SHOCKING DISCOVERY AT ST. BEES.
MR. AND MRS. BURNYEAT FOUND DEAD.
A pecularly sad occurrence has been reported to the police at St. Bees, which has caused considerable sensation in the neighbourhood, an old man and his wife having both been found lying on the kitchen floor of their house quite dead.
The table in the kitchen was found upset and resting on the body of the old woman, and a chair and other furniture in the kitchen were also knocked over. The circumstances at first sight appeared to suggest foul play, but the inquiries made by SUPERINTENDENT KELLY and the constable stationed at St. Bees, have cleared up the matter, and they are quite satisfied that the unfortunate old couple came through their death by natural causes.
The deceased are WILLIAM BURNYEAT, supposed to be aged 82, and his wife, MARY BURNYEAT, aged 86 . They lived by themselves in a pretty little cottage in Main-street, St. Bees, and were in comfortable circumstances, the house they lived in and an adjoining house being their own.
Some six years ago MRS. BURNYEAT, who was then very feeble, fell downstairs, and her injuries were such that ever since, she has been more or less a cripple, only being able to go about by holding on to the table, chairs, and other furniture, and her husband was subject to paralytic fits, DR. I'ANSON, of Whitehaven having attended him.
On Friday, MRS. TYSON, their next door neighbour, heard them in their bedroom, when they seemed to be getting up. Some time afterwards, nobody having seen or heard anything further of the old couple, MRS. TYSON sent her servant girl, named STEPHENSON, to inquire after them. The girl having been unable to gain admittance at BURNYEAT's door, looked through the window, and saw the old man lying on the floor.
She returned and told MRS. TYSON what she had seen. The BURNYEATS have two grown-up sons living at St. Bees, one of whom is a joiner, and MRS. TYSON sent word to the latter what her servant had seen.
MR. BURNYEAT, jun., and the constable afterwards arrived at the cottage of the old couple, and an entrance having been effected, some furniture was found upset at the back of the door, the table was thrown over, also a chair upset, and underneath the body of MRS. BURNYEAT was found, and close to her was also the dead body of her husband.
The theory is that the old man, as was his custom, had gone downstairs to light the fire, and while he was about to do so, was struck down by a paralytic fit, and his wife, hearing him fall, had made her way downstairs, knocked over the chair and other furniture, crept along the edge of the table towards her husband to try and raise him up, and in the effort had pulled the table over on to herself, and had died from shock.
The Inquest to follow.............................................................
SHOCKING DISCOVERY AT ST. BEES.
MR. AND MRS. BURNYEAT FOUND DEAD....#2
The inquest on the bodies of the deceased was held on Monday afternoon, at the Queen's Head Inn, St. Bees, by MR. G. FALCON (coroner for West Cumberland), and a jury, of which MR. HARTLEY was chosen foreman.
MR. J. WEBSTER represented the relatives of the deceased.
WILLIAM BURNYEAT was the first witness. He said he was a joiner, and had lived at St. Bees for 57 years. He identified the bodies which the jury had just viewed as those of his father and mother. His father was 82 and his mother 86 years of age. His father was a retired joiner. They were both very frail and weak lately. His father in particular had gone down a lot. He used to take fits, the last one he had being in Whitehaven about two months ago. They lived alone. He thought MRS. STEPHENSON's people used to go in and attend to them sometimes.
Were they in the habit of putting a chair in front of the door at nights, or did they bolt it ? I don't know; I have not seen them lately. I seldom used to see him. He brought his bag down to the shop once or twice a week for shavings, and I carried it up for him.
The policeman, MR. BURGH, and witness saw them lying on the floor through the window. His father was in front of the fire, with no stockings on. He used to carry her a cup of tea up, and put the fire on. Witness did not know why the chair was where it was. His father always used to kindle the fire.
Your mother had an accident some time ago, I believe " Yes, she was coming downstairs, and owing to a piece of leather being loose on her slipper, she fell down to the bottom, and if father had not been there, she might have been killed. She had been weak since that.
According to what DR. I'ANSON said, father was dead several hours before her. I think it would break her heart when she saw him lying there. The doctor did not say how long either had been dead. He did not know whether morning or not. When the people washed his father, they found that his fingers were burnt, as if he had got hold of the fire to pull himself up.
The grate must have been hot at the time. He must have been dead a considerable time ? There was any amount of sticks, and the fire was out.
By the Foreman: He did not notice any signs of the mantlepiece having been burnt? No; I think he got hold of the fireplace with his hands.
The Coroner: The table was knocked over, was it not ? Yes, and the chair as well.
She was in the habit of holding on to anything, wasn't she ? Yes, because she got her spine broke.
The house was quite in order ? Yes, and they seemed to have just got out of bed, as the bed was in order.
Was he in the habit of getting up at night to give her tea ? No, I think not. He was in the habit of putting the tin at the door ready for the milk.
The Foreman said it seemed as if the old people had been chipping at the mantelpiece to attract someone's attention.
Witness said according to what the people said, there were a couple of flower pots in the front window smashed.
The Foreman: Could next door people have heard if they were knocking with a poker ? It would have left a mark. It struck me as if they had been trying to attract someone's attention by rapping on the wall.
The Coroner: Did you see where the poker was lying ? Yes, it was in its proper place in the fire grate.
In reply to a question by the Foreman, witness said it seemed as if the father had clicked hold of the armchair and pulled her over.
By Mr. WEBSTER: There were two doors, front and back. He did not try the front door, but he went to the back door. He could not swear whether the back door was bolted or not. The chair was just behind the door.
Did you examine the door. -- No, I did not.
You don't know whether it had ever been locked or bolted ? - No.
Is there a lock on the back door ? - I know nothing at all about it.
Do you know whether there is a bolt on it ? I don't know.
Did you examine to see if the windows were fast ? - He was a very particular man.
Will you please answer my question ? I don't know. I never went upstairs. These gentlemen can tell you the same.
Never mind them. They will probably come after.
The Coroner: I suppose the bodies and the chair were in such a position as would prevent the door being opened without pushing them. - Yes, that is so.
MRS. FANNY TYSON said she lived next door to the deceased and knew both of them. She did not know what time she last saw the deceased. The last signs she heard from them, she could remember distinctly, was about four o'clock Friday morning. She certainly did not hear them afterwards, because she made a remark to a pupil in the evening "I have not heard those old people to-night".
And you thought it unusual not to hear anything ? - Yes.
Was the milk served to them in the morning ? - I don't know. I tried to remember the morning, and the milk boy did not seem to have any distinct recollection of the time he was there on Friday. He told me he did not deliver anything. They had the last milk from MR. GRAVES. MR. BURNYEAT had gone for it himself, I understand, in the evening.
But the boy told you he had knocked and got no answer on Friday ? Yes,, he told me that. I was in the habit of hearing them only in the morning, about four o'clock. I did not hear them on Friday evening or on Saturday.
Can you hear sounds distinctly? Yes, we can hear them coughing and moving about, and I know the old man could hear the sounds from my house because he objected to the pupils reading, as it was a nuisance to him.
It would not be the reading, but the talking, I think. (Laughter)
By MR. WEBSTER: MR. BURNYEAT put the fire on always.
Has your attention being called to any marks on the mantlepiece ? - No
Then you think he did not get his milk on Friday morning ? - Yes.
Were you present when the bodies were discovered ? - No. I thought we should look in to see if there was anything wrong, and I sent a girl, ANNIE STEVENSON, to see what was the matter. When she came back, she said there was no fire in the grate, and MR. BURNYEAT was lying on the floor. I sent for his son.
ANNIE STEVENSON said she assisted MRS. TYSON, and was sent by her about a quarter past eleven on Saturday morning to look into MR. BURNYEAT's window. She found the fire was out and saw MR. BURNYEAT lying in front of the fire-place. She told MRS. TYSON and information was given to the son of deceased.
Are you in MRS. TYSON's all day ? No, I only go in for half a day on Saturday.
The Foreman: How long is it since you did anything for the BURNYEATS ? - A fortnight.
If they were knocking could you hear in your house ? - Yes.
Did you notice any chips knocked off the mantelpiece ? - No.
ROBERT BLAIR said he did not see the old people on Friday.
By P.C. BEATTIE: Did you see one of the deceased on Thursday ? Yes, I saw him at his hen-house on Thursday morning. I did not see any of them on Friday. I used to see him daily. His garden was next to mine. He used to go to feed the poultry, morning and evening.
REV. H. U. BURGH said he knew MR. BURNYEAT, but not the old lady. She did not go out very much. He saw MR. BURNYEAT on Thursday, and he seemed in his usual health. MRS. TYSON called him as he was going past on Saturday morning. That was before the house was opened. They had to push to open the door. He could not say that the body of the old lady was obstructing the door, but it was obstructed by something; the policeman could give evidence as to that. It required their united efforts to open the door. MR. BURNYEAT was lying in front of the fire, and her head would be about four feet from him and her feet about six. The armchair was lying upon the deceased woman's chest and appeared sufficiently heavy to keep her there. The table was over, but he did not think it was lying on her. There was a superficial wound on the back of her left hand, and it appeared to have bled a little.
The man had fallen on his head on the edge of a can, and there was a wound on the back of the head. One of his stockings was in the grate and the other underneath MRS. BURNYEAT or underneath some cushions from the chair. MR. BURNYEAT seemed to have come downstairs holding his trousers up in one hand, and his stockings in the other. His braces were not there. The bodies of both were quite cold.
Witness asked the doctor whether their appearance was consistant with them having died on Friday morning, and he understood him to say "Yes," but he could not swear to it. Witness asked him if he would give certificates of death, and he said he would certify for the old man, but not for the lady under the circumstances.
The doctor had been attending MR. BURNYEAT some time ago, and there were some bottles of medicine in the house, which he had supplied. There was a glass which seemed to have contained a little gin, and another sugar, which was crystallised.
They went upstairs, and the upper window was open about an inch. He looked to see if there were any signs of anyone having entered, but could find none. The front window was locked. His own opinion about the matter was that the old man had come down to light the fire, and had fallen down. The wife comes down and it upsets her and shocked her, and the chair and table came down, and she was weak and eventually died herself.
P. C. BEATTIE said in consequence of information received he went to the house. On going to the back, he looked through the kitchen window and saw MR. BURNYEAT lying across the fire-place, apparently dead. The first door was open, that was the porch door. He was not sure whether it had a lock on or not. He thought it had only a bolt. The kitchen door was on the "sneck". He had opened the door about three inches, when it came against something inside. He pushed, and found a rocking chair placed behind the door. It was standing up. MRS. BURNYEAT's head was about three feet from the kitchen door.
It was the chair which was obstructing the door. He had heard the description of what was found in the house when they got in, and he agreed with it. He saw no signs of anything wrong having taken place. The front door was on the latch and the top bolt was in.
The doctor said the wound on the back of the man's head would be accountable for his death. There was a sort of scratch on the old lady's left hand. Her right leg was slightly bent up, which might have been done by her trying to get up.
This was all the evidence, and the Coroner said they could throw no more light on the matter. They would all know these old people. No doubt, they had been united a long time in life, and they were apparently not divided in death. It was rather a strange coincidence that they had both been found dead like that, the wife being 86 and the husband 82. From the evidence, it would appear that the old man had come down to light the fire, and perhaps he had burned his fingers. The wife may have come down to arouse him, and might have fallen over him, the table and chair being brought over at the same time.
As far as they could see, everything in the house was perfectly in order, and there was no motive for any crime.
The jury found a verdict of "Death from natural causes in each instance, the time of death being Friday, the 12th inst."