covers the heart, was quite full of venous blood. The ball from the large opening had gone in a direction forwards and upwards, wounding the diaphragm and the large vessel called the vena cava at its junction with the right aurical of the heart. Those injuries produced almost instantaneous death to the poor old man. The wounds had been inflicted from behind. They were gunshot bullet wounds.”

Coroner: “No other marks of injury, were there?” Witness: “None but what I have described.”

A Juror: “How far should you judge the man to be from him when the shot was fired?”

Witness: “That is, of course, a very difficult thing to say; but I should judge about a foot. The frock he had on is not burnt, as it would have been if the gun were fired quite close; but it was singed and blackened by the powder. The large bullet and one of the small ones went right through his outer coat, waistcoat, shirt, flannel, and then through the body, perforating the skin on the other side.”

Coroner: “Why should you think the man who fired was about a foot from him?”

Witness: “The coat was not burnt, but singed and blackened with gunpowder; so that the discharge, though not near enough to burn it, had blackened the coat with the powder, showing that it must have been fired from a very short distance.”

To the Jury: “I certainly think the discharge must have been from a gun or a large horse pistol; not from a revolver.”

Coroner: “Do you think it was one shot, or two?”

Witness: “One, I believe. I believe the gun or pistol, whichever it was, had three balls in it.”

Walter Francis Croskey sworn: “I am a Doctor of Medicine. I was present at the post mortem examination of the body of the deceased; and can entirely corroborate the statements he has made relative to the post mortem appearances. As the result of my examination, I think the deceased came by his death from the gunshot wounds described by Dr Smythe.”

Dr Smythe here exhibited to the jury the smock frock worn by the unfortunate man. In the centre of the back was a large irregular hole, just about the size of a crown piece, – or rather several holes joined by little shreds of fabric. Some members of the jury expressed the opinion that this damage was too wide to have been caused by one shot; but Dr Smythe reminded them that the smock would probably be folded in pleats on the back of deceased and would not be extended as they had it before them. Thus, a ball passing through it would cause more damage than if the smock had been flat and well fitting to the back.

Walter Baldy was next called and sworn. He was a lad who looked about ten or eleven years of age and was apparently sharp and intelligent. When questioned by the Coroner, however, upon the nature of an oath and his knowledge of right and wrong he betrayed, or pretended to, a state of almost utter ignorance. He said he did not know what he was sworn to do; he did not know anything of the Testament; had never been told of heaven or hell; had never been taught to speak the truth; thought he should tell it, though; had never been sent to church or Sunday school; but went to church sometimes; had never been to school; went to work all day to watch the horses; saw the clergyman of the parish sometimes, but had never spoken to him. He was the son of deceased.

The Coroner said he could not take the evidence of a lad who clearly did not know the responsibility of an oath.

Some of the jury suggested that the lad might have been told to pretend ignorance; but when cross-examined on this the lad gave, as he had done before, merely monosyllabic denials.

We may add that the object of calling him was to prove the finding of the body. He was the elder of the two sons of deceased who had come upon the body of their murdered father when going to their work at six o’clock on Saturday morning, and he, of the two, had gone up to the body and seen that it was the corpse of his father. His evidence failing, the next witness was a man who had also come upon the body, when going to work, while the lads had gone back to the house to tell their mother and the lodger. He, too, seemed remarkably dull of apprehension, and for some time gave the impression that he was saying as little as ever he could. The following is his evidence:

“I am a labourer living at Kingstone. I knew deceased.”

Coroner: “What can you tell us about him?”

Tuppen: “I was going along, by his house on Saturday morning about twenty minutes to six.”

Coroner: “Did you see anybody or anything?”

Tuppen: “David Baldy, that’s all.”

Coroner: “Where did you see him?”

Tuppen: “Near Newmarket House.”

Coroner: “What was he doing; was he alive or dead?”

Tuppen: “He was dead; lying on the ground.”

Examination continued: “No one was with him and no one was with me. He was dressed in cord trousers and a brown smock frock. I went up to him and as I stood by I saw Joseph Hollands and two of Baldy’s sons coming. When they came up one of his sons asked me if he was dead. His sons had been to the body before and had gone back to call Hollands.”

To the Jury: “The body was lying on the back.”

A Juror: “Was there any conversation between you and the boys?”

Tuppen: “No, Sir.”

A Juror: “None at all?”

Tuppen: “No, Sir.”

To the Coroner: “His head was lying towards Brighton.”

A Juror: “If you said nothing to the boys what did you do as you stood there?”

Tuppen: “Talked to the man who was with ’em, that’s all.”

Coroner: “What was said?”

Witness paused considerably, and then answered; “Very little was said.”

Coroner: “What did you do? Did you see anyone?”

Tuppen: “I saw a young man. Yes: I went and gave information.”

Coroner: “Whom to? The police?”

Tuppen: “No; to a young man. He talked to me about it, and I told him. No, I did not offer to carry deceased into his house. I talked to Hollands about it, and he said he would let him lay, and he would go down and tell Mr Hodson; and then I started.”

Coroner: “Where to?”

Tuppen: “Where I was going to work, at Bevendean, for Mr Lade.”

Joseph Hollands, labourer, who lodged at deceased’s house, and who was referred to by the foregoing witness:, was next called. He said: “The persons living in this house were deceased, his wife, two sons, myself, and a little girl.”

Coroner: “Who slept in the house on Friday night?”

Hollands: “Walter, Mark, Philip, the little girl, the wife, and me.”

Examination continued: “Philip (a third son) came up that night from Kingstone to sleep. Deceased has been tending some young heifers of Mr Hodson’s at his house during the past week, and he has usually been home at five or half-past five. Deceased was a very sober man. I do not know of his ever having had a quarrel with anybody. I have lodged there nigh four years. I last saw deceased alive on Friday morning. On Thursday night it was arranged that the son Philip, who worked at Kingstone, should come up and attend the bullocks and David (the deceased) should go down and get the wages. While I have been lodging there three or four different persons have lodged there. There has been this Henry Brown there.”

Coroner: “What were their names?”

Hollands: “Henry Brown, one was. He was not the last lodger. He lodged there a month or 5 weeks.”

Coroner: “Has anyone lodged there since Brown left?”

Hollands: “This man, – a gentleman from Brighton lodged there, Sir, since he left.

No; I don’t know his name.”

Coroner: “Why did Henry Brown leave?”

Hollands: “Because he could not come to and fro; because he worked at Kingstone.”

Coroner: “Have you seen him up there since he left?”

Hollands: “Yes; he has been up there two or three times. No; he was not there on Thursday. I heard he had been there the Sunday before last; but I did not see him. His father and his mother wanted Philip to bring the money home from Kingstone but he would not wait to do so. He said he would come up to attend to his father’s bullocks and let him fetch the money. That was talked about on Thursday night and also on Friday morning as were all at breakfast.”

Coroner: “How was it that Philip did not stop for the money?”

Hollands: “I don’t know, except that he was timid. He is timid on the Hill after dark. He is a timid boy.”

Coroner: “Did you not hear him give any reason?”

Hollands: “I did hear him say it was not his place. I said it was a pity to drag his father down there for the money and then he said it was not his place to stop.”

A juror: “Are you quite sure his mother wanted him to stop?”

Hollands: “Oh, yes, Sir; his mother and father too.”

To the Coroner: “Deceased and Henry Brown were on friendly terms. There was no gun or pistol in the cottage except a little bit of a pistol that Philip had to tent rooks. When Brown was there he had a six-barrelled revolver. He showed it to me once; I asked him to show it me. We wondered why deceased did not come on Friday and sat there waiting for him. I had a concertina and I played and we sat and waited for deceased. We wondered a bit why he did not come. I went to bed at half-past nine.”

Coroner: “Did no one go out to look for the man?”

Hollands: “No, Sir. When the dog barked about seven o’clock I went to the door and told the dog to lay down. I can’t be sure whether I went to the back door or not during the evening. We thought deceased might have come into Lewes to see the son who works here, or that he might have come here to get some salve for a bad leg he had.”

Coroner: “Did you hear the sound of any gun?”

Hollands: “No, Sir; we only heard the dog bark about seven o’clock. Deceased has only once or twice stopped at Kingstone all night.”

To Coroner: “I never saw Brown with any gun or weapon except the six-barrelled revolver. I never heard of any set-out between deceased and Brown before he left. I never had any any dispute with Brown; I never recollect such a thing. Brown and Philip used to work together at Kingstone at Mr Hodson’s. Baldy and his wife quarrelled sometimes; but I have not heard them lately. It was generally about the children being noisy that they quarrelled. I never knew them to quarrel about Brown. On Saturday morning the boys went out about ten minutes to six and came back crying. Then I went with them and found him lying there. He laid on his back, with his coat under his left arm, as if he had been carrying it that way. I felt in his pockets. There was only a half-penny, a hoof-picker, and some bits of paper in his pocket. His smock was rolled up in front and one flap undone, as if he had been robbed. I took the coat from under his arm, – I had trouble to do it, for the arm was very stiff, – and threw it on his face. I then went back and told his wife. I never heard deceased and his wife quarrel about another man.”

To the Jury: “Brown would, I dare say, know what money Baldey would have. I did not hear Baldy tell Philip what money he would have to take. I did not assist to the body into the house. They went to Kingstone to tell of it and I went to my work. I did not think it might do to touch the body before anyone came and saw it.”

John Hodson sworn: “I live in Kingston, and am occupied at farming. The deceased, David Baldy, was a labourer in my grandfather’s service. On Friday last I paid him his wages at a quarter to six o’clock. I paid him at my office at Kingston. I paid him 51s. I think I paid it in two sovereigns, a half-sovereign, and a shilling. He left the office immediately on being paid. He did not say where he was going. His three sons are in my grandfather’s service; all three were working at Kingstone that day. The money I paid deceased was for his wages and those of the two youngest boys. He generally took his wages himself. Brown also works for my grandfather. He was not paid that evening; he was not at work for my grandfather that day, but he was at work in Kingstone, for I saw him working at the bottom of the street. That was about half-past two in the afternoon. I did not see him afterwards to my knowledge. His wife told me of the old man’s death at half-past six on Saturday morning. She came to Kingstone to tell me.”

To the Jury: “Brown was at work in work in Kingstone on Saturday morning for my grandfather. I set him to work. I did not know of the suspicion against him till the evening. I never heard of any dispute between Baldy and Brown. I expected on this occasion to give the wages to the boy, but the boy had left before I got home and the old man had to come down. On Friday Brown was working in the garden of the curate, Mr Bray. Mr Cooper would pay him for that work. I think deceased put the wages I paid him in a bag.”

Richard Crocker, a thatcher, living at Kingston, said: “I have sold a gun lately to a man named Brown. I do not know his Christian name; he lodged at Kingstone at Mr Wickham’s. I have not seen the gun since; but I believe I have a seen a part of the gun though I can’t swear to it. The policeman showed me it. (Pieces produced and identified). I bought the gun here at Lewes from a man whose name I don’t know. It was rather an old gun. The stock had been repaired. I paid 6s for the gun when I bought it. Brown gave me 12s for it. I did not sell Brown any powder or shot for the gun. I had the gun about half a year.”

Benjamin Billinghurst, a constable of the East Sussex Constabulary, stationed at Falmer, was next sworn. He deposed: “On Saturday morning last Mr Hodson informed me of deceased’s death. I then went with him to Newmarket Hill and saw the deceased, David Baldy, lying in the pathway leading from Kingstone to Newmarket House. His face was covered by a coat, which I took off, and saw he was much knocked about the face. I searched his pockets, and found in them only two pipes and some pieces of paper. I turned him over and saw he had been shot through the back. On looking round him I found the part of the gunstock I now produce, close to his head. I then conveyed the body to his house. The part of the trigger and stock were laid on the ground together. I found the bag produced about 20 yards nearer Kingston than where the body laid.”

Jonathan Beck, a constable of the East Sussex force, said: “About eight o’clock on Sunday morning last I went to Kingston to Mr Wickham’s and was shown a box pointed out to me as Brown’s. I searched it. Police constable Green and William Wickham was present when I searched it. In the pocket of the reefing jacket produced was found the revolver produced (a six barrelled one). Five barrels were loaded. In the pocket I also found some paper stained with blood; also another piece of paper representing a man shooting another man in the back. (This was a rough drawn sketch of a burly soldier dressed in a fanciful uniform, and wearing two swords, firing a revolver pistol at two lesser-sized men in front of him. In the corner under the two were these words “Let me load; I will have a spat at you.”) There were a number of bullets in a paper in the box: I produce three of them, corresponding with those found in and on the body. The large one has been cast in the same mould as that taken from the body and the small ones fit the revolver.”

Superintendent Jenner sworn: “I received information of the murder on Saturday morning and went to Newmarket Cottage. I produced three bullets, – two of them were in the front part of deceased’s clothing exactly opposite the wound in the body. The third one was just under the skin. Dr Smythe took it out and handed it to me. I have since examined the contents of the box brought to the police station and found the overcoat produced. On one of the flaps was a smear of dirt and on brushing this off there appeared a stain of what I believe to be blood. I now point it out to you. It is a long coat such as is worn by soldiers, and when the wearer was kneeling the flap would, no doubt, reach the ground.”

Charlotte Wickham sworn: “My husband and I live at Kingston. Henry Brown has lodged with us for about two months. The box and clothing produced are Henry Brown’s. The regimental coat and the reefing jacket produced are like those he used to wear. He last wore them on Friday night, when he went out about a quarter to six and did not return till 20 minutes to nine. When he was sitting at dinner on Friday he said he was going to Brighton after he had done his work and was going to take his gun to his Brother to look at, and should not be back till three o’clock on Saturday afternoon. I asked him what his brother worked at and he said well digging. He repeated what he said about not coming just before he went out. He left the house by the back door. He then had the gun with him and wore the overcoat produced. When he came back at twenty-minutes past nine I said to him “Halloa, Harry; I thought you were not coming back till Saturday.” He said “I have done my business quicker than I thought I should and I was soon enough to take the train to Lewes.” He never mentioned the gun; nor I to him. I don’t recollect him saying anything further. He slept at our house on Friday night and went to work on Saturday. He went out on Saturday evening about half-past six. He went to Lewes and got some meat, and groceries, and so on, for Sunday and the following week. He came back in three-quarters of an hour and had a pint of beer and a bottle of ginger beer. He drunk that and said he meant to have bought two new shirts but had forgotten them. He then left the house again and went in the direction of Lewes. He could not have been in the house at that time more than five minutes.”

Coroner: “Did you notice anything about him on Saturday evening?”

Mrs Wickham: “I thought he looked rather strange; he seemed very pale.”

Coroner: “When he returned on Friday night was he dressed in the same way as when he went out?”

Mrs Wickham: “He had the long coat on his arm, which he had worn when he went out. He had the short coat on when he came back.”

To the Jury: “I noticed nothing in particular in his appearance when he came back on Friday night. He could have come to Lewes and made his purchases in three-quarters of an hour. He was a quick walker. I never saw him with any bullets.”

Richard Goodwin sworn: “I have lodged at Mrs Wickham’s for about three weeks.

Henry Brown has lodged with me. I have seen a gun there belonging to Henry Brown. I have some bullets I used when rook tending and Brown asked me to give him half-a-dozen and I did so. I made the bullets myself. They were about the same size and mould as the large one produced. The gun was kept in our bedroom. I first saw it a week last Friday. I saw it on Friday morning last. I heard him say between twelve and one on Friday, he was going to Brighton, and would not be home till Saturday about three. We went to bed together on Friday night after he came back, and I saw the gun was gone. I said, “Where’s your gun then, Harry?” and he said, “I have taken it to my brother’s.” He did not say his brother’s name. He did not say why he had come back so soon. When he first come down there he said he had £7, and I saw £5. He has had no need to borrow money. He did not appear to have much money lately. On Friday night he took some money out of his pocket in the bedroom and put it in the chest in the room. He then said, “I have not much tonight”, and took it and put it in his box. I was laid in bed then and could not see whether it was gold or silver: Brown bought the overcoat produced last week. I was with him when he did so.”

This being all the evidence the police could offer at present, the inquiry was adjoined for a week.

Previous: Chapter 6–5. October 9, 1868 — Murder

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Next: Chapter 6-7. October 13, 1868 — Newmarket Plantation

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