The conduct of a soldier invalided from the Front, was severely criticised by Mr. Gilbert White, the District Coroner, in the course of an inquest which was held at the Spring Hotel, Ewell, on Tuesday on the body of Elsie Violet Jacquest, aged 4½ years, who was knocked down and killed by a taxicab on Sunday.

Mr. Knight was chosen foreman of the jury.

John Poplett, of Kingston Road, Ewell, who was in khaki, said that he belonged to the 5th Middlesex Regiment and was called up at the mobilisation. Deceased was his child, whose mother was Agnes Jacquest, a married woman living apart from her husband. He was away at the time of the accident, which happened outside his house. When he arrived home he saw the child on Sunday evening; she was dead then.

The Coroner - When the officer called you refused to let him take the child away. Why did you behave in that way?

Witness - Because I did not want the child to go through a post-mortem examination. She had suffered quite enough.

The Coroner - But she was gone then. Let me warn you, if you had not been a soldier home from the Front, you would have been in a different place than you are now through your conduct on Sunday night. The Coroner's Officer has his duty to do, and I am surprised that you being a man who understood discipline should have behaved as you did. Your conduct is anything but what one would expect from a soldier wearing His Majesty's uniform, and is not credit to you or your uniform.

(To the jury) - I must protect the Coroner's Officer.

Harry Leicester - 164 Washington Road, Worcester Park, who witnessed the accident, said that between four and a half-past on Sunday afternoon, he was coming down Kingston Hill on the left hand side of the road; he was driving a horse and cart. He saw a little girl dart from the near side to the offside of the road at the foot of the hill, just as a big car, followed by a small one, came round the corner. The small car struck the child. Witness picked up the little girl. There was an interval between the two cars, the child running at the rear of the first one. He could not say if the child came out of a cottage, but she seemed to leave the footpath very suddenly after the first car had passed. Both cars were on the right side and one was several yards behind the other. He should judge the speed as being between ten and fifteen miles an hour, and should not say that the second car was gaining on the first. The child was alone. After the accident, the first car continued on its journey, the occupants apparently not having seen what had happened, while the other vehicle proceeded about forty yards farther on and then pulled up. The chauffeur got down, and he followed witness into the house where he took the child, and which happened to be her home, although he had no knowledge of that previously. When he picked the child up, she was lying right against the fence, and evidently had not been carried by the car, which was on the near side. He did not see which part of the car struck the child; he should imagine it was the near side. The driver would have to take a rather wide sweep to get round the bend. He had not seen any warning notices there.


A Juryman - We made application some time ago, when another child was knocked down, for a warning notice, but no notice was taken of the application.

Thomas Jarrett of Kingston Road, Ewell, a plasterer, said Mrs. Jacquest lived two doors away from him. He was in his front garden about a quarter past four on Sunday when he heard a scream, and on looking down the road he saw the car travelling towards Kingston. Suspecting that an accident had happened, he left his house and then saw the child being carried into Mrs. Jacquest's house. He did not see the child on the path or in the roadway previously. The car seemed to swerve towards the fence just as he heard the scream; he did not see it strike the child. He judged that the driver was trying to get to the fence to avoid hitting the child.

By the Jury - He had no idea of the speed of the car.

Answering deceased's father, witness said he picked up two nuts and part of a broken belt from underneath the car.

P.-s. Durham stated that at 4.20 p.m. on Sunday, he was on duty in High Street, Ewell, when he was informed of the accident. He proceeded to Beggar's Hill, and in a cottage there he saw the body of deceased. The witness Leicester and the driver of the car were there, and the driver said "I was following a big car, which almost came to a standstill in front of me. It went on on the near side of the road, when all of a sudden I saw a child run off the footpath. She seemed to see the car in front of me, but did not seem to see mine, and ran right against my off-side front wing. I tried to avoid her by swerving into the near side, and applied my brakes. The sudden application of my brake broke my rod." Witness examined the roadway, but found no traces of wheel marks owing to the dry state of the road. The car was then standing about twenty yards from the spot where the accident happened. The off-side front wing of the car was bent, and some of the child's hair was hanging to it. The driver was quite sober, and signed statements were taken at the police station.

The Coroner asked the driver, Alexander Skinner, if he wished to give evidence, and Skinner said that he would do so if the jury desired.

The Coroner (to the jury) - Perhaps it is better to leave the evidence where it stands. But you must not be prejudiced because the driver does not give evidence.

Jarrett, recalled, said he did not understand cars at all.

P.-s. Durham further said that it was quite probable that the breaking of the rod on the car would have prevented the driver drawing up in a shorter space than he did...The witness Poplett called attention to the contradictory evidence regarding the number of yards in which the car was pulled up, and said that he had measured the distance which was well over thirty yards. He also said that the child's eyes were knocked out, as the result of being struck by the car, which, he suggested, proved that the car was going too fast.

Dr. Rayner said that death was almost instantaneous.

The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and expressed sympathy with the child's parents. The Coroner remarking that he agreed with that decision.

The jury also expressed the opinion that the ten-mile speed limit should be extended along the Kingston Road to the top of Beggar's Hill.

From 'The Epsom Advertiser', 28 May 1915, transcribed by Hilary Marogna

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