Inquest into the death of Private John Lyons, September 1885

 James Alefounder, Suffolk notes

 Suffolk pedigree

Private John Lyons of the East Surrey Militia Regiment was found lying in the street, having fallen from the first floor window of a house of ill repute in Portsea, Hampshire on Saturday 12 Sep 1885. He died in hospital the following morning. James Alefounder, a private in the Sussex Regiment, was apprehended running from the scene. Blood was found on his belt.

The inquest began on Wednesday 16th September with further sessions on the 17th, 22nd and 25th of that month, each session being reported at length in the local press. Reports in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (19th and 26th September) and the Portsmouth Evening News (14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 22nd, 25th and 26th September) overlap to a large extent, each having parts not present in the other. The following transcripts switch back and forth as required.

Portsmouth Evening News 14 Sep 1885 p2 col 4


A [obliterated] under suspicious circumstances has occurred at Portsea, the deceased being Private Lyons, of the East Surrey Regiment. It seems that shortly before eleven o'clock on Saturday night the deceased was seen, apparently in a drunken condition, to enter Southampton-row, where he got into conversation with a woman named Elizabeth Davey, in whose company he went into the house. According to the woman's statement, the man went upstairs, but on the landing a disagreement arose between them, and while she left to obtain a light he burst open the door of a room, forced the window, and fell out into the street. He was seen to fall by another woman named Wright, and when assistance reached him he was found to have sustained such injuries as to render his removal to the Military Hospital necessary. He was taken there by a military picquet, accompanied by P.S. Porter, but on Sunday morning he expired. The police are making further inquiries into the matter.

Portsmouth Evening News 16 Sep 1885 p2 cols 3-4


This afternoon the Portsmouth Coroner (T. A. Bramsdon, Esq.) opened an inquiry at the Military Station Hospital, Lion-terrace, Portsea, into the death of John Lyon, aged 19 years, private in the 3rd Battalion East Surrey Regiment, who was alleged to have fallen from the first floor window of No. 12, Southampton-row, Portsea, on Saturday night last, and sustained such injuries that death subsequently resulted therefrom. The Jury were shown into an apartment quite different unusual to the one in which similar inquiries have hitherto been held. It was devoid of furniture, and was evidently used for ablutionary purposes, as there were the necessary appurtenances in the places for such, and also a boiler which was alight, and sent forth most unpleasant clouds of smoke. Having seen what apartment was provided, the Coroner, addressing the Jury, said before he proceeded with the inquiry he must say that he thought it an insult to him and the Jury that they should be asked to sit in a place of that kind to conduct a most important investigation. He knew for a fact that there were better rooms in the Hospital, as he had had them himself to hold inquiries in, and he knew that so also had the previous Coroner. What he proposed was to go as far as he could in identifying the body, view the premises where the man was found, and then go to the Grand Jury Chamber at Portsmouth, and complete the inquest. He thought it was most disgraceful that they should be placed in such an apartment, and he should consider it his duty to call the attention of the Secretary of State for War to the circumstances.—The Jury concurred with the Coroner in his remarks.—The Garrison Sergeant-Major informed the Coroner that he had nothing to do with the selection of the room, but he had spoken about the matter and there was the library at the disposal of the Coroner and Jury.—The Coroner said he would look at the room, and proceeded to do so. The Surgeon of the regiment then entered, and the Coroner informed him that he thought it was a great insult of the authorities to place them in such a room.—The Doctor said that the smoke was certainly very bad.—The Coroner: But the place generally is bad.—Addressing the Jury the Coroner said that having seen the library, which was placed at their disposal, he thought it would suit them very well. The Jury then proceeded to view the body, after which they went to Southampton-row and saw the window out of which the deceased was alleged to have fallen. The house is No. 13, and one of those disreputable-looking places which characterise this and similar low haunts. The four centre panes and one side one of the lower sash of the first floor front window were broken, and on the right side two panes remained intact, and on the left side the lower corner one was unbroken. Some pieces of glass were adhering to the window frames on the right side. Outside the window there is a ledge of over a foot width formed by a bow window on the ground floor. During the inspection by the Jury a good man people collected, and there were some very strong opinions expressed as to the possibility of a man being able to fall out through the aperture formed by the broken windows.

On returning to the Hospital, the Coroner said the circumstances connected with the death of the deceased, as reported to him, were that on Saturday evening, about ten o'clock, the deceased went down Southampton-row from the direction of Kent-street, and, when he got to No. 12, he saw a girl named Elizabeth Davey, a prostitute, sitting on the doorsteps. They had some conversation together, and, whilst talking, another girl named Smith passed into the house. There was some dispute between the deceased and Davey about some money, the deceased only having 11½d., and whilst they were "haggling" the girl Smith, who occupied the downstairs room, came out and told them not to quarrel about a halfpenny, which was in dispute, and she gave Davey that sum. The deceased and Davey then went up to the first landing, the girl Smith showing a light from downstairs. When they arrived at the first landing there was some more disputing, and Davey went up into her room at the top of the house leaving the deceased on the landing. Deceased, who was supposed to be drunk at the time, was next heard of as forcing the door of the front room on the first floor, which was occupied by a girl named Wilson, and either fell or was pushed through the window. At all events he fell on to the pavement below. But the extraordinary part of the case was the reason which the deceased could have had for going into the front room; whether he was pushed in, or anyone went in with him was what they were there to investigate. The deceased was found on the pavement in front of the house with a serious woung on his head, from which he subsequently died. In justice to Davey, it should be mentioned that directly she heard that deceased had fallen—he would say fallen for the purpose of their information—she went downstairs and attended to him. Afterwards the picquet came along and took the deceased away. He ought to tell them that their was a man named Hailfounder, who, it appeared, about an hour after the occurrence, came out of the house, and then the picquet made some observation, in consequence of which he ran away down Southampton-row. He was chased by some of the military men and asked if he had come out of the house, and he admitted that he had. As to what he was doing there or how long he had been at the house, he (the Coroner) had, up to the present, been unable to obtain any evidence. The last thing that seemed to have been known of Hailfounder was that he was with a girl in the adjoining house, and left to go into kitchen—and, he believed, left the kitchen also of the same house at 3.30 that afternoon. What became of him after 3.30 until the time when he was seen to come out of No. 12 he had not any information. At all events Hailfounder was present, and he should give him an opportunity in due course of making his statement. He asked the Jury to give the case their particular attention, in order that they might unravel, what appeared at the present time, to be a mystery.

The first witness called was Colour-Sergeant Alfred Randall, of the East Surrey Regiment, stationed at Cambridge Barracks, who identified the body of the deceased as that of Private John Lyons, who was 19 years and eight months old. The deceased's military character was "fair," and his height was 5ft 3⅛in.

Elizabeth Davey (who was formally cautioned) was next called, and stated that she was a single woman living at 12, Southampton-row, Portsea, and while sitting on her doorstep between 8 and 9 p.m. on Saturday last the deceased (who at the time was neither drunk nor sober) accosted her and made an improper proposal to her. There was a dispute about money, and the deceased having sat down on the step of No. 13, a girl named Lizzie Smith came up and gave him a halfpenny, which was required to make up a shilling. Witness then went into the passage and up the first flight of stairs in the dark, with the exception of the light which showed from Smith's room. When they reached the landing she desired the deceased to wait there while she obtained a light, and she left him in the dark. While, however, she was feeling upon her table for a match she heard a smash of glass, and she ran down both pairs of stairs and out into the row, where she found the deceased lying upon the stones on his back. The door on the first landing, which was closed and tied with string when she went up, was open when she came down. She was the first to get to the deceased, and on getting to him she noticed blood on the pavement. The deceased never spoke at all. A picquet was sent for and arrived in ten minutes, and witness sat down upon the step. Two policemen came soon afterwards, but no one touched the deceased until the picquet did. At the request of P.S. Porter she gave him a basin and some water to wash the man's face with, and while she went to get a glass of water the man was carried away. Witness remained in the kitchen of No. 11, for a quarter or half-an-hour.—The Coroner: Didn't you know that the deceased was seriously injured? Witness: No.—The Coroner: But you had heard the smash and saw the broken windows? Witness: The first I saw of the broken windows was when Mrs. Bright returned with the picquet.—The Coroner: Didn't you think it was your duty to help the man? Witness: I don't know. I didn't touch the man, and it wasn't my duty to do so.—The Coroner: Why didn't you touch him? Witness: I might have been charged with killing the man, if he was kiiled.—The Coroner: But if you saw a man dying would you not help him? Witness said she would do her best for anybody, but she didn't want to touch the man. She did not go upstairs until the following morning to see what damage was done, as she slept that night in a house opposite until the police fetched her at a quarter after four in the morning. It was Wilson's room where the windows and sashes of the lower part had been broken, and she saw them on Sunday morning as she was returning downstairs with a piece of soap. On Tuesday she saw that two windows on the landing had also been broken. There were three rooms, one over the other, in the house, and a back kitchen and cellar; but she was sure that Wilson was not in her room when the deceased went upstairs, and she had no knowledge of anyone being in the house except herself, the deceased, and Smith. Witness was quite sober that evening, as all the drink she had had was her share of two pints of beer between two of them.—The Coroner: Did you have any quarrel with the man on the landing?—Witness: We had not had an angry word.—The Coroner: Then you did not push him?—Witness said she did not, and she did not hear the deceased burst the door or break the windows on the landing. Witness was not at all certain about the time when the deceased entered the row. It might have been between seven and eight, and she might have told the police that it was ten o'clock.—By a juror: When she saw the deceased lying upon the pavement her idea was that he had fallen out of a window, as she had heard a rush when she was in her own room upstairs.—A poker at this period of the case was produced, but the witness said she had never seen it before. There was a poker kept in Wilson's room. Witness wore the same apron on Saturday as she then had on; she had given that apron on Sunday morning to a woman to be washed, and it was returned to her the same morning, as it was the only one she had. She was certain there was no blood on the apron when she gave it to be washed. She did not know a soldier named Aylsfounder, belonging to the Sussex Regiment, and had not seen him on Saturday at her house.

Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle Sat 1885 Sep 19, from p6 cols 1-2

Elizabeth Smith, a single woman, also living at 12, Southampton-row, said that it was about ten o'clock when she returned home on Saturday night and found the deceased, with Davey, at the door of the house. Witness had not locked or tied up the door of her room before she went out. Deceased and Davey were talking for a quarter of an hour about money, and Davey would not take it because deceased had only 11½d. Witness gave a halfpenny to make up the shilling to save words, and then lighted the two as far as the first landing, where she heard a scuffle, as of the scuffling of feet. After that she heard a smash of glass on the landing, and then she heard the deceased say, "If you hadn't took it I would have let you [see] what the Surrey or the — London Militia would do." That was said in a rough way, but she did not hear any high words ensue. She heard one set of footsteps go up the upper stairs, and a sound as if another made an attempt to get up. Directly after that she heard the door of Wilson's room broken open, four steps taken over her head, a crash of glass, and a heavy thud on the stones outside.—The Coroner: Where was Davey at that time? Witness: In her own room, as I heard her come from the top of the house.—The Coroner: What did you do? Witness said she went and looked out of the door, and saw the deceased lying there with his head towards the house and his feet towards the gutter. She (witness) was standing at the door when Davey came out, and she said, "What's the—fool done now?—I should think he was daft." Mrs. Bright, the landlady, who came up at the time, said, "Why he whirled out of the window right round upon his head." If anyone had gone upstairs after Davey and the deceased she must have heard them, but she was certain no person did follow them. She saw a soldier in the next house in the afternoon, but he was never in Davey's house. She believed the poker produced belonged to Wilson's room. The deceased had been drinking.

The inquiry was then adjourned until the following day.

The adjourned inquiry was resumed on Thursday at the Military Hospital.

The Coroner, in opening the proceedings, said he had thought that the unpleasant incident of the previous day with respect to the room in which to assemble his Court had passed over, but it appeared that it was not so, as that morning he had received a letter which he would read to them, and which was as follows:—

Station Hospital, Portsmouth,

17th September, 1885

From M.D. in Charge to Coroner, Portsmouth,—

Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that there is no room in this Hospital available for the purposes of a public court, and request you may be good enough to reassemble the inquest as to the death of Private John Lyons elsewhere.

I have the honour to be, Sir

Your obedient servant,

W. J. Wilson.

S.M.O. in Charge, Station Hospital.

To that letter he at once forwarded the following reply:—

21, Union-street, Portsea,

17th September, 1885.

Re Lyons, deceased.

Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this morning, which arrived here at 12.20 p.m., and in reply to inform you that I cannot possibly reassemble the inquest elsewhere than at the library of the Station Hospital this afternoon, as the Jury and the whole of the witnesses are bound over to appear at that place. I may mention that before binding such persons over, I inquired of the medical officer attending the inquiry, whether the library would be placed at the disposal of my Court this afternoon, and to which he replied in the affirmative, stating at the same time that he should then be on duty.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant.

Thos. A. Bramsdon, Coroner.

The Medical Officer in Charge, Station

Hospital, Portsmouth.

He (the Coroner) might say at once that he could hardly agree with the medical officer in charge, when he said that there was no available room for the Coroner's Court in that hospital, because they had previously had a very good room there for the purpose, and he was sure that they would not wish for a better room than that in which they were then assembled. He had also understood that the military authorities were bound to assist the civil power, in which courtesy was an important element, but in this case, at all events, courtesy had not been shown. Another thing was that they would recollect that a non-commissioned officer (he thought it was the sergeant-major) had informed him that the medical officer was not the ruling power in that hospital. If that was so it seemed strange to him that he should receive a letter from the Medical Officer. Now he was sure the Jury would agree with him that none of them wished to remain there if they were not allowed, and as he supposed someone was in authority he would request them to come there that he might question them as to their staying.

Surgeon-Major Bonney rose and said that he was in charge of the Hospital that day.

The Coroner: May we remain here to carry on the duties of this Court?

Surgeon-Major Bonney: Certainly.

The Coroner: Very good; then we will proceed.

Garrison-Sergeant-Major Dillon said that he believed he was the non-commissioned officer to whom the Coroner had referred.

The Coroner: I shall be very glad to hear any explanation you have to make.

Garrison-Sergeant-Major Dillon said that what he wished the Coroner to infer was that the senior medical officer was not on duty, but he did not mean that the medical officers were not the responsible officers in charge of the hospital.

The Coroner said he was glad to have heard the explanation.

The evidence of the witnesses was then proceeded with.

Rose Bright, the wife of William Bright, a brothel keeper living at 11, Southampton-row, said her husband also rented 12, Southampton-row. At ten o'clock on Saturday night, while in her kitchen, she heard a crash, and on going into the row she saw the deceased fall from the window, and he appeared to whirl round as he fell. She saw blood coming from him, and witness then detailed as to the sending for the picquet and the police. There was a soldier in her (witness's) house that same day with a woman named Green, but she did not see him after four o'clock. She did not know who the soldier was, but he was fair and had a mark on his face. From the time the deceased fell until the picquet took him away on a stretcher it was not more than 10 minutes. There was nobody in No. 12 beyond Davey, Smith, and deceased, so far as she knew, on Saturday night, at the time of the occurrence. Nobody was near the deceased, so far as she could see, when he fell. She saw from the row that the upper windows were broken, but it was not until 12 o'clock on Sunday that on going upstairs she found the windows on the landing broken. The poker produced was that which belonged to Wilson's room. She did not know whether or not Wilson had brought home a soldier that afternoon. She was not aware whether there were blood marks on the floor of Wilson's room previous to that day.

Margaret Wilson, a single woman, who up to the time of the occurrence had lived at 12, Southampton-row, said that she left there at six o'clock that evening, locking the room with a padlock and chain. The chain was fixed to staples, one on the door, and the other on the jamb, but they were not in very strongly, and it would not require much force to break the door open. The windows and sashes were in perfect order when she left, and there were no blood marks on the floor or on the bedding. The poker produced did not belong to her room, and was not there when she left at six o'clock.—The Coroner: Then would you go so far as to say that if this poker were found in your room it must have been put there by somebody? Witness: Yes, that must have been so.—The Coroner: Before you went away had you cleaned your room up? Witness: Yes, I had. Witness continued by saying that when she returned at half-past ten that night she found her room door burst open and the windows broken.—The Coroner: Did you notice anything else in particular? Witness: I found the poker (produced) lying upon the floor near the table.—The Coroner: Did you put it anywhere else? Witness: No, I did not touch it.—The Coroner: Can you account, then, for its being being found in another place? Witness said she could not.—The Coroner: Did you see any blood marks on the floor? Witness said she did not.—The Coroner: If blood marks were found there, can you account for them? Witness said she could not. She found the windows broken, but did not ask the reason; she admitted that she had had a "drop."—The Coroner: You had been drinking heavily? Witness: Yes.—The Coroner: Were you not very drunk, and did you not tell Inspector Bidgood so? Witness: Yes.—The Coroner: Well, what were you told the next day? Witness said that Mrs. Bright had told her that a soldier had fallen out of the window. She was certain that she had fastened her door with a chain and not with string before she went out. If the room door was tied up it must have been first broken into. Her window did not require propping up, and she was certain that it was not propped up with the poker produced.—The Coroner: Now might not this poker have been somewhere in your room and you not have known it? Witness: I am certain it was not. The poker had not been there at all.—Witness contradicted a former statement in her evidence, and now said that no one had ever previously entered her room in her absence by breaking the door open. She had not on Saturday afternoon at any time gone home with a soldier of the Sussex Regiment.—By a juror: She had never had a fire in her room, but Davey had each day. She knew that, as she was in the habit of having her food with Davey. The last time she went into Davey's room was on Thursday, the 10th inst.; she did not have a fire on that day. She did not know that the poker belonged to Davey's room.

Sergeant James Hall, of the East Surrey Regiment, stated that he was in charge of a garrison picquet, composed of men of his regiment, on Saturday night, and commenced patrolling Queen-street at a quarter before ten. At 10.40 he was applied to, first by two women, of whom he took no notice, and then by a man, to go to Southampton-row, and on reaching that place they found Lyons lying across the pavement in an unconscious state, and bleeding from a star wound at the back of the head. A woman was there with a jug, and on his asking her for a match she replied, "Find your own ——— matches." Witness sent for the civil police, and gave the woman into their custody, after which he sent to the Portsea Police-station for a stretcher, and had the deceased removed to the station hospital. The deceased was unconscious the whole time. On inquiry he was told that the man had fallen out of the window. He saw that the upper window was either open or broken, but it was very dark and raining hard all the time. The deceased was promptly attended to at the hospital by the medical officer. On returning to Southampton-row one of the picquet drew witness's attention to a soldier who was running hard away, and on their taking him they found he belonged to the Sussex Regt. Witness did not know the man's name, but he had seen him outside the court. Finding that he had no pass witness ordered his belt to be taken off, and upon it there were marks of blood. [The belt was produced and identified by witness. It still bore plain marks of blood, and was examined minutely by the Jury.] Witness said that the man accounted for the blood by stating that he had in the morning been on fatigue duty moving boxes, and had scratched his hand.—The Coroner: Can you tell us the general appearances of the man?—Witness: He appeared to have been drinking, and to have just awoke from a sleep. Witness did not notice that there was dirt or ashes on the man's tunic; he saw no glass on the pavement when the deceased was lying there.—By the Jury: The blood on the belt was damp; it would take about an hour to dry. It was about a quarter before twelve when the man was taken. If woodwork and glass had been about he must have seen it. There was no person at the window. The belt was dry except where the blood was. The man appeared drowsy, and not excited, and he apprehended the man because he was absent without leave, and not thinking he was in any way connected with the deceased.

Michael Sheen, a private of the East Surrey Regiment, who formed one of the picquet, corroborated the last witness. Davey was sitting at the doorway, and witness said to her, "Who chucked the man out of window?" to which she replied, "No one has chucked him out, he has jumped out." She then related the circumstances to him, and when Sergeant Hall gave her into the custody of the police she said, "For — sake give me a chance, young man, as I have only just come out of prison." Witness affirmed that the soldier whom they afterwards captured had come from either the next house to that where Lyons had been, or the next to that. He told witness he had been asleep all the afternoon in the house outside which deceased was lying. The picquet took him to the Portsea Police-station, where some marks of blood were noticed upon his belt, which had previously been taken from him. The previous witness went into the Inspector's room, and closed the door, and the prisoner then said, "What are you going to charge me with? Murder, or what?" Witness replied, "I can't charge you with murder, because I never saw you do anything. I only saw you come out of the house where the man was lying." The prisoner looked excited, but witness could not say whether he was drunk or sober. There was a small cut on the right side of his cheek. It would not be an uncommon thing for a soldier who was not on pass to run at the approach of a picquet. Witness had said nothing to the soldier that would lead him to put a question as to whether he was to be charged with murder. The man said he was on pass, but he did not produce his pass before the picquet.

Police-sergeant Porter stated that at 10.50 p.m. on Saturday last he was applied to and went with Constable Boyett to Southampton-row, where they found the deceased lying on his back in front of No. 12, with his head about eight inches from the door-step. He was insensible, and there was blood on his face, together with what appeared to be vomit, a quantity of which was also on the doorstep and the pavement. Under deceased's head there was a small pool of blood, and on the back of his head there was a wound. After deceased was taken away on a stretcher, witness looked for the woman Davey, who had been sitting on the door-step when he arrived, but whom he was unable to find. He went into No. 12, and noticed that the window on the first floor was broken, and that there were marks of blood in the room near the window. The poker produced was lying on a chair partly covered with a jacket. The room did not appear to be disturbed in any way. Witness then went into Davey's room, noticing on his way that the windows of the landing were broken. There was nothing to attract attention in Davey's room. Witness could find nobody in the house. On the following day he returned thither, and noticed spots of blood outside the door of the first-floor room, and also just inside the door. He found a spot of blood, too, on one corner of the broken glass of the window on the landing Attached to the lead beneath the window at one corner were what appeared to be a few shreds of wool, which corresponded in colour to the deceased's tunic. The tunic was not torn. Witness measured the distance from the window to the ground, and found it to be 12ft. 4½in. The width at the portion of the window that was broken was 3ft. 8in. at the upper part and 1ft. 8in. at the lower part. If deceased had cut his left hand on the first floor landing and had then gone into Wilson's room towards the window, blood from the wound falling on the way, that would account for the blood marks which witness had spoken of. When witness first got to Southampton-row he heard nothing as to a soldier having been in the house.

At this stage of the proceedings the Coroner said it was impossible to conclude the inquiry that evening, and it would therefore be adjourned until Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.


The body of the deceased soldier was interred on Thursday at Eastney, and the funeral was attended by the full band of the East Surrey Regiment, and a large number of men of the corps. A cab containing the friends of the deceased (who belonged to London) followed the corpse.

Portsmouth Evening News Tuesday 22 Sep 1885 p3 col 3


This afternoon the inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Private John Lyons, of the East Surrey Militia Regiment, in Southampton-row, Portsea, on the night of the 12th inst., was resumed by the Coroner (T. A. Bramsdon, Esq.), at the Library at the Station Hospital, Portsea. The Coroner said that on the last occasion on which they met they would remember he read a letter from Surgeon-Major Wilson with respect to that room not being available for the Jury, and on his return to his office he found that another letter had been forwarded, but as it had not reached the office until half-past two he had not seen it before he came to that inquiry on that day. The letter was as follows:—

Station Hospital, Portsmouth,

17th September, 1885.

From M.O. in charge to Thomas A. Bramsdon, Esq.,

Coroner, Portsmouth.

Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that under the circumstances mentioned I will permit the re-assembling of the inquest, re Lyons deceased, this afternoon, in the library of this Hospital; but must request that on future occasions arrangements be made so as not to interfere with the work and duties of the Hospital, which are continuous.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

J.W. Wilson,

S.M.O. in charge, Station Hospital.

He (the Coroner) wished only to add that he read that letter as a matter of explanation for the jury.

The taking of the evidence of witnesses was then proceeded with.

James Alefounder, a private of the Sussex Regiment, stated that on the 12th inst he had been engaged all the morning in fatigue duty removing boxes, and left the barracks with other men about four o'clock in the afternoon. They went to a public-house in King-street, and after remaining there, as he believed, until 8.45, he left in a drunken condition, and did not know where he went. On leaving he said that he had a fight with a man named Triggs, and he remembered a civilian coming up and making him put his belt on. He then went one way, and Triggs, went the other, and the next he remembered was waking up in a "dirty old place" in Southampton-row. He went outside, and, thinking he might be late, and over the time to which his pass extended, he quickened his pace. He was, however, taken by a picquet, and as the sergeant could not find his pass he took him to the Police-station. When asked he at once said that he did not know anything about the disturbance which had taken place that night, and when questioned about the blood upon his belt he said that he did not know how it came there. He had never told the sergeant of the picquet that the blood came from his hand while on fatigue duty, but he remembered that Trigg's nose had bled, and that he took hold of his belt before they separated, saying, "Let us part good friends." That was how he now accounted for the blood upon his belt. He said that he had not seen the woman Davey all that day.

Jane Callaghan, of 1, Brushwood-court, Southampton-row, the widow of a costermonger and a laundress, said that on Sunday, the 13th inst., at the request of the witness Davey, she washed the apron produced, but there was no blood upon it, although it was very dirty.

Edith Ross, ten years of age, living at Union-buildings, Southampton-row, said that at a quarter before eleven on the night of the 12th inst. she was sitting on a doorstep three or four doors from the house No. 12, and on hearing a smashing of glass she looked up and saw a soldier fall from the middle window of No. 12, Southampton-row. He came out feet first.—The Coroner: Are you sure of that?—Witness: Yes.—She afterwards explained that she had not seen the deceased until he neared the ground, and then she saw his feet. He fell upon his back. Davey came out to the door afterwards, but it was ten minutes before Mrs. Bright arrived upon the scene. There was no noise or disturbance going on when the soldier fell out of window. Between six and seven witness saw two women named Ryan take the witness Alefounder into No. 13, an unoccupied house, and they came out afterwards without him.—By the Jury: She did not notice the soldier move at all after he had fallen down.

Private George Triggs, of the Sussex Regiment, refused to be sworn, as he said he was drunk at the time of the occurrence, and could not possibly remember anything that took place.—The Coroner: You can tell us all you recollect, I suppose?—Witness: Yes.—The Coroner: That is all that is wanted of you. Will you now be sworn?—Witness still declined, and the Coroner requested him to stand on one side, telling him that if he did not reconsider his decision he should have to hand him over to the custody of the police.

Henry Triggs, a labourer, who said he had no settled home, gave corroborative evidence.

Private George Triggs now consented to be sworn, stating that he had not understood the Coroner properly. He corroborated the statements made by Alefounder, and said that the fight which had occurred between the latter and his (witness's) brother was a drunken row which had originated at his (witness's) sister's house.

Ellen Cooper, the wife of a glass cutter living at 58, King-street, Portsea, also corroborated as to the quarrel which had taken place at her house between Henry Triggs and Alefounder. She, however, did not see the fight as her children kept her back. When her brother (Triggs) came back he was bleeding from the mouth, and he might also have been bleeding from the nose.

Maria Norris, the wife of Robert Norris, a naval pensioner, living at 47, King-street, Portsea, corroborated as to the fight on the 12th inst. in that street, but, contrary to the statements of the other witnesses, she stated that Alefounder had his tunic and belt off. When the latter afterwards passed she noticed that he had blood upon his face, and passing his hand over that he put it upon his belt. He spoke to her as he went along, and noticing that she was somewhat frightened, he said, "Don't run away mother; I won't hurt you."

John Ryan, a hawker, living in Southampton-row, and formerly a private in the 35th Regiment, in which he had known both Triggs and Alefounder, gave formal evidence as to being with the men on the night in question after they came from barracks. They were, he said, all the worse for drink.

P.C. Lashley, who saw Alefounder in King-street about six o'clock on the evening of the 12th inst., said that the man was very drunk. He was carrying his belt in his hand, and he saw him wipe his hand over the blood which was upon his face. Afterwards Alefounder went into Cross-street, Daniel-street, and Queen-street, where he (witness) requested him to go to barracks, and he afterwards saw a woman take him by the arm and go into Southampton-row.

Bridget Kilburn (better known as Ryan), living at 10, Southampton-row, said that she and her sister took Alefounder from Queen-street and laid him upon the floor of the empty house in the row. At eight o'clock they aroused him, but he begged to be let alone, and he lay down again. She saw nothing more of him until the following Monday, when he was in Southampton-row with the police.

Annie Bailey, the sister of the last witness, also known as Ryan, gave similar testimony, and said that when she went across the road to Alefounder she said to her sister "What a good looking young man."—The Coroner: He was very drunk at that time? Witness: Yes, he was too drunk to appreciate it. (Laughter.) The Coroner: Did you see any blood about him?—Witness replied that she did not.

It being now six o'clock the Coroner adjourned the inquiry until next Friday afternoon, the witnesses each being bound in the sum of £25 to appear.

Portsmouth Evening News Friday 25 Sep 1885 p3 col 4




This afternoon the Portsmouth Coroner (T. A. Bramsdon, Esq.) held an adjourned inquest at the Station Hospital, Lion-terrace, Portsea, on the body of John Lyon, private of the 3rd East Surrey Regiment, whose mysterious death outside a brothel in Southampton-row, Portsea, has already been the subject of official investigation.

At the opening of the inquiry the Coroner announced that he had received a medical certificate from Dr. Colt, stating that one of the Jurymen, Mr. Anthony F. Read, was prevented by indisposition from being present.

The evidence was then proceeded with, the first witness called being

Francis Bonney, physician and surgeon, temporarily employed on duty at the Station Hospital, and attached for duty to the 3rd East Surrey Regiment, but whose duties in the hospital were not connected with the regiment. He stated that he saw deceased a few hours after his admission to the institution on Saturday night, the 12th inst. From the time of his admission until witness saw him he was attended by Surgeon Morris, now on his way to India. Deceased was lying in bed breathing heavily, and was in a dying condition. On examining him witness found he was suffering from the effects of violence to the head, at the top of which, on the left side, there was a large contused wound. Having reported his condition to the medical officer in charge of the hospital, witness returned to his bedside, remaining there till his death at 9.40 on Sunday morning. Witness had made a post-mortem examination. In addition to the wound he had mentioned, which was triangular and measured about an inch each way, but was not necessarily of a fatal character, witness found a large bruise about four inches square on the right side of the head. Underneath the situation of that bruise the scalp was very much distended with blood, The surface of the skull was externally fractured on the right side, and the fracture, which was about 3¼ inches long, showed internally on the removal of the upper part of the skull. Corresponding with the fracture was a large effusion of blood between the brain and the upper part of the skull. The membranes of the brain were ruptured, and the brain itself was infiltrated with blood. There were grazes on the nose, the right wrist, and the left hand, and a bruise below the left knee. The cause of death was effusion of blood, both inside and outside the skull, from the great injury done to the brain.—By the Coroner: The marks on the wrist and hand did not appear to have been produced by broken glass, but rather by contact with some rough substance.—The Coroner: Would you go so far as to say that it would be impossible for them to be produced by broken glass? Witness: No.—Continuing, witness said the injuries on the right side of the head had soley to do with the cause of death. The wound on the left side of the head might have been occasioned by a blow from a blunt instrument, and was very unlikely to be produced by a fall from a window.—The Coroner: If the deceased had struck against the lower ledge of the window in falling might not that have produced the injury on the left side of the head? Witness: No; it would be quite impossible. In the event of the fall being broken by the deceased striking his head, as suggested, on the ledge a few feet from the ground, it is impossible that the violence as shown on the other side of the head could have been occasioned by the small further fall of only 3ft.—Q. Can you tell us whether both wounds were occasioned at the same time? A. I should say no; not immediately.—Q. Might the wound on the left side have been produced an hour before the other? A. It would be very difficult to say, owing to the different aspect of the wound. The blood had evidently been washed away on the left side of the head.—Q. Then it amounts to this, that you are unable to say how long the one wound might have been caused before the other? A. Yes.—Q. If the deceased had fallen out of the window on to his head would that have produced the injury to the right side, which was the cause of death? A. Yes, if he fell on to the pavement.—Q. When did you see the poker produced? A. On the Tuesday morning following deceased's death.—Q. Did you notice anything particular about it? A. Yes, the head seemed to be cleaner than the rest; immediately under the head the poker was very rusty.—Q. Did you notice anything just under the knob? A. I observed one small speck that appeared like blood, and which when placed in distilled water and placed under the microscope gave the appearance of coagulated blood.—Q. Did you examine the belt produced? (That belonging to the soldier Alefounder.) A. Yes, and I found marks of blood upon it, which when microscopically examined appeared to be of the same age as the mark on the poker.—Q. If the deceased had been struck on the left side of the head with the poker would that have produced the wound of which you have spoken? A. It would, and most probably insensibility from the violence of the blow.—What is the shortest distance deceased would have had to fall to cause that larger wound, on the right side of the head? A. I should think the shortest distance would be 10 feet.

James Humphreys, corporal in the Medical Staff Corps, doing duty at the Station Hospital, stated that deceased was admitted to that institution at 11.30 p.m. on the 12th inst.; and Frederick Witchel, lance-sergeant in the 3rd East Surrey Regiment, deposed to attending deceased periodically until his death, having relieved the previous witness at six o'clock on Sunday morning.

Eliza Straker, better known as Rose Wilson, stated that she occupied the top back room at 11, Southampton-row, Portsea. As she was going into the house about half-past ten on the night of the 12th inst. she saw deceased lying on his back on the pavement.

Louisa Adams, a seaman's widow, of 11, Southampton-row, stated that she saw deceased taken away on a stretcher at eleven o'clock on the night of the 12th inst. Witness had been told by Mrs. Callaghan that she had seen some blood on the back of the girl Davey's hand.

Jane Callaghan, laundress, was recalled, and tsated that at half-past ten on Sunday morning, the 13th inst., as she was passing No. 12, Southampton-row she noticed Davey sitting on the doorstep with one of her hands up to her face. There was some blood on the back of the hand as though from a scratch.

The girl Davey, who was present at the inquiry, displayed her hands at the Coroner's request, but no scratches were to be seen upon them. She stated that she had been recently scratched by a cat.

Police Sergeant Porter said that he had an opportunity of seeing Davey's hands when she passed him a basin of water on the Saturday night for washing deceased's head, and there was no blood upon them then.

Eliza Jane Green, of 11, Southampton-row, said that she met Private Alefounder in the Argyll public-house at half-past three on the afternoon of the 12th inst. He had had a drop, but he was not drunk. They went to her room together, and Alefounder left her about four o'clock. She could not say if he went out of the house, but she did not see him afterwards.

Portsmouth Evening News Saturday 26 Sep 1885 p3 col 3



Yesterday at the opening of the inquiry the Coroner announced that he had received a medical certificate from Dr. Colt, stating that one of the Jurymen, Mr. Anthony F. Read, was prevented by indisposition from being present.

The evidence was then proceeded with, the first witness called being

Francis Bonney, physician and surgeon, temporarily employed on duty at the Station Hospital, and who examined the body of the deceased stated that the cause of death was effusion of blood, both inside and outside the skull, from the great injury done to the brain. Other witnesses were called, but their evidence failed to throw any additional light on the matter.

The Coroner then summed up, and said he was sure none of the Jury would grudge the time and trouble that had been spent on the case, which involved, possibly, some very serious issues. This was the fourth day they had spent on the inquiry, during which 16 witnesses had been called, and they might feel sure that the case had been thorougbly threshed out. He asked the Jury to avoid listening to any outside hearsay that was not borne out by the depositions. It was impossible for them not to know that a very strong opinion was held outside the walls of that hospital as to how the unfortunate man came to his death, and, considering the neighbourhood of the occurrence, they could not be surprised if a certain prejudice existed in their minds as to deceased having come to his death by violence. Southampton-row, he supposed, had contributed as much to the crime and disorder of the borough as any other row, or lane, or street in it. Assuming in the first place that deceased came to his death by violence, the Coroner pointed out the extraordinary manner of his death. There did not appear to be any adequate quarrel between deceased and the girl Davey, and yet without rhyme or reason he was said to have broken open a door, run on to a landing, gone into a strange room, broken the windows, and fallen out. The bare fact itself suggested that violence must have been used. The Coroner then referred to the blood-stains on the landing, in one of the rooms, on the poker, and in the bed, to Davey's apparent indifference as to whether deceased lived or died, and to the singular coincidence that the man Alefounder was seen running away from the same or an adjoining house at that time, and that there was blood on his belt. Summing up the arguments on the other side, the Coroner said that a strong point, which to his mind was unanswerable, was that the furniture and carpet in the front room was quite undisturbed, whereas this would hardly have been the case had but a slight quarrel occurred. Moreover, no motive was shown for violence towards deceased on the part of either Davey or Alefounder, and it had not been proved that the latter ever knew deceased. Another point was that no person in the row saw anyone at the front window. Had deceased been thrown out of window those concerned, not being used to the suppression of matters, could hardly have kept the knowledge to themselves. He then dealt with the evidence of the witnesses individually. In the course of the resume he said he thought it had been effectually cleared up that there was no blood on Davey's apron, and that if there was any scratch on her hands it was very trivial. Alluding to Alefounder he asked if there was anything strange in a soldier running away from a picquet, when he believed he was late or had exceeded his leave. In explanation of the blood marks on his belt, Alefounder adhered to the statement that he had that day been on fatigue duty moving boxes, and had scratched his hands. The Coroner called attention to Davey's statement to the police soon after the accident, and before she had time to think much about it, that deceased quarrelled with her, ran through the rooms and burst out of the window. In recounting the evidence of the child Ross, he remarked how sad it was that she should be living in Southampton-row, in the midst of all the filth that went on there. The only thing they could suppose was that the girl, who now appeared bright and intelligent, would follow when she grew older the horrid life of the other women living in the row. In conclusion, he pointed out that if the Jury believed that deceased was thrown out of the window he apprehended they would not consider that violence less than to substantiate a charge of wilful murder. If they found that he fell blunderingly out of the window they would, of course, return a verdict of accidental death. They were also competent to return an open verdict if they could not come to a conclusion in the matter.

After nearly an hour's deliberation the Jury returned the following verdict:—We find that the deceased met his death by falling through the first floor window of No. 12, Southampton-row, but there is insufficient evidence to enable us to decide whether it was accidental or otherwise. We desire to express our entire satisfaction that the man Alefounder had nothing whatever to do with the cause of death, and we exonerate him from all blame. (Subdued applause, which was at once suppressed.)

Main page

Last updated 4 May 2015 by Peter Alefounder

Main page