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INQUEST., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 28, 29 November 1879
The inquest on the bodies of the twin children, dames Downey and Henry Arthur Penny, who died so suddenly last Saturday morning, was continued to-day in the Central Hotel, before Dr. Trevor and a jury of whom Mr. \V. T. Davison was foreman.
John Pratt, Sergeant of Police, said : On Saturday, 2. r md iusfc., J received horn James Downey Penny, the father of deceased, 1 bottle of milk, 2 feeding bottles containing milk, 1 bottle which had traces of milk in it, 2 bottles which I was informed contained aniseed, |1 wine glass, 1 cup and some sugar. Some portions of the bodies of the deceased children I also received from Dr. Ross, and I forwarded the whole to Professor Bickerton for analysis. I have this day received a telegram from Superintendent Borhani, stating that Professor Bickerton had been unable to discover poison in the portions of the bodies of the deceased forwarded, nor in the milk, nor in any of the other articles forwarded.
Wm. Grey Ross, sworn, said—l am a duly qualified medical practioner, residing in Ashburton. I was culled to see the deceased children on Saturday morning 22nd, atfi.fiO. Mr. Penny, who called mo, said wbenhecamofnnnethey were both dead.’ They were the children on whom I afterwards made a post mortem examination, When I arrived, one of the children was in the cot and the other in the mother's arms, Both were dead. They were warm, and in my judgment had been dead about an hour or less. Their limbs wore rigid, hands clenched, and the body of the smaller and weaker one already begin ning to bccotnu discolored, This child hacf a small dUantlty of bloody froth exuding from tlia mouth and nostrils, I nO.tictil no other appearances respecting the pocllqß. Tbg bottles in the prib were lexamiuedabottle of miiseed 'Uuit pm Ml |£ U
I also examined the bottles that had contained the milk the children had been supplied from the previous night. They were empty, and there was no particular odour or taste, except that of sour milk. I also examined the crib where tho babies had been lying for the night. The impression of their bodies was well marked, i also examined the clothing covering the children and the relative position of their
s ho lies. There was nothing to show in any of these things how tho children came by their deaths, or to excite any suspicion of foul means having been used. There were no marks of violence on the , bodies, nor of any struggle—the cot and bedclothes appearing as if the children had been quietly taken out of bed. On the same day, about eight hours after I first saw them, I made a “post mortem” examination of both bodies;. The signs in both wore much alike—the only difference be.jng such as would naturally exist between a smaller and a stronger child. Tho congestion and discoloration were as a natural consequence more developed in a weaker child. Both bodies were well nourished, and without a single mark of violence anywhere. They were cleanly and well cared for ; the limbs were still rigid, the lips were blue, and the e3 r ea natural, and also the pupils of the same. The nails were not livid, but of tho usual pink tint ; the thumbs were turned in strongly. On opening the bodies, I found the right side of the hearts healthy and flaccid, the left thoroughly contracted, and also empty. The blood in the arteries leading to and from the heart, was very dark and fluid. At tho base of the.heart, under the pericardium, were many extravasations of blood of-the size of millet seed. The pinus gland was intensely' congested, and * also bad extravasations of this size. The lungs were congested in part, but for the most part healthy. In the lungs were also minute extravasations under the pleura. There were about itotpe drachms of serum in the pericardram, and about one ounce in each pleural cavity. The livers, spjpens, and intestines were all healthy. ’ The stomachs were healthy throughout, and were half full of partly digested food, having the natural smell and appearance. The brain was intensely congested, but the bn-in substance itself was natural. The ventricles were full of serum. The throat was slightly congested ; wind-pipe and gullet clear. I gave the stomachs and their contents, spleens, portions of tho lungs and livers to Constable Farmer to take to Christchurch to Professor Bickerton. for analysis. Appearances led me to suspect poisoning by strychnia, and it was for that reason I forwarded parts of the bodies for analysis. The other cause of death with which post mortem appearances would agree is sudden suffocation. Strychnine produces death sometimes by suffocation by its action on the muscles of the chest. I consider the most probably cause of death suffocation. The cause I consider must have been rapid. I think the evidence of the mother, that the children were all right at 3.30 on the morning of their death is perfectly correct. I cannot account for their death by suffocation if it occurred. There was enough air in the room ; the coverlet was thin, and if it had fallen accidentally on the faces of the children would not probably have produced suffocation. In some respects I should not have expected to find the right heart empty, and should have expected the faces would be pallid. The signs of death by suffocation were however uncertain. There were no marks of fingers on the throat. The thumbs were not so rigidly turned in as they would have been by convulsions. From the appearance of the bodies soon after death, I do not think they died of convulsions. Had they taken strychnine it would have been found in the liver or spleen. There were no marks to present any attempt at suffocation. A pillow would leave no mark. In many cases suffocation has been mis- , taken for death by natural causes. Tho signs are very uncertain. ;
Constable Farmer deposed to having delivered the bottles and other articles to Professor Bickerton, in the same condition as he received them from Dr. Ross.
The coroner said he was sorry there was no evidence to point out how the deceased came by their deaths. He was sorry for the public, sony for the parents, and sorry for himself as a medical man. The medical evidence pointed to suffocation. That was improbable, as the children were uncovered when the mother saw them. There was no evidence to point out whether the children were suffocated or died by other causes. The theory of death by poison was cleared up, and the analysis showed that none had been found in the stomachs, and he could not recommend the jury to do anything else than return a purely open verdict. 3 ho jury returned a verdict in accordance with the coroner’s recommendation.
INQUEST., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 28, 29 November 1879
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