From The Wiltshire & Gloucestershire Standard, February 2nd. 1889
SUICIDE OF A TRADESMAN. – On Wednesday morning last, Mr. George Woolls, of 57, Gloucester-street, aerated water manufacturer, inflicted such injuries upon himself that he died on the following day. It appears that Mr. Woolls, who was 49 years of age, has for some time past been in weak health, and his manner has been so strange from obvious mental depression that his friends have carefully watched him. On Wednesday morning he seemed very low spirited, and he was observed by his son to ascend some steps into a loft at the back of the premises, and shut the trap door after him. The son, Mr. Walter Woolls, hastened up after him, and induced him to return. Mr. W. Woolls having to attend to business matters left his father in the care of other inmates of the house, but about a quarter past ten deceased was missed, and immediately afterwards he was heard hammering in the store-room before referred to. His father, Mr. James Woolls, went up the steps, and found the trap door shut down, and deceased standing on the top. Suddenly deceased moved off the door, and his father opened it, but could not see him, and it appears that before any preventive measures could be taken, Mr. Woolls evidently threw off his coat and waist-coat with haste, inflicted a terrible gash in his throat with a sharpened table-knife he had concealed about him (and which was afterwards found in the loft), and going to a small window-like opening in the wall of the loft he leaped out and fell a distance of about 18 feet on to the flag stones at the back of the premises, almost at the feet of his relatives and neighbours. In fact, a woman who was working in the back kitchen, Mrs. Eldridge, ran out into the yard as the father had ascended the steps to seek his son, and saw the deceased falling from the window on to the pavement. Messrs. Fowler and Cripps were in attendance within a few minutes, and the wound was sewn up, whilst P.C. Shave assisted in carrying the deceased upstairs. The cursory examination possible revealed the fact that no bones were broken by the fall, but the doctors were unable to ascertain whether any internal injuries had been sustained. The wound in the throat was severe, but fatal results were not at first apprehended. However, serious symptoms supervened, and death ensued at nine o’clock on Thursday morning. Mr. Supt. Morgan has communicated with the Coroner. It may be mentioned that an uncle of the deceased, Richard Cobb, committed suicide by hanging himself two or three years ago.
The paper also contains a notice for his death which reads:
Jan 31st, 1889, at 57, Gloucester Street, Cirencester, Mr. George Woolls, aged 49
Wiltshire & Gloucestershire Standard, February 9th 1889
On Saturday morning last, Mr. Coroner Ball held an inquest at the Nelson Inn, Gloucester-street, Cirencester on the body of George Woolls, aged 49, mineral water manufacturer, of No. 57, Gloucester-street, who died on Thursday morning last from injuries inflicted by himself the previous day under circumstances already reported, deceased having firs cut his throat in a loft on his premises and then thrown himself from the window. The following were the jury : Mr. F. B. Foote, foreman, Messrs. C. W. Wakefield, C. F. Jones, T. Maisey, E. Habgood, A. Gibbons, T. Edwards, T. Price, D. Archer, J. Norris, C. B. Webb, and T. Richmond.
The Coroner briefly states the facts, remarking that he believed that they were of a painfully simple character, and he was afraid it was one of those dreadful cases where a man had lost all command of himself. The jury having viewed the body, the following evidence was taken:-
Louisa Eldridge, wife of John Eldridge, labourer, of 46, Gloucester-street, deposed that she knew the deceased, and had washed at his house for 12 months. She was there at work on Wednesday, January 30th. She had seen the deceased about nine o’clock that morning coming back from the loft with his son, who was about 19 years old. The son told her he was just in time to save him from making an attempt on his life. Witness asked deceased how he was, but he only shook his head. Deceased was then taken into the kitchen. His son stayed with him some time, and then had to go out on business about 9.30. He asked witness and deceased’s daughter to watch him. They were in the back kitchen, which was not actually under the loft, but alongside of it. The daughter was in the wash-house with witness. Mrs. Woolls had the knives, &c., locked up, because three weeks ago deceased had hidden a bread knife. She did not know whether he had ever made an attempt on his life before that morning. Deceased came by, and went up into the loft. Witness let him pass, and called deceased’s father. Deceased looked rather wildly in at the back kitchen the last time, and they thought he had gone into the engine house. They had the door ajar, and listened for him to go up the stairs. He was not gone a couple of minutes, and they heard three knocks from the store-room. She then called deceased’s father, saying she believed he was nailing down the door of the store-room. Witness ran out, and actually saw him fall out of the window of the store-room, his head almost touching her feet. Both Mrs. Woolls and herself had blood on them. Witness saw at once that his throat was cut and bleeding tremendously. She got a dirty cloth from the back kitchen and bound up his throat. Mr. Fowler was sent for.
The Coroner : I think it was very brave of you to do it at once. It was the right thing, but it is not everybody who think of the right thing.
Witness added that Mr. Fowler said she had done right, and he told her to leave it until Mr. Cripps came. She thought deceased was conscious while Mr. Cripps was attending to his wound. She was with him all night, and present when he died on the morning of the 31st, about five minutes past nine.
The Foreman : Did the father see him when he got into the loft?
Witness : He looked around for him everywhere, but of course he was got though then.
A Juror : Had you any previous suspicion that he would commit this deed?
Witness : He was very strange, and hid a bread knife, which Mrs. Woolls found and locked up.
In reply to the Coroner, witness said deceased was 49 years of age, and a mineral water manufacturer.
The Coroner : You seem to have done very well and very bravely what ought to have been done.
Mr. Edward Charles Cripps (Messrs. Fowler and Cripps), surgeon, of Cirencester, deposed that Mr. Fowler and himself had attended the deceased for considerably more than 12 months past. He had extensive kidney decease, and witness had heard his friends say he was strange in his manner, and had often questioned him and had interviews with him at various times, but he was always perfectly rational. Witness knew that he was sometimes curious in his manner, but nothing more than was compatible with the disease from which he was suffering. Witness last attended him for that disease about two or three months ago, when he seemed a good deal better and though he could attend to his work. He was on his club, and as he seemed a good deal better, witness took him off the books of his club so that he might be able to do a little work. Since than witness had heard nothing of him. He saw deceased almost directly after it had happened. Deceased had a gash in his throat about six inches long, deep in one part, severing the front of the windpipe. It was a very serious cut indeed, reaching from just the angle of the left jaw half-way round to the other ear. He had not severed any of the large blood vessels, but still he lost a very considerable quantity of blood, more than a man in his state of health could afford to lose. Witness sewed it up at once, and shouted and talked to him (deceased being deaf), and thought he was just conscious, though he was not sensible enough to converse with. Witness thought it was so extraordinary that he could fall from that distance, 18 feet, without some injury, that he looked very carefully all over his limbs as far as he could, but could not discover any injury at all. He certainly had no injury to his head or limbs. The shock from the cut and the fall, and the loss of blood were quite sufficient to account for his death. His windpipe was severed, and his breathing in consequence of that was rather embarrassed. It was the first he had heard of deceased having hidden a knife about three weeks ago. They had not heard of any signs of suicidal tendencies.
The Coroner remarked that if Messrs. Fowler and Cripps had noticed this suicidal tendency and put him under restraint, the thing would have been different.
Mr. Cripps said he had often remarked to deceased’s friends that if what they said was right they ought to carefully watch him.
The Coroner : They seem to have taken a family care in any way they could.
Mr. Cripps : I had never noticed myself any symptoms of insanity
Mr. Walter Woolls, deceased’s son, was called, and deposed that he was in the business. For about six months past he had found it necessary to watch and take special care of his father. He had been very strange in his manner. He had not attempted anything of this sort before. He was sometimes depressed; sometimes he would be a little better, and other times he would fall off. Deceased had not attended to business for 12 months. He was under the doctor’s care. He did not know anything about the hiding of the knife. Nothing had happened on the 30th to upset him more than usual. Deceased seemed very strange. He was up in the tallet in the morning, and witness said “hullo, is that you,” and he descended. When witness was having his breakfast, his sister told him deceased was up in the tallet again, and on the second storey he found the trap door was down. He rushed up and found it shut. He forced it open, and deceased was on top of it. He slipped on one side, and witness caught him by the collar and brought him down. Deceased was not doing anything. He looked quite silly. His jacket was off, and he only had his slippers on. He had just got up. They always kept the door open. Deceased said nothing, and witness brought him downstairs, and went off into the kitchen, whilst deceased walked up and down the yard. Witness told them all to watch deceased, especially his sister and Mrs. Eldridge, who were nest door washing. Deceased said something to witness about going and getting some hay from Poulton, which was all rational. Witness was sent for into town. When he came back his father had been moved into the house, and then witness stayed in the kitchen a little while, and than went up into the loft. The door had been opened by somebody else.
At this point, deceased’s father, Mr. James Woolls, who was present, said the first time he was called, Mrs. Woolls and the washerwoman said “Come here, ha has gone up in the loft.” He went up in the loft and found him. Deceased said he was looking at the potatoes and thought they were frosty. Deceased went down and he followed him, and asked him to go out for a walk, and deceased said “You want your hair cut and I wants mine.” He (Mr. Woolls) went into the kitchen again. The child was sitting down before the fire crying, and he picked it up on his knee. Deceased’s wife than called again and said “He is gone up into the loft again.” The first trap door was down, and he saw the other down, and he went up to the other trap door, but heard deceased’s steps on it. After forcing it up, he looked round the loft and could not see him, but the trap door was laid up against the window. As soon as he looked sown he heard a crash below in the yard, and he descended.
Mr. Walter Woolls, continuing his evidence, said he looked around and saw a knife. He threw it down and descended again. That was the knife produced. They used it to cut the gingerbeer string when they were filling it. Deceased must have taken the knife about a week ago. Mrs. Woolls said she had not missed it. They locked up all the principal knives, the carving knives, razors, &c.
This concluded the evidence, and the jury returned a verdict to the effect that deceased committed suicide whilst temporarily insane, death resulting from the shock and injuries sustained. They gave their fees to the Cottage Hospital.