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WAIRAU., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XVI, Issue 63, 4 November 1857
DEATH BY POISONING. On Monday the 19th ultimo, an Inquest was held before S. L. Muller, Esq., coroner, nt the house of Mr. W. H. Eyes, Wairau, on the body of Amelia Hammond. The jury, consisting of James Sinclair (foreman), Andrew Paterson, Thomas Harrington, John Atwood, James Wynen, William Simmonds, James Henry Greig, Adam Jackson, George Wratt, George Geddes, Adam Geddes, Richard Read, having been sworn — Richard Rothwell, bullock-driver, deposed as follows : — I knew the deceased. I saw her on Thursday last ; she was then in good health, and appeared in good spirits. I was leaving the house for a few days ; she bade me goodby, and said, "You w ill never see me again." I thought she was joking. We were engaged to be married. Her manner did not impress me that she was serious. 1 have been engaged to her about two months. I have observed that she has seemed changed for four or five weeks past ; her spirits were not so good as usual, and she appeared dull. I have heard her say that she wished she was dead ; that was a long while ago, not lately. She never assigned any reason for wishing herself dead. I was away from home when she died. lam employed by the same master as deceased, and live in a cottage upon the premises. I am not aware that she was engaged to any other person. I never had any quarrel with deceased. Eleanor Eyes, wife of Mr. W. H. Eyes, sheepfarmer, deposed : — The deceased was my servant. About twelve o'clock on Saturday night last I was awakened by a noise like a person screaming. I called "to Mr. Eyes to get up to fetch Dr. Muller in, who was stopping in our house. He went to fetch him. I knew it was the deceased screaming, and I called to her to know what was the matter. She said, "I am dying." I went to her room immediately. She was then convulsed, her face and hands twitching ; she was still screaming ; I thought it was an hysterical fit. I asked her what was the matter. She said, "Do not touch me, lam dying." She also said, "My dear father, my dear father; I have committed a great sin ; I wish I could pray." Dr. Muller came into the room at this time ; he directed me to sponge her face, and give her a little spirits and water ; she took one teaspoonful, but I could not get any more into her mouth, her teeth were fast set. I rubbed her feet and legs ; they were quite stiff, but warm. Her feet and legs were quite rigid, and I could not move them. She did not live more than eight minutes after I begun to rub her legs. Dr. Muller told her to compose herself, and he would try to relieve her. She said, " You can do me no good, sir, I have poisoned myself," or "I have taken poison," I am not sure which. I had never seen any difference in her manner ; she did her work as usual ; she had never complained to me of being dissatisfied with her place. She brought some water into my room between ten and eleven o'clock on the night of her decease ; she asked me if I wanted anything else, and then wished me good night. I observed nothing unusual in her manner, she was quite calm and collected. She ate her supper of bread and butter and milk between ten and eleven o'clock. I can assign no reason for her taking poison. I saw some milk in a cup on the dresser, which she afterwards drank. She was then cutting herself some bread and butter, which I presume she ate, as I did not see it afterwards. I did not see her drink the milk. She never mentioned to me her engagement with Rothwell. Her limbs were quite rigid when I went into the room ; . they were not drawn up, but perfectly straight. Her features were much contorted; she was sensible to the last ; she held aside Mr. Eyes' s hand when he held a smelling bottle to her nose. Her face was of a reddish blue, her lips dark blue, her toes were curved and very stiff. I did not observe \ any curvature backward of the spine. There was a bottle containing strychnine standing on the mantel-piece in my sitting-room. She had access to that room. When I heard her say she had taken poison I went to the bottle. Mr. Empson had left it on Tuesday last. I \ saw him tie it down carefully. It appeared to have been untied and tied up in a different
manner — in a careless manner. Mr. Eyes is I in the habit of using strychnine for : poisoning wild dogs upon the rnn. Deceased asked me about a fortnight ago how much it would take to poison a dog. I said I believed a very little, as it was very strong. There was nothing in her manner to lead me to think she had any idea of taking poison. The bottle was labelled in large letters " Strychnine. Poison." Deceased could read writing. She knew the bottle was on the mantel -piece ; it is generally put out of the way ; the reason of its being on the mantel-piece was that Mr. Eyes had been using it lately for destroying wild dogs. I never observed any religious melancholy about deceased ; she was quite cheerful on the day of her death ; her room was neater than usual on the night of her death ; the door of her sleeping-room was unbolted, an unusual thing, as she always bolted it before going to bed. She was engaged as servant by the week. She had a box in her room. I believe she had letters in it. I have not seen them. I never had any reason to think her other than perfectly sane. The bottle containing the strychuine was cracked when I fetched it the night she died ; I did not observe it was cracked when Mr. Empson left it ; I think I should have observed it if it had been. William Henry Eyes, sheap-tarmer, deposed : I knew deceased, she was in my service ; that is her body the jury have seen. On the night of Saturday last, about 12 o'clock, I was awakened by a noise like that made by a person suffering from nightmare ; it seemed between a scream and a moan, like a person in great distress. I awoke my wife (the last witness), and asked her who it was making that noise. She said it must be Amelia, and requested me to knock at the wall, her room adjoining mine. I called to her and asked her what was the matter. After repeating the question, she answered that she was dying. I requested my ! wife to get up and go to her room and see what was the matter with her, which she did, first lighting a candle. She returned immediately, | requesting me to come and see her, as she ; appeared very ill. I said I had better call Dr. ! Muller to see her instead of going myself. I . went to Dr. Muller. I observed by Dr. j Muller's watch, lying on the dressing-table, ! that it was ten minutes past twelve o'clock. j I then went into the deceased's room with Dr. j Muller. Dr. Muller took hold of deceased's I wrist to feel the pulse ; she said " Don't touch I me, sir, don't touch me, you can do me no I good." Dr. Muller told her to compose heri self, and she would be better directly. She then said " You cannot save me, I have taken poison." I asked Dr. Muller if it was likely she had taken poison ; he said she appeared to be in an hysterical fit, and he could put no credence in what she said, as persons in that j state said many things which were not true. The only thing done was applying cold water to her head, holding some smelling-salts to her ] nose, and trying to give her some spirits and water. She died within ten minutes of our entering the room. Her body was perfectly rigid ; the hands were across the chest ; her whole body appeared convulsed; on Dr. J Muller's attempting to raise her head, her ] whole body was raised at the same time, ' appearing to be quite stiff; the body appeared I to move in one mass, there was no flexibility !of limb. I noticed that her face was contorted, J but I did not observe any change in the j colour ; I was not near the bed. She ap- | peared in pain, and uttered a sort of scream | now and then ; she never ceased moaning. I She appeared very sensible to touch ; when touched, it seemed to convulse her more. She seemed conscious to the last, and shortly before her death asked to see Mrs. Eyes to bid her good-bye. Just previous to her death the convulsions ceased ; I should think about a minute before her death. She then gave two gasps and expired. I think not more than a quarter of an hour could have elapsed from the time I awoke until she died. I had observed nothing strange in her manner previous to Saturday night. Her saying that she had taken poison, and the symptoms, led me to ' imagine that she might have taken strychnine, and I sent for a bottle in which I kept it. It appeared to me that it was carelessly tied up, and not in such a manner as Mr. Empson (who had last used the bottle) would have left it. I looked about the room to find any paper or cup which might hare contained poison. I saw a tea-cup, but it was perfectly dry and clean. Miss Blackhall showed me the cup deceased drank out of last, in which were the remains of a little milk. There is a sediment in the cup : it appears to me like strychnine. I produce the cup. I examined her box and room the next morning in the presence of Dr. Muller, Dr. Stewart, and Mr. Empson, but could find no wjiting throwing any light upon the subject. Tbere was a letter unfinished, dated the "18th" of October; evidently a mistake in the date, as she died on the 17th. I produce the letter (letter read). She never quarrelled with any member of my family that lam aware of. I could not tell if any quantity had been taken out of the strychnine bottle. I keep arsenic on the station, but it is at some distance from the house. She could obtainaccess to the strychnine. Charles Empson, sheep-farmer, deposed : I had a bottle in my possession containing strychnine. On Tuesday last I brought it to Mr. Eyes's house. The stopper was covered with leather, and I tied it down securely with, I think, bobbin. I think I asked Mrs. Eyes for it, but am not sure. I did not pick it up off the floor, saying, this will do. lam certain I tied it securely, several times round. I saw the bottle again on Sunday morning last ; it was not in the same state as when I left it. There was a piece of tape with one turn only, and no tie. I cannot swear as to the material, but I can to its not being tied as I left it. The bottle was cracked when I last saw it. I cannot swear it was not cracked when I left it, but I think if it had been I should have noticed it. Arsenic is kept on the station, at the dip-ping-shed ; any person can have access to it. Marion Brown Blackhall, governess, residing at Mr. Eyes's, deposed : I knew the deceased, she was in the service of Mr. Eyes. Ou Saturday night last, abo^; half-past eleven o'clock, Mrs. Eyes came to my room and told me Amelia was dying. I did not hear any noise, lam rather hard of hearing. I was in bed. I got up immediately and went to Amelia's room. She made no movement after I went into the room : her colour appeared to
change from pale to a bluish tint. She uever spoke after I went into the room. I observed that she had put away all her clothes, folded them up, an unusual thing with her. I saw her frequently during the clay preceding the night upon when the died ; she appeared well and happy. She remarked to me, " See how well and happy I am, though Dick is not here." By Dick she meant Richard, Rothwell, to whom she was engaged to be married. She never said anything to me, nor did her behaviour lead me to suppose that she contemplated suicide. She had had no quarrel with any member of the family, nor with Rothwell ; I am certain if she had she would have told me. ; I was in her confidence, and she often asked my advice. I last saw her about ten o'clock on Saturday night ; she said, " I suppose you think I shall marry Dick Rothwell." I said, "I see no reason for your not doing so." She replied, "I'll never marry Dick; you will see; I will give him to you." She repeated this twice : I said I don't want him. I did not think she was serious. We both took some supper about ten o'clock, consisting of bread and butter and milk. She drank one cup of milk, and I think she had another after ; I saw her drink something after the first cup. She placed the cup after drinking on the top of a cupboard in the kitchen. 1 told Mrs. Eyes that was the cup out of which she drank last. I observed a, whitish sediment at the bottom of the cup. I think she wished to break her engagement with Rothwell ; she had told me several times that she would not marry him. She said Mr. Henry Williams had wished to keep company with her, and she did not see why she should not marry a gentleman. I said I saw no reason against it, but recora mended her not to think about it, as sb* would be happier in marrying one in her ow. station. Mr. Williams gave her a book, and I wished her to give it back, but she refused. The book given to her by Mr. Williams wai Lord Byron's Don Juan. I think it was about a week previous to her death that she saw Mr. Williams. Ido not know what conversation took place between them. I think she wished to break her engagement with Rothwell, but thought she had pledged herself too far to retract. I wished her to return the book, telling her that it was not fit for a female to read. She did not read the book ; Rothwell took it from her, saying it was not fit for her to read. lam certain no improper intimacies took place between her and Rothwell. Alexander Stewart, surgeon, deposed: On Sunday morning, about six or seven o'clock, 1 received a note from Dr. Muller, informing me that a servant of Mr. Eyes's had expired suddenly under suspicious circumstances, and requesting my immediate attendance. I got to the house about nine o'clock, and saw Dr. Muller, Mr. Eyes, and Mr. Empson. They told me the girl was dead, and described the symptoms previous to her 'death. I saw the body : the lips were blue ; the pupils dilated ; the limbs and body extremely rigid, so much so that I was unable to bend the limbs ; the jaw was locked, the fingers were clinched and livid, and had the appearance of a person dying of convulsions ; froth issued from the nose and mouth, of a bloody character. From the appearance of the body, I imagined that she had been poisoned ; and from what I heard of the symptoms, and that a bottle of strychnine had been opened, I considered the poison to have been strychnine. I never saw a case of poisoning by strychnine. From the details of the symptoms given by Mr. & Mr 3. Eyes, I am of opinion that death took plact from strychnine. I know not any other diseasi of like symptoms that would cause death. Hysteria would show some of the symptoms, but would not cause death in so short a time. I should be more ready to suspect hysteria in the first instance, in a female of her age, than poisoning by strychnine. I am of opinion that had I been present as early as any of the witnesses I could not have saved her. I have heard of death taking place within two minutes after taking strychnine. Itim shown a cup containing a deposit, from which cup the deceased is said to have drank previous to her death. I do not think the deposit is strychnine ; I think it may be sugar of milk. I could not detect strychnine in the body on a post mortem examination, not being an analytical chemist. The symptoms of poisoning by arsenic are not at all similar to those detailed. The Coroner here stated to the jury, that being a guest in the house of Mr. Eyes on the night in question, and being himself a medical man, he was asked to see the deceased. The symptoms were correctly described by Mr. and Mrs. Eyes, but, in addition, there was a slight curvature of the spine, the body resting upon the heels and back of the head. In the first instance he imagined it to be an attack of hysteria, but the rapidity of the symptoms soon showed the difference. The jury having heard the evidence, agreed to the following Verdict :— "That the deceased Amelia Hammond poisoned herself while in a fit of temporary insanity ;" and the verdict was accompanied by an expression of the jury's opinion "that Mr. Eyes's having, as is too common in this district, carelessly left poison within the reach of his domestics and others for days, is most reprehensible ; and that it is the incumbent duty of masters and others possessing poison for lawful purposes, to take every possible precaution against the possibility of their being otherwise employed or obtained." We have been informed that since the Inquest, a portion of strychnine, tied up in a piece of calico, has been found concealed in the top of deceased's bedstead. ____^^_ — _ — .
WAIRAU., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XVI, Issue 63, 4 November 1857
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