|Monday, 15 February 1892|
THE LIVERPOOL HOTEL TRAGEDY
T H E I N Q U E S T
ADJOURNMENT TO MARCH 12
The inquest on the body of Henry Thompson, aged 28, a partner in the firm of Low, Thompson, and Co., provision merchants, Victoria-street, who shot himself in the Feathers Hotel, on Thursday evening, was opened at the Coroner's Court, Dale-street, on Saturday, by Mr. T. E. Sampson, city coroner. Mr. Mackay, solicitor, attended to watch the proceedings on behalf of the widow and relations and also on behalf of Mr. Low, the partner of the deceased. The jury assembled at eleven o'clock, and having been sworn, proceeded to the Northern Hospital to view the body. On their return the following evidence was given:-
Richard Charles Thompson, shipbuilder Fonnshouse, Durham, said the deceased was his brother, and was 28 years of age last November. He was a provision dealer, broker, and merchant in Liverpool. He resided at Waterloo, and was a married man with two children.Witness last saw him alive about three months ago. - The Coroner: Do you know anything at all about his habits? - Witness: - Not Lately. - Well, Previously? He has been from home for some years.
Mrs. Marion Hamer said she was the wife of Robert Hamer, formerly a hotel proprietor, who was at present in America. She was the manageress of the Feathers Hotel, Clayton Square. A young lady named Miss Emma Gelleburn, now in the Northern Hospital, had been a barmaid at the hotel for about four months. Witness knew Henry Thompson, the deceased, only as a customer. He first began to frequent the house when Miss Gelleburn came there. She did not know whether he had known the young lady before. She never noticed that he paid her any particular attentions. - The Coroner: - Did you notice that they were friendly together? Witness: Oh Yes. He usually came to the house every day. It was only within the last two months or so that she knew he was a married man. She had heard him speak of his wife. He came to the house on Thursday morning last but did not stay very long then. He was asked to stay to luncheon but declined. She saw him again about seven in the evening. He was then in No. 1 smoking room
adjoining the bar. - The Coroner: You were going to have tea, I think, at this time, and you asked him to have some tea? - Witness: Not with me. - But you suggested that he should have some tea? Yes. He sometimes had tea in the house, but on this occasion he said, "No: I am going out to Waterloo to dinner: in fact I should be there now.," - What was his state at that time? He was under the influence of liquor, I should say. - Excited? Not particularly, so far as I could see. - Did he go away, or did he come to have tea? He went into the bar, and I went into the dining room to tea. - Had he been in the habit of going out with Miss Gelleburn? I don't know. I never saw them go out together. - Had Miss Gelleburn been out on the Wednesday previous? Yes. She had been to the theatre with someone? Yes. Did deceased know that? Yes. - You went into the dining room? Yes. - And left him in the bar? Yes. - Whilst you were in the dining room, what did you hear? I heard a pistol shot fired, and I immediately turned around and saw Mr. Thompson with a pistol in his hand pointing to his head. I ran out to the dining room door and called for "boots" to go for an officer, which he did. - You say, when you turned around you saw Mr. Thompson with a pistol in his hand? Yes. Did he fire the pistol? Yes. - Then you heard the shot? I did. You sent at once for an officer. What did you do after? I went into the bar and waited till the officer came. What did you do in the bar when you got there? I saw Miss Gelleburn lying on the floor and Mr. Thompson lying across her body. Two shots were fired in quick succession. The ambulance came from the Northern Hospital, and Mr. Thompson was taken away in it. Miss Gelleburn was taken there afterwards. - You heard nothing said between Miss Gelleburn and Mr. Thompson? Nothing at all.
Mr. Mackay: - You say you last saw Mr. Thompson at seven on Thursday? Witness: Yes. - During the four months he has been visiting the hotel you have had an opportunity of knowing him pretty well, I suppose? Yes. - From your knowledge and his condition on that evening when you last saw him, do you consider that he was in an ordinary frame of mind? He appeared to be under the influence of drink. How long had elapsed when the shots were fired? About twenty minutes. - can you say if he had any drink between seven and 7:30? Not to my knowledge. The Coroner: How long was it between the two shots? Witness: Not a second, scarcely. - Do you know Miss Gelleburn's handwriting? No, I don't.
Patrick Joseph O'Rourke, "boots" at the Feathers Hotel said he was in the kitchen on Thursday night, when he heard two reports of firearms in the direction of the bar. He rushed upstairs and found Mrs. Hamer in a very unsettled state, screaming out "Joe", "Joe". In the bar he saw Miss Gelleburn lying on the floor, with Mr. Thompson lying across her body. He had not the presence of mind to notice if the deceased had anything in his hand. He rushed out and saw a constable, whom he told to go over, as there was a tragedy in the house. He then ran to the Prince of Wales Theatre, and asked them to telephone for the ambulance, after which he took a cab, and drove to Mount-pleasant for a doctor. - The Coroner: Did you know the deceased? The Witness: Yes. He was in the house almost every day. - Did you ever see him in the bar with Miss Gelleburn? Yes. - Were they on terms of intimacy, as far as you knew? Nothing noticeable, only friendly. Did you see him on Thursday? Yes, on three or four occasions. What was his state? He was a bit peculiar; he did not appear to be the same as he usually was. Was he the worse for drink? He had certainly had something to drink, but nothing above the average. - Irritable? Well, slightly. - Did you see him have any communication with Miss Gelleburn? On this occasion, I did not. - Did he speak to you? He asked me to go down to his office and get his ordinary evening hat and to take his silk hat there. He gave me a key to get it, and I went to the office and fetched it and gave it and the key to Miss Gelleburn. - What was his state then? He appeared to be fresh. I never witnessed him, except on one occasion, in drink. His language was perfect, but he was rather more familiar than before. - Your impression was that he was rather more peculiar than usual? Yes, he was rather excited.
Mr. Mackay: When you say he was peculiar, do you mean that he appeared to be labouring under depressed circumstances? Witness: I should say yes, as if he had some trouble.
The Coroner: Was Miss Gelleburn crying at this time, or any time during the day? - Witness: Yes, sir. - Was she excited apparently? She was, sir. On some occasions she used to call him Mr. Thompson, and on others Harry.
A Juror: On which side the bar did you find their bodies lying? Witness: They were inside the bar, with their heads toward the fireplace. I would like to know whether the witness would say that the deceased's peculiarity on this day arose from drink, or from any other cause? I cannot say. He was always jovial when he came in, but on this day he was certainly different from what he was usually.
Lucy Pritchard said she had been a waitress at the hotel for the last five years and she had known the deceased since he became a frequenter of the house four months ago. The first day she saw him
was the day Miss Gelleburn came to the hotel. - The Coroner: Were they friendly? Witness: Not more than any other customers. I never saw him pay her any particular attention. He often came in for a drink, sometimes for luncheon, and occasionally at night for tea. I have seen him once or twice rather under the influence of drink. About seven o'clock on Thursday he and Miss Gelleburn were standing by the end of the bar talking together. I went and told him tea was ready, and he said "All right; I'll be there in a minute". They were talking, but I did not hear what they said. - What was his state? He seemed intoxicated... well, not intoxicated, but excited, as though he had had some drink. Could you see he was excited from some other cause? I could not say. - Was he in the habit of taking her out to the theatre sometimes? I have never seen him taking her out. - I believe she had her day out on Wednesday? Yes. - Do you know whether they went to the theatre that night? - She went in the afternoon. - Accompanied by somebody? Yes, but not by Mr. Thompson. When I told him tea was ready, I went away, leaving him in the bar, standing at the corner of the ice chest. That is just at the end of the counter. I had hardly gone outside the door when I heard a report. I ran at once into the bar, but before I got into the bar a second shot was fired. when I got there I found the deceased and Miss Gelleburn lying as described.
Mr. Mackay: On the day in question, you say Mr. Thompson appeared to be excited? Witness: Yes. - By that you mean, I suppose, that you noticed something very different in his manner on this occasion? Yes. - Did he appear to be despondent or depressed? - Well, he was rather depressed. He seemed as if he had some drink.
Mrs. Hamer, recalled, was asked by the Coroner if Miss Gelleburn was away from the hotel anytime in December, and she replied in the negative. The Coroner said he asked the question because two or three post cards had been handed to him, but after the statements that had been made, they did not seem to be part of the question the jury had to decide.
Robert Jones, gunsmith, Monarch Gun Works, Manchester-street, said that on Thursday afternoon, between four o'clock and half past, a man came into his shop and asked for a revolver. He mentioned the calibre he required, and said he did not want an expensive one as he had revolvers in America. He said he only wanted it for the journey home. He had a conversation of between five and ten minutes with the man, and he left him under the impression that he was going to America and that he was in a hurry, as he drove off in the cab in which he arrived. He sold him a 15a, revolver and a box of cartridges. He identified the revolver produced. He did not know the man at all. - By a Juror: The man was quite sober at the time.
John Vick, police constable 239A, stated that he was called into the Feathers Hotel about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and found Mr. Thompson and the young lady lying on the floor, as already described. The man was dead when he saw him, and a doctor who shortly afterwards saw him pronounced him dead. The witness found the revolver produced on the floor between the young lady's head and the wall. The deceased man was bleeding from a wound on the right temple. Witness examined the revolver and found two chambers empty and four loaded.
The Coroner: So far we have exhausted this inquiry, and the principal question you will have to decide is as to the state of mind that this man was in.
Mr. Mackay: Will you excuse me for interrupting you? I have a doctor here who has been attending the deceased, and I think it might further this inquiry if I might ask him one or two questions.
The Coroner: Certainly. I suppose the doctor has seen him recently?
Mr. Mackay: Yes, within the last week.
Dr. W. F. Limrick was then called. He said - I am a physician and surgeon, practicing at Waterloo. I have known Mr. Thompson since he came to this country, about 18 months ago. I have attended him during that time, and his family as well. I last saw him a week or so ago professionally, although I did not give him any medicine. I saw him then at the request of his wife. I have attended him on several occasions since I have been in Waterloo. The Coroner: - Can you say what he was suffering from? On two occasions that I attended him he had epileptic fits. - Can you say from your knowledge as a medical man that epileptic subjects are given to sudden fits of depression? Yes, no doubt they are. - You have heard the evidence today? Yes. - Judging from that evidence and from your knowledge of Mr. Thompson's condition - I mean to say his being subject to epileptic fits - would you say that he was responsible for his own actions on the occasion in question? I hardly think he was.
A Juryman: - How long is it since he had those fits? - Witness: The last was about three months ago, and the previous one about eight or nine months ago.
The Coroner: But they do come on periodically? Witness: Undoubtedly; but he has never been properly sober to my knowledge for about eight months.
A Juryman: - Was he rational? - Witness: He was rational, but he came home late at nights, and always more or less under the influence of drink. He was exceedingly excitable, and I was called in occasionally on account of his excitability.
Alexander Low, the partner of the deceased, was next called by Mr Mackay. He said he left him
on Thursday afternoon, about half past two. - Mr. Mackay: Did he appear to be in his usual spirits? Witness: No, he seemed very depressed. He was moody and quiet. - Did you know anything at all about his relations with Miss Gelleburn? Yes. - May I take it you had remonstrated with him about it? Often.
The Coroner: You know that he had been familiar with her. on terms of intimacy? I don't mean by that anything else but very friendly with her? Witness: Yes.
Mr. Mackay: He appeared to have an infatuation for her? Witness: Yes. - And you say you had remonstrated with him about it? Yes, Again and again. - And he had promised you he would discontinue his intimacy? Yes. - Did you know of any cause other than his infatuation for this young lady that would induce him to commit this act? no, there is none that I know of. - There was no financial troubles? None.
This concluded the evidence.
The Coroner, in summing up, said - This, then, gentlemen narrows itself down to a very plain and simple question, and that is whether the man shot himself, and if so, under what circumstances, and what was the state of his mind at the time. We have the clear evidence of Mrs. Hamer that she saw him with a pistol in his hand, and that she saw him fire a shot, so that gets rid of that part of the question, if you are satisfied with the truth of the story, and I have no doubt it is the correct one. Having shot himself, what was the state of his mind? We have heard a good deal of his doings during the day, and we have, fortunately, the evidence of Dr. Limrick, a well know medical practitioner, who had attended him for some time past. We have heard that during that time the deceased unfortunately was more or less given to going home in a state of intoxication, and of his having epileptic fits. Drink, of course, will bring those on. We have also heard that on Wednesday, Miss Gelleburn went to a performance at the theatre with another gentleman, not deceased, and as to whether that was a matter which was preying upon his mind you must judge, having regard fro all the circumstance of the day, and also in what had previously taken place. There is the question whether he was in a fit state at the time to know what he was actually doing. If he was not in a fit state of mind, then you are bound to say he was under temporary mental aberration; but on that you must decide, it is not necessary there should be any specific delusion or any general unsoundness which would excuse a person from punishment if he were charged with any serious crime; but it must be some state of mind which caused him to lose his self control at the moment when the act was done. I don't know that I can lay it down more clearly than I have done, but I should
be glad to answer any questions on the matter. Having heard the whole evidence it is for you to judge. Some observations have been made with regard to some letters which were found, but you may dismiss them entirely from your mind. There is nothing in them bearing on this case. There are some postcards, but it would not be right to bring in the name of any person who has nothing to do with this matter and these cards are from some other persons who have nothing to do with the thing in any way. We are not inquiring as to who shot Miss Gelleburn. That is a matter that may come up at some future time, but today she is alive, and there is every prospect of her recovery. Today you are simply inquiring into the death of this man, and how he met his death.
A Juror: Is there to be no medical evidence as to the cause of death?
The Coroner: The cause of death is so very apparent that no medical evidence is required.
The jury then retired to consider their verdict. On their return into court, after an absence of about 20 minutes, the foreman desired to ask another question or two.
Mrs. Hamer, having been recalled, was asked by the foreman if, after she saw the deceased with the pistol to his head, also heard him speak? If so, what did he say?
Mrs. Hamer: No, he never spoke. He never uttered a sound. If he had spoken I should have heard him, for I was there immediately.
Lucy Pritchard, recalled, said the deceased did not speak after he shot himself. She got hold of him by the coat, and he just turned over and looked up, but he did not utter a sound.
A Juror: Has Miss Gelleburn made any statements since the tragedy occurred?
The Coroner: No.
Another Juror: I would like to know whether the conversation between the deceased and Miss Gelleburn was a friendly conversation, or otherwise.
Witness: It seemed a friendly conversation. I could not hear what they said, but by the way they were talking it appeared a friendly conversation.
The Juror: How long is that before the shooting?
Witness: About four minutes.
The jury then again retired and were absent about ten minutes, when they returned into court.
The Foreman said - The jury considers that we had better wait until Miss Gelleburn gets better in order to get her evidence; and it is suggested that we should adjourn the inquest.
The Coroner: It may be a very long time.
The Foreman: Well personally, I am against adjourning it. I don't think it is necessary, but the jury desires it.
The Coroner: Have any doubt as to the cause of death, because that is what you have to Consider?
The Foreman: I have not the slightest doubt myself, sir.
A Juror: The jury seems to think - there is a general consensus of opinion amongst them that there is a lack of evidence as to the state of mind in which Mr. Thompson was when he committed the act. We hear that four minutes before the shots were fired he was conversing, apparently in a friendly spirit, with the lady now at the Northern Hospital. What could have led the man suddenly to turn round, and commit such a deed? The opinion of the jury is that Miss Gelleburn being the only person present when he committed the act, she might be able to throw some light on the matter.
The Coroner said it was quite within the province of the jury to return an open verdict - namely, that the death was due to a self inflicted wound from a pistol shot, but what was his state of mind there was no evidence to show.
A Juror: We should like evidence coming nearer to the point that we have had this morning.
The Coroner: Then the question will be how long shall we adjourn? I suppose you are bearing in mind the evidence of Dr. Limrick.
Mr. Mackay: It would be a very great pity if this inquiry were protracted.
The Coroner: I am entirely in the hands of the jury.
Mr. Mackay: One gentleman of the jury may be in some doubt as to the state of the deceased's mind from the impression of one witness. They should remember that they have the direct testimony of the doctor as to what the condition of his mind was.
The Coroner: I have explained that to the jury.
The Juror: I am speaking the mind of the majority of the jury when I call your attention to the fact that he was totally rational when he bought the pistol, and, therefore, that it it could be no sudden impulse that caused him to fire the shots about which we are inquiring.
The Coroner: Quite so. But he was in drink at this time, and he had a strong infatuation for this girl; she had been out with somebody else, and a jealous feeling might have given him to a morbid feeling.
The Juror: He was having a friendly conversation with the girl four minutes before he shot her.
Mr. Mackay: The evidence of the gunsmith, is that he rushed into his place and bought the pistol in a hurry.
The Juror: He gave a good excuse for buying the revolver in a hurry, saying he was going to catch a boat for America. I don't understand it.
The Coroner: Yes. Of course I have no alternative to adjourn if you wish it.
A Juror: We wish the evidence of the only witness who can speak to it.
The Coroner said he did not wish to shut out any evidence, and if it answered any useful purpose he would adjourn the inquest, but the jury must be unanimous about it.
Another Juror: Are we to understand that it is of no importance to have the evidence of the young lady?
The Coroner: I don't say that. If you are not satisfied with the evidence before you, you can say that you have no evidence to show you what the state of his mind was.
The Foreman: The jury wish for an adjournment.
Inquiry having been made by telephone as to how likely it was likely to be before Miss Gelleburn would be able to appear, and the reply being that it would be at least three weeks, the inquest was adjourned to Saturday, March 12, at eleven o'clock.
The condition of Miss Gelleburn yesterday showed further signs of improvement. Some of her friends called at the Northern Hospital to make inquiry's, but only Mrs. Hamer was allowed to see the injured young woman, and she was not permitted to stay more than a minute or two.