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Bertha WINGATE, Inquest, 1897

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A Bertha Florence R. WINGATE was born in the March quarter of 1875 in the Guisborough Register District.  Guisborough is in North Yorkshire so I originally surmised she was of separate origin to the Devon lot.  However I have now found her in the 1881 census and she belongs to the Kingsbridge branch of the family. 

A sad but strange story which begs lots of questions.  Where was she between the Tuesday, 28th September, and the Saturday, 2nd October when she was seen by Harry SMITH?  Was she still wearing the same clothes she had left home in?  What had she written in the letter to her 'sweetheart'?  And why was he not called?  In what way had she been "tampered with"?  Why was she not found sooner than Tuesday 12th October - given that she had been missing for two weeks and the body was in the water not far from her house?  If there was no water in her lungs, was the cause of death really drowning?


Drowned in the Regent's Canal

At Paddington yesterday Dr. THOMAS held an inquest with reference to the death of Bertha Florence Rose WINGATT, aged 22, a dressmaker, who resided with her parents at Malvern-road, Kilburn, and was found drowned in the Regent's Canal.

Mrs. WINGATT, mother of the deceased, wife of a carpenter, stated that her daughter was usually a cheerful girl.  She had lately been suffering from an injured thumb and blood poisoning.  She was engaged to be married, and witness was not aware that she had had any quarrel with her sweetheart.  On the contrary she believed they were on the best of terms.  At eight o'clock on Tuesday morning, the 28th ult., she suddenly left home.  Her sister asked her where she was going.  She replied, "I will not tell you".  The sister joked her on going to see her young man, who lived at Elstree.  She did not return home.  Her sweetheart had been seen, and he declared that he had not seen her since the 23rd ult.  He was not present.  Deceased's papers had been examined but they threw no light upon the cause of her sudden disappearance.  She was a quiet, reticent young woman.

John WINGATT, the father, said that he had seen his daughter's young man and was satisfied with his statements.  The young man had received a letter from her on Monday, the 27th ult.  Witness was not aware of its contents, but the young man seemed greatly surprised that the deceased should have vanished.  He was at a loss to account for her act, and so was the witness.

Police-constable BUDD said that on the preceding Tuesday morning he found the deceased fully dressed, save that her hat was off, floating in an upright position in Regent's Canal, near Maida Vale tunnel.  She was wearing a gold watch and chain, the former of which had stopped at five minutes past one.  She had a purse with three-halfpence in it.  There was no paper in her possession throwing any light upon the manner of her death.  She had been identified by marks on her clothing.

Dr. SCHOFIELD, police surgeon, who was fetched to see the body, said that when he first saw it he judged the deceased might have been in the water for a fortnight.  He had made an autopsy and found water in the stomach but not in the lungs.  His belief was that she was not perfectly sensible when she fell into the water.  Death was due to suffocation by drowning.  There was evidence that the deceased had been subjected to violence before or after death.

THE CORONER - You seem to suggest that there had been some attack upon this young woman beforehand.

WITNESS - She had certainly been tampered with.

THE CORONER - At present, there is no reason assigned why she left her home as early as eight in the morning.  That is a curious thing.

To answer the Coroner, Mrs. WINGATT said she telegraphed to her daughter's young man at Elstree on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 28th ult. about the deceased, and received a prompt reply from him.  The deceased would have resented any insult offered her.  She was a good girl.

A JUROR - Would it not be as well for us to see the letter which the young man received?

The inquiry was adjourned for further evidence.

 - Daily News (London, England), Saturday, October 16, 1897; Issue 16086.


Resumed Inquest and Verdict

On Friday Dr. George Danford THOMAS resumed the adjourned inquiry at the Paddington Coroner's court into the death of Bertha Florence Rose WINGATT aged 22. a dressmaker, lately living with her parents at 151 Malvern-road, West Kilburn, who was found dead in the Regent's canal, off Maida-vale-bridge on Tuesday morning, Oct.12, under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

On the previous occasion evidence was given by Mrs. Fanny WINGATT, wife of a carpenter, the the effect that the deceased, who enjoyed good health, was of a cheerful disposition. Las month she poisoned her thumb in opening a lobster tin.  Deceased had been engaged for three months to a young man living at Elstree, and there had been no quarrel with him.   On Tuesday morning, Sept 18, about eight o'clock, after having her breakfast, the deceased, who appeared as usual, left the house.  One of her younger sisters asked her where she was going, and she replied, "I shan't tell you."  Nothing more was seen or heard of her till Police-constable William NUNN, 15 FR, found her body in the water.

Harry SMITH, a warehouseman, living at 1 Mozart-street, Queen's-park, stated that he had known the deceased for years, having been, in years gone by, to the same Sunday-school.  On Saturday Oct 2. he twice met her by accident.  He left her at Westbourne-park station to go to King's cross, he paying for her ticket.

Dr. SCHOFIELD said that he could not state if the injuries deceased had were received before or after death. 

The coroner said that he had no doubt but what deceased took her own life.

The jury returned a verdict "That the deceased committed suicide whilst of unsound mind."

- Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, October 24, 1897; Issue 2866.


Dr. G. Danford THOMAS held an adjourned inquest at Paddington Coroner's Court on the body of Bertha Florence Rose WINGATT, aged 22, spinster, described as a dressmaker, whose body was found in the Regent's Canal, near the Maida-vale tunnel, and not far from Malvern-road, Kilburn, where she resided with her father, a carpenter.  She had been missing since Tuesday morning, the 28th ult. when she suddenly left home at eight o'clock, declining to say where she was going.  The evidence went to show that when last seen the deceased was strange in her manner, and the Jury returned a verdict of "Suicide while of unsound mind."

- Daily News (London, England), Saturday, October 23, 1897; Issue 16092.


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