East Greenwich Man’s Mysterious Death

1908
INQUESTS – EAST GREENWICH MAN’S MYSTERIOUS DEATH
At Greenwich on Tuesday into the body of John Joseph Starkey aged 22 of 33 Commerell Street, East Greenwich, a horse slaughterer in the employ of Harrison Barber of Blackwall Lane East Greenwich, represented by Mr. William Hurd. The widow stated that her husband went to work in his usual health on the Saturday and during the day she learnt that he had met with an accident and had been removed unconscious to Greenwich Infirmary. He had never threatened suicide – he was always of a cheerful disposition. Henry Gagen, foreman slaughterer at Messrs., Harrison and Barbers stated that Starkey was accustomed to using a patent ‘killer’ for slaughtering animals. The weapon consisted of a iron pin in a brass pedestal and when an animal was to be shot was placed on a nipple and this was struck with a mallet so causing an explosion. On Saturday , morning Starkey was given his orders to kill a donkey in the slaughterhouse and when a few minutes later witness had left he heard a report and came to the conclusion that the animal was killed. On hearing that Starkey had met with an accident he returned to the slaughterhouse and found him lying on the ground bleeding from wounds in the head and cheek. He had not fetched the donkey from the pound. The ‘killer’ was about two feet from him. If it had fallen from the platform it would have exploded. Starkey had suffered from a poisoned arm for about six months but it had quite recovered when he had returned to work a month ago. Henry Saunders an employee at Messrs Harrison Barber’s establishment at Blackfriars said that on the 2nd inst Starkey told him ‘he had had nearly enough of it’ as he had done only three weeks full work in nine months. He added ‘if it was not for our old woman I would do myself in’ the widow and another woman explained that that could not be true as deceased had been very happy at home. Witness them remarked that Starkey said it in a joking way’ Dr.Wiggins, assistant medical officer at Greenwich East Infirmary deposed that deceased had two bullet wounds on the left side of the hear one close to the ear and the other on the upper part of the cheek. There was a fair amount of haemorrhage. He died about three hours after admission from coma following an injury to the brain. The bullet took a downward and forward course which was somewhat natural. The Coroner. He might have been standing at the time. Dr. Wiggins or the killer might have fallen from the platform. There was evidence that the nipple had been attached. Gagen said he believed that cordite was explosive used in the ‘killer’ Arthur Bailey of Kennington said he heard Starkey say he would ‘do himself in as you could not live on half pay but witness did not take any notice. Mr. Hurd that this was the first fatality at the work. The Coroner said the evidence was too weak to warrant the jury brought in a verdict of suicide. Without any hesitation the foreman said they were satisfied that that death was accidental.

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