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Mysterious death of a schoolmistress at Quorn

Loughborough Herald - 6th April 1893.

On Thursday evening Mr Coroner Deane held an inquest at the house of Mr Slight, machinist, Quorn, touching the death of Laura Jane Brooks, schoolmistress, age 25, which took place somewhat mysteriously at her lodgings on Wednesday morning.

Edith Ellen Brooks, Shaw Street, Derby, sister of the deceased, identified the body. The deceased, she said, was assistant-teacher at the National Schools, Quorn. She came to Quorn after the Christmas holidays. About a fortnight ago she had a sprained ankle, and she had suffered from indigestion and neuralia.

Jane Slight, wife of William Slight, mechanic, Quorn, said the deceased had lodged with her 12 days, and during that time she had made no complaint of illhealth. On Tuesday night he had her supper, and went to bed singing. On the following morning, about nine o'clock, the young lady who occupied the same room as Miss Brooks told her that she did not think the latter was going to get up, and witness sent her breakfast up by her niece ? The Cornoner: Do you know whether Miss Brooks spoke to her? Witness: No, sir, she didn't.

About half-past nine witness went up to deceased's room, and she found that the breakfast had not been touched. Deceased was in bed and her face covered with the clothes. Witness spoke to her, but got no answer. She then took the clothes off her face, and noticing that she was very ill she got some brandy-and-water and moistened her lips. Deceased was breathing as if she was asleep. The breathing was regular, and there was no noise with it. Her eyes were open, but she did not appear to be conscious. Witness rubbed her hands and did all she could to revive her. She also sent for a neighbour, Mrs Sheppard, and they rubbed deceased with vinegar and water. As she got no better they sent for Dr Harris, who arrived about twelve o'clock. The deceased died about half-an-hour after the doctor came.

The Coroner: Did you see a bottle in the room? Witness: She had a bottle by the bedside with some spirits of camphor in. ? How do you know it was spirits of camphor? ? It says so on the bottle. ? Have you that bottle? ? It think it is upstairs on the dressing-table. ? The Coroner: Will you go and see please? The witness went for the bottle, which contained a few drops of spirit of camphor. Another bottle was produced, which contained some medicine deceased had got from a Loughborough chemist and which was labelled "Liver mixture". The Coroner: Did she appear to be in good spirits the whole time she was with you? ? Yes ? What had she for supper on Tuesday night? ? Oatmeal porridge and milk.

Kate Hurst, teacher in the infant department of the Quorn National School, said she had occupied the same bedroom as the deceased. On Monday night she went with deceased to Loughborough. She was not exactly in good health on that day, for she was suffering from the effects of a severe cold. Witness was with her the whole of the time she was at Loughborough. Deceased was quite cheerful on Monday and Tuesday. On the latter day deceased went to bed first. She made no complaint except saying that she was tired. Witness did not wake until the girl called her about eight in the morning. She noticed that the lamp was lit in the morning, and concluded that deceased had been up in the night. Being in a hurry witness did not speak to deceased. It was about a quarter-past eight when witness left the room. Deceased was snoring heavily, and witness thought she was fast asleep.

Dr Bostock said he was called in about 12 o'clock on Wednesday to see the deceased. He found her quite unconscious and almost pulseless. She was then dying. He remained with her until she died. He had since carefully examined the body. The Coroner: Are you able to give any opinion as to the probable cause of death? Witness: I cannot. The Coroner: Did you find anything suspicious? Witness: No. I lifted up the eyelids. There was an absence of any symptoms of opium poisoning. Did she appear to be a young woman who had laced very tightly? No. There were no external marks, and the body appeared to be fairly well nourished. Have you any reason to suspect that the deceased died from poisoning? No; there is nothing except that it is very unusual for a young person of her age dying so suddenly.

The Coroner said he must leave it to the jury to say whether there should be an adjournment of the inquiry in order to have a post-mortem examination. There were no symptoms of opium poisoning, the cause of death which they would be disposed to think of, for in cases of opium poisoning the pupils of the eyes were contracted, and in this case they were dilated. There was only negative evidence as to the cause of death.

Mr Brown (a juror): Would a large dose of spirits of camphor be likely to have caused her death?

Dr Bostock: It would have to be a very large dose.

Miss Brookes was re-called, and in reply to the Coroner, said deceased was attended by a doctor at Derby for indigestion. She had suffered from neuralgia, and witness thought neuralgia had touched her brain, and the cause of her death.

Dr Bostock, in reply to the Coroner, said that neuralgia would not have caused death.

One of the Jurymen inquired as to the liver mixture, of which there was half a bottleful, and the Coroner said that the liquid was very harmless. He dared take the lot.

The Coroner, commenting on the evidence, said he did not think it was ever desirable to have a post-mortem examination unless there was some suspicion.

The jury returned as their verdict that deceased had died from natural causes.

 Submitted on: 2009-07-24
 Submitted by: Kathryn Paterson
 Artefact ID: 394
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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