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1879: Tragic Hatchgate Farm suicide

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

West Sussex County Times - Saturday 15 November 1879


Mr. J. E. Fullagar, Deputy Coroner, held inquiry at the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Cuckfield, on Friday evening to ascertain how and by what means Mr. Thomas Caffyn, farmer, of Hatch Gate Farm, came by his death.

The Jury (of whom Mr. J. B. Langton was foreman), having been sworn, and the body viewed at the farm, the following evidence was taken :

The Wheatsheaf (circa 1930) where the inquest was held

Sarah Caffyn deposed that the deceased, her father, was 65 years of age, and had retired from farming for some years. She last saw him alive about 20 minutes past eight on Thursday morning, when he was in bed. On going up to his room about nine o'clock that morning, she found the door was fastened, but she supposed that he was dressing, and communicated this to her sister. She went up again between twelve and one, with her sister, who rapped at the door. and tried it, but it did not give way. Eventually they got a ladder to the window, with the assistance of Thomas Tanner, who got in at the window and then opened the door. On the door being opened, a candle was brought, and witness went into the room; the bed was empty. Her sister then went into a large closet, and at once exclaimed "He's hung himself!" Witness was rather afraid, previous to this discovery, that he might have had another fit, as they were generally afraid of another seizure He had had several illnesses but not a fit, since an attack he had three years ago. He had never however. threatened himself in any way. When she suggested someone getting in the window. it was not because she thought of his destroying himself, but because she surmised that he had had a fit. He was afflicted with boils last Spring, and his legs were very bad, and had been subject to varicose veins.

Thomas Tanner, a carter in the employ of Mr. Callow, corroborated the previous witness. On opening the closet and procuring a candle they discovered deceased hanging, with his head leaning back, and kneeling. There was a large bandage tied round his neck, in a slip knot, drawn tight, and one end of the bandage was tied round the support of the shelf. Witness then cut him down, but the body remained much in the same position. It was nearly cold. He had evidently cut himself previously with his razor (produced) on which was found a quantity of blood. The appearances did not look as if he had a struggle with anyone.

Dr. S. Byass said that he was called to see the deceased between one and two o'clock on Thursday afternoon and reached Hatchgate farm about two. He found him in a cupboard inside the room in a sitting position quite dead. On examining him he found a bandage tied as described by last witness. On further examination be found marks of three cuts in his throat, Such as would be produced by a razor or sharp instrument. The cuts were superficial, and death would not be caused by those cuts. When he saw him the bandage was not quite tight enough round his throat to produce death, although he hail no doubt death was caused by hanging. He might have been dead two or three hours.

The jury unanimously returned a verdict "deceased committed suicide whilst of temporary unsound mind."



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