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SHOCKING TRAGEDY in LONDON., Hawkes Bay Herald, Volume 13, Issue 1084, 17 September 1869
SHOCKING TRAGEDY in LONDON.
* A FAMILY OP EIGHT PERBONS POISON THEMSELVES TO ESCAPE STARVATION. Early on Monday morning, June 28, a whole family, consisting of the father, mother, and six children, were found dead in a house in Hosier-lane, Smithfield, and under circumstances which can leave no doubt that they had perished from the effects of poison. The father was a working silversmith in the employment of Messrs. Chawner and Adams, who have extensive premises used as a manufactory in Hosierlane, and with his family occupied an adjoining house belonging to the firm, living rent free. He had been in that service about six or seven years, and is supposed to have come from Bristol. Latterly, however, he had fallen into ill-health> and had been obliged on medical advice to relinquish his employment, and with it the house he occupied under his masters. Whether or not that had preyed upon his mind may now never be known. A letter in the father's own hand led to the discovery of the tragedy. It was addressed to the police authorities in Smithfield, where there is a district police-station, and was to the effect that if they went to the house, No. 15, on Monday morning, they would find something to interest them. That letter, which had been posted on Sunday, was delivered about eight or half-past eight o'clock on Monday morning, and on their going to the house indicated, which they .did immediately afterwards, they did indeed find something which, interested them painfully. They found the front door locked on the inside, but obtained admission through a window at the back. It was a house of two doors, a first and second, immediately over some workshops, and the, deceased man, Duggan, and his family had occupied it, using the first floor as a sitting room and kitchen, and the upper floor, consisting of two apartments, as bedrooms. On a bed in the front room lay the dead bodies of the mother and of three of the youngest children, one on each side of her, and the other across the foot of the bed. The dead bodies of the daughters, Emma and Jessie, were stretched upon another bed in the same room, and that of the eldest hoy, Walter James, upon an adjoining crib, while the body of the father lay alone in the back room. On a cane-bot-tom chair at the side of the bed in which were the bodies of the mother and three infant children was a table glass, and a spoon was found among the bed-clothes. A bottle about three or four inches long, labelled " Hydrocyanic acid," and " Poison," the last-mentioned word being in conspicuous letters, was found in one of the bedrooms, and another, precisely the same in size, appearance, and label, in a room below. Neither bottle bore the name of the seller. A family Bible containing the names and dates of birth ofthe father and mother and ofthe several children, written: onfly-leaf, and with themarriage certificate of the heads of the little household attached, was likewise foundj in one of the rooms on the second floor, and by it the police were able to ascertain the names and ages of the family. The whole ofthe dead bodies (eight in number) were in their night dresses, and lay in an orderly manner, mostly on their backs, and just as if they had resigned themselves to sleep for the night. The features of all of them were placid and composed, and there was no evidence of any struggle. The lips of most of them were compressed, and on those of one or two there was a slight appearance of a bluish fluid or discoloration. It is a remarkable circumstance in connection with the tragedy that a neighbor occupying a house exactly opposite that of the deceased saw the gas alight in the kitchen between three and four o'clock in the morning. Between eight and nine, when the police entered, the gas had been turned off, and one inference is that after the poison had been administered and had taken effect, the murderer had been for some hours occupied in disposing of the dead bodies of the victims.
The inquest on the bodies was held on June 30 by Mr. Payne. Mr. Vorley, a wholesale chemist, who had said that he thought the bottles containing the prussic acid belonged to him, was examined as to whether he had sold the poison to the deceased man, but he could not recolloct having done so. From the fact that Duggan alone of all the deceased persons was found with his mouth and his eyes open, Dr. Wilson, the chief medical witness, inferred that lie had taken the poison when awake, while the others had had it administered to them in their sleep. The same witness was, however, of opinion that the woman must have consented to what was done, as she had evidently not been dead by some two or three hours so long as the children. Mrs. Eliza Smith, the mother of Duggan, who lives at Brisr toi, produced the following letter, which was given to her by the brother of the deceased,- Frederick Jones Duggan : — " 15, Hosier-lane, Smithfield, E.C, " June 27, 1869.
" Dear Brother, — You are aware of Mr. Adam's harsh and bad course of action when he heard my lungs were effected, which ended in his giving me one month's notice to leave his employ, knowing (as I told him) I had no neans of livelihood but the one week's wages I left with. His bearing and language have been thoroughly tyrannical from the first moment he heard I was struck down, and have been continued up to the last, and the cause of it all is that he has made a miscalculation in me. He had reckoned he had a good, sound, and serviceable article in me, and when he discovered his mistake he was furious, and showed his annoyance as only a hard, selfish, narrow-minded man could do. After the month expired, he then allowed me after a great deal of solicitation to remain in the house, which is his, a week longer, while I looked for work and a place to live in, which I had no opportunity of doing before. I have tried hard to obtain either or both, but can find no lodging or home, for when they know I am out of work, and can give no reference, they decline altogether. I asked Mr. Adams if he would allow me to name him as a reference. He said he would have nothing to do in the matter, as he might have to pay. I asked him what he thought I could do. He said I could get a place somewhere if I liked, and that I must be out of his house at the expiration of the week, or he >ould put my things into the lane. I appealed to him for some consideration for my wife and little ones — the eldest he knew was far gone in consumption. I also asked him if it were possible he could go to such extremes after my being four or five years in his employ, and the long character he had with me, and up to the time of my health partially failing had devoted my whole energy in forwarding his interests. He took no notice of that, but said he would not be trifled with, and unless I was out of his house he would do as he had said, so not to deceive myself in the -matter. So we have to face the alternatives of starving in the streets, the workjhouse, or death. We prefer the latter. ;We may have, been able to. surmount the possibly, if Mr v Adams had iacted less unfeelingly ; • but lie has shown ■scant mercy-, and if the same ia meted to
t him in his eitremity, it will go< hard with him, for the blood of me and mine is pn his hands, and will cling to him and his. . It is better to meet death as we have than to wait till he comes through want, priva- . tion, and misery, and would come with equal certainty ; for me, Emma, and all the children are far from strong, and must have quickly succumbed. We are strongly attached to each other, and separation j alone would be as bad as death, and we love the children dearly — too dearly to condemn them to utter wretchedness t and want. It is agony of mind almost beyond endurance to think that the alternative is so terrible that we cannot shield it from one or the other. Break the news gently to mother. Tell her it is, under the circumstances, the best course — far better than the degradation and want and disease before us, which must have ended in the same way after all our sufferings. Prussic acid was the thing used. Pray undertake the funerals if you can. I trust you will have enough things to pay expenses. Oh! the horror of this night. May it be visited upon the man who forced it! lean write no, more. I am nearly mad. So an eternal farewell to you all, and may God bless you ! Farewell for ever !" The Coroner: I see that the bottom half of the second sheet is torn off. Do you know who did that P Witness : that is how it came. Mr. Adams, the master alluded to in the letter, here stepped forward and said that as lie had been thus spoken of he should wish to be sworn. He said that he was the owner of 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, Hosier land. The deceased man was in his employ. Duggan gave nic notice on the 3rd of April, as lie said he was ill. Duggan told me that he was in that state of health that he could not continue any longer in my service. Until that time I thought he was only suffering from a cold. Duggan said that he must get out-door work immediately, as his lungs were affected. I think he said he had been to a Dr. Powell, and that that gentleman said he must seek out-door employment. I reasoned with him myself, and .urged him to try by Exercise to continue in his situation at all events for a time, and till he could get employment. I told him to consider his wife and children. He said he was afraid he never should be any better. From that time he gradually drooped and drooped. He said he must give it up. He did not after that go about his work as usual. He received thirty-five shillings a week, and lived rent and taxes free. At Whitsuntide I advised him to go to Bristol to look for something. He did go, and returned to his work on the Wednesday. He said he could not get employment at Bristol. He continued with me, but kept saying he must give up. He said he was not doing his duty by me. On the 22nd of May I said we had better arrange to part ; that I was in no hurry ; would a month suit him ? On the 19fch of June he left. He asked me ifl would give him another week in the house, which I did free. His wages ceased when, he left. Last Thursday, the 24th, he came in and said that he could not get a situation, nor had he found a lodging. I told him I must have the house as I wanted it. Friday evening he came in and said he had made all arrangements, and should be out of the house at midday on Monday. I said that would do. This was all that Eassed, and that was the last time I saw im. It was agreed before that he should leave on the Saturday. He was to have gone out on the 19th, but at his request I gave him another week. Nothing was said about it. He did not even thank me. A juryman said he did not think the conduct of the master was harsh. Witness — I never refused him a reference. He never asked me for one. Ido not use prussic acid. He had no use for it. The usual notice for a workman is a week. Duggan really had two months. First he gave me a month's notice, and then I gave him one. The coroner briefly summoned up the evidence. There was no doubt that the children were poisoned. The question was whether the husband killed the wife, whether she took poison, or whether he administered it to her with her consent. After a short deliberation the jury returned the following verdict : — " That while in an unsound state of mind Duggan and his wife murdered their six children, and then destroyed themselves."
SHOCKING TRAGEDY in LONDON., Hawkes Bay Herald, Volume 13, Issue 1084, 17 September 1869
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