The Times, 28 Dec 1869
THE OUTRAGE AT EWELL
Yesterday morning, at 10 o'clock, Mr. W. Carter; coroner For East Surrey, opened the inquiry respecting the death of the man Huggett, who, has already been stated, was killed by self-inflicting injuries and the explosion at Ewell. The inquest was held at the Hop Pole Tavern, opposite the house where the explosion occurred.
The jury have viewed the body of the deceased.
The CORONER said if they found that he had killed himself while of sound mind, and while in the act of committing a felony, they would return a verdict of felo de se. The inquiry would chiefly turn upon that point.
Mrs. Elizabeth Richardson, the wife of James Richardson, a carman, said she lived as housekeeper in West-street, Ewell, with Mrs Spooner, who had been ill since July lf the present year. On Wednesday morning last witness got up about 20 minutes to 4 o'clock and lighted the fire. Mr. And Mrs. Spooner were then in bed. The other occupants of the house were William Smith, George Mason, and Mr Spooner's two children. On going outside the house to a shed for the purpose of getting fuel witness saw a man sitting on the coals with a bag between his knees. She recognised him as Thomas Huggett, a sack and bag maker, who worked at Mr. Lee's factory at Rotherhithe. She had known him 12 years, and while she was looking at him he passed his hand to his chest three times. As he had threatened to take his life on several occasions she became alarmed, and at once ran into the house screaming. At the top of the staircase she saw Mr. Spooner, and she then ran into her bedroom. In about two minutes afterwards she heard the explosion, and was so much alarmed that she did not leave her room until every one in the house had gone away. When she got down stairs she saw Huggett, whose face was blackened by the explosion. Huggett had threatened to kill her because she refused to live with him, which she had previously done, as man and wife for some months. She left him because her husband persuaded her to do so, and she went back to her home. Huggett last saw her in August. He did not speak to her, but he tore the clothes off her back. He said he would kill her by cutting her throat or shooting her. If it should be shown that he blew up the house with gunpowder, she would believe that he did so for the purpose of killing her. She found some grains of powder after the explosion. She never went through any form of marriage with Huggett. The reason why she left her husband was because he was unkind to her, and Huggett persuaded her to leave him.
James Hill, a shoemaker, said that on the morning in question he heard a noise of scuffling between men on the floor of the house where the explosion occurred in West-street. The witness lived next door. He ran out of his house, and then found that part of the wall of the next house had been blown down. He saw the deceased lying on the floor, and spoke to him, but the deceased did not reply. The brick and wood partition between the witness's house and Mr. Spooner's was blown down. The witness was so much alarmed that he could not recollect much.
Edwin Grantham, carpenter, living in West-street, said he heard the explosion while he was in the house adjoining Spooner's. He went into Hill's house, and on the floor in the parlour he saw the deceased. Near the left side of the man was an open clasp-knife. On the left side of the breast, near his heart, was a wound, from which a large quantity of blood flowed. There was a slight cut across his throat. He was carried to the Hop Pole, and was there asked where he obtained the powder from. He replied, "I stole it. I had about 1lb. Of it in my pocket." Upon being asked why he did it, he replied "Jealousy; I want to see her now." His request was not granted. He was then asked what he had in the little bottle that was found upon him, and he replied, "Rum." The pocket-knife was stained with blood.
A witness, whose name did not transpire, stated to the Coroner and jury that Huggett had the knife open when he entered the house. In his other hand he carried the bag of powder. It was evidently his intention to have cut the woman's throat, and he was going upstairs for that purpose when he met Mr Spooner and had a scuffle with him. While the scuffle was going on Huggett threw the powder on to the fire.
Police-constable Gardener produced the clasp-knife, which had stains of blood upon it.
Mrs. Richardson recalled, said she recognised the knife as one Huggett had.
Dr George Barns said he was called to see the deceased on Wednesday last, and found him lying in Hill's house. He was in a feeble condition. There was a wound near his heart an inch in depth. Witness could penetrate the wound with his fingers. There was also a wound across his throat about 2 and a half inches long. Witness believed that the death of the deceased, which occurred in a few hours after witness saw him, resulted from the combined effects of shock, resulting from the explosion, and the self-inflicted stab near the heart. Witness could not say whether the deceased stabbed himself before or after the explosion. Mr. Spooner said he saw the deceased throw the bag of powder on the fire.
Joseph Huggett, brother of the deceased, said Thomas Huggett was 31 years of age. He had never shown any signs of insanity.
Mr. Thomas O'Brien, stationmaster at the Ewell station of the London and South Western Railway, said that on Tuesday night, when the 10.40 p.m. train from Waterloo came in, the deceased, a full-faced, dark complexioned man, alighted from it. He had a villainous expression of countenance, and looked so terrible that witness ordered him off the station. He did not appear excited, but he had such a look that if witness had seen him in a railway carriage alone he would have gone to another compartment. When witness heard of the explosion on the following day he said, "That man I saw last night did it." He then went and saw the body of the deceased, and recognized it.
Mrs. Huggett, mother of deceased, said that he son had often complained of his head. He said, "The worry of my work and thinking of that woman is too much for my brain." He then put his hands to his forehead. On Tuesday he wished his landlady good=bye, and he appeared to be in a state of insanity then.
The inquest was then adjourned for additional evidence as to how the deceased became possessed of the gunpowder, and as to his mental condition at the time of the tragic occurrence.
It is stated that Mr. Spooner, who received such severe injuries, is rapidly sinking.
Messrs. Sharpe and Co. inform us that Huggett was not in their employ, but they believed he was some years ago in the service of a person who did cartage for them, and that thus he became acquainted with their premises.