Suicide On The Metropolitan Railway

On Wednesday, 14th October, 1868, forty-five year old James Howe either jumped or fell beneath a train at Edgware Road Station, and he later died from the injuries that he received.

At the subsequent inquest into his death various witnesses gave testimony that refuted his dying statements that he had, in fact been pushed.

The London Evening Standard carried a full report on the case in its edition of Saturday, 24th October, 1868:-

EXTRAORDINARY SUICIDE ON THE METROPOLITAN RAILWAY

“Yesterday Dr. Lankester held an inquest at the Bank of England Tavern, on the body of James Howe, a painter, aged 45, who committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at the Edgware Road Station of the Metropolitan Railway whilst it was entering the station.

The case was rendered somewhat remarkable from the fact that the deceased, before dying of his injuries, repeatedly asserted that he was pushed down in the rush of the crowd at the station, and fell between the carriages and the platform; and just before he expired, when reminded of his approaching death, he repeated his statement, and said, “It is true, so help me God.”

The man shown jumping under the train.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 31st October, 1868. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THE WIDOW’S TESTIMONY

Angelina Howe, the widow of deceased, living at 4, Blainly Road, Kensington, said that she saw her husband at St, Mary’s Hospital, on Wednesday, the 14th inst. He told her that he was at the Edgware Road Station when a train came in and stopped. He put his hand on the handle of one of the doors, when there was a sudden rush of people and he was carried off his feet and thrown down between the carriages and the platform. The person who knocked him down looked like a working man.

THE EVIDENCE OF THE REVEREND BENNETT

The Rev. Edward James Bennett, of St. Clement’s House, Lancaster-road, Notting Hill, said:- “On Wednesday, the 14th inst., at about seven o’clock in the evening, I was sitting on one of the seats at the Edgware-road Station, waiting for the Notting-hill train, I heard the Hammersmith train called, and saw it coming along.

The deceased, who was close to me, walked forward, threw up his arms, staggered, and then jumped off the platform in front of the tram. This was before the train stopped. I would not swear he did not fall in front of the train, but I am sure no one pushed him down.”

WHAT WILLIAM CLARK SAW

William Clark, a station porter, who was on the opposite or up platform, to that on which the deceased was, said:-¬† “I saw the deceased come across the platform and leap off in front of the engine. There was no one near him, and it could not be true that anyone pushed him off. This took place before the train had passed me. If he had had hold of one of the carriage doors I could not have seen him, as the train would have been between us.”

THE WIDOW AND SISTER’S EVIDENCE

The Widow of the deceased, recalled, said, in answer to the Coroner, that the deceased was not a drunkard; was not seriously ill, and had never been in a lunatic asylum, nor had any of his relations.

Mildred Howe, sister of the deceased, gave similar evidence to the widow, and added that the circumstance of the deceased taking his solemn oath to the truth of his statement.

CHARLES CLASSEY’S TESTIMONY

Charles Classey, a boy who had charge of the weighing machine kept on the up platform, said:- “I saw the deceased walk from a seat and spring off the platform on to the line, between the narrow-gauge metals. I did not see a great rush of people on the down side. There was a lot of people on my side to see the deceased got out. The carriages had not stopped when he jumped. He jumped in front of the engine. If he had teen trying to get into the carriages I would not have seen him.”

“TAKE ME OUT OF THIS”

Charles Hurford, breaksman of the train referred to, said:- “As we were coming into Edgware-road Station I had my hand on the breakwheel, and was looking out of the window. I saw deceased, who I thought was one of the porters, take two or three steps, and then step down in front of the train. I saw no more of him till we got him from under the train. The only thing he said to us was, “Take me out of this.” He could not have got on the four footway unless he had gone in front of the engine.”

THE DRIVER’S EVIDENCE

George Snowden, the driver of the train, said:- “I went under the train to get deceased out. He was on his hands and knees fixed in one of the cross bars. He said he wanted to get out.

I found the cross bars were on the small of his back. I took hold of his legs, and he said he could get out himself. I found he could not. With the assistance of the porters I managed to get him out.

He said he wanted to go home to his wife and family. I told him he could not go home, and I told one of the porters to take him to the hospital in a cab.

He smelt of drink. His left leg was smashed, and his foot was nearly off.”

THE SURGEON’S TESTIMONY

Mr. Smith, the surgeon who attended the deceased at the hospital; described how completely smashed  the leg and foot of the deceased were, which had to be amputated directly. There were other injuries, including the fracture of two ribs.

The deceased gave the same version of the affair to him as he did to his wife.

He died on the 21st instant from the shock.

The post-mortem showed a very bad state of the body and a softened state of the brain. The deceased did not appear to be drunk when he was received into the hospital.

A VERDICT OF SUICIDE

The Coroner pointed out that the evidence was overwhelming that the deceased had committed the act under some delusion, and the Jury returned a verdict of Suicide whilst of Unsound Mind.

It was stated that the widow and children would be deprived of the money they would under ordinary circumstances have received from the benefit society.”