The Daily Telegraph. MONDAY, MAY 6, 1895. CORONER'S DUTIES.
We cannot compliment the coroner for this district upon his decision with regard to the case of W. A. Bamford, who died yesterday at Gleeson's Hotel as the result of excessive drinking. Apparently the coroner has acted upon the presumption that an inquest is not needed in cases where a medical man will certify to the cause of death. But this is a very wrong course to adopt. Even supposing that a doctor's certificate ouarht not to he formally laid before a jury in all cases of suspicious deaths, a coroner should at least appreciate the force of the obvious conclusion that a certificate given by a medical man must necessarily vary in value. To take a case. Suppose a, person dies as the result of arsenical poisoning. A certificate strictly correct as to the letter might attribute death to inflammation of the stomach, the action of arsenic being to set up inflammation. The sensational case in which a man named McLellan was some years ago charged with the murder of his wife in Napier is an instance in point. When the unfortunate woman who died was lying on her deathbed she was medically treated for inflammatory symptoms, and when she died a certificate based upon that treatment was supplied, and the body was buried. When McLellan was arrested some time afterwards on a charge of fraud, rumor as to foul play caused the authorities to exhume tho body of the dead woman, when it was found that her death had been caused by arsenical poisoning. This goes to show that in case 3of suspicious death, especially where they are by the surrounding circumstances necessarily brought to the notice of the coroner, it is always safer to obtain a certificate of the causes of death based upon an examination of the body. In our opinion it was the coroner's duty, when he received notice of the death of the unfortunate man Bamford, to order a post mortem examination to be made, and to take steps to have the result of that examination laid before a jury. We do not suggest the likelihood of Bamford having died from any other form of poisoning but tho alcoholic form, but wo do say that the circumstances in connection with his death should have been the subject of an official enquiry.
Tlii3 course was necessary not only in the interests of the public, but also in these of the publican. The deceased, it is stated, had resided with Mr Glceson for four years, and was a remittance man. As he drank hirnsclE fco death, many persons might associate his sad end with a facility for obtaining drink for which Mr Glceson should be blamed. Yet this might be altogether wrong Enquiry might have shown that Mr Gleeson was a benefactor to the man, and would not let hini have drink to kill himself with, and that consequently the deceased satisfied himself with eating and sleeping in Gleeson's Hotel, procuring his liquor elsewhere. In any case an enquiry should have been held. This is supposed to bo a civilised country, in which it is not allowable for persons to drink themselves to death, nor for publicans to assist men to drink themselves to death, and when in spite of our civilisation such thing 3 occur, an enquiry ought to be made if for no other reason than to endeavor to determine whether any holders of publicans' licenses are unfit to hold them or not. The safety of the public demands this. Before deceased left Napier for Sydney he was in a horribly soddened condition from drink. Gossip was in circulation to the effect that ho had been induced to enter into monetary transactions of a character altogether opposed to his own interests, the money he dealt with being derived from remittances from friends in Europe. Indeed, the rumors in circulation were of such an extraordinary kind that they involved, if true, glaring dishonesty on the part of those who were said to have induced deceased to part with his money. An enquiry into the causes of Bamford's death would probably have cleared up this part of the question. However, as the coroner has seen fit to adopt a course which must be regarded as opposed to the public interest, and as it is possible that the affairs of deceased will come before the Public Trustee, we suggest to that official the desirableness of making the fullest investigation into the whole matter. Tf it should turn out that deceased made a will, and that therefore the Public Trustee is not called upon to act, we consider that under the circumstances it would be the duty of the Government to enquire into the condition of deceased's mind at the time he made his will.
I Another reason why an inquest should have been held was the fact that deceased's relatives resided out of the colony. "What are they likely to think j of a country in which a man can drink himself to death and be huddled into his grave without any investigation into the matter? Suppose those friends should conclude that possibly somebody may have had pecuniary reasons for assisting deceased to drink himself to death, and so placed facilities in his reach for alcoholic suicide ? The police are too perfunctory in these matters. It is but a short timo since we had to comment upon the extraordinary nature of the proceedings in connection with the inquest on the body of the late "Donald McKay, lessee of the Clivo Hotel. The story told to account for the death of that man was probably one of the most extraordinary ever heard by an official, vet the whole proceedings were o£ such an extremely formal nature that we remarked upon the fact at the time. In McKay's case an inquest could not be avoided, because the body was found in the water, but in Bamford's case advantage appears to have been taken of a technicality to fail to hold an enquiry which all the other circumstances seem to call for.
[Since the above was in typo the coroner lias decided to hold an inquest. When he was informed of the death yesterday he was told by the police that the doctor who had attended deceased during his last illness would certify as to the cause of death, and ho consequently did not consider an enquiry necessary. But this morning, upon making further enquiries for himself, Mr Turnbull at once came to the conclusion (hat the case was properly one for a judicial investigation, and ordered an inquest to be held.]