Shocking death in a windmill
COURIER, MARCH 18TH 1893
The two shocking fatalities at Harbury on Thursday and Friday last week, threw the usually quiet village into a state of great excitement.
The first refers to George Frederick Verney (27) miller, who while engaged in working his mill, late on Thursday night, it is supposed, fell and got entangled in the upright shaft, his legs being horribly mutilated. He evidently died in great agony. Full particulars will be found in the report of the inquest, which is given below.
The second death was that of Mrs Eliza Boote, widow of Mr C Boote, of Harbury, who, it appears, went to Verney’s house to try to comfort her niece (Verney’s wife) in her sad bereavement. It is stated that Mrs Boote had a desire to see the deceased, but before doing so, was so overcome that she herself died almost instantly. Having been suffering from heart disease, the coroner did not think an inquest necessary.
The inquest on the body of George Frederick Verney was held before Mr Dr Wynter (Coroner for Central Warwickshire), at the New Inn, on Saturday afternoon. Mr John Horley was foreman of the jury.
William Verney, father of the deceased, stated that he was a threshing machine proprietor, living at Harbury. The deceased was 27 years of age last October, and had resided at the Mill House for the past three years. Witness last saw him alive on the Wednesday morning previous. Deceased was in the habit of working at night when there was a good wind, and had worked many nights recently. Deceased knew all about the working of the mill and generally worked it alone. He thought it very probable that the deceased was in the dark, and that his clothes caught in the upright shaft. There was a pane out of the window close by, and he thought the draught from it would have blown the light out if deceased had passed it by. Sometimes the flour wanted poking down, and that would necessitate his having to go close by the window. Deceased’s clothing might have caught in the rope which was coiled round the upright shaft.
The foreman said he should think the accident might have occurred in the way suggested, as the rope was covered with blood. No doubt deceased did trip up over that rope, and fall against the shaft.
Edmund Edward Griffin said he was a carpenter and joiner, residing at Harbury. He knew deceased well, and met him on Thursday night, at about nine o’clock. Deceased was then taking a light up the steps into the mill. Witness told him to stop a minute or two till he could fetch his tools out, as they were in the mill. Deceased did so, and asked witness if he was going to make his uncle’s coffin. Witness replied that he was. Deceased said that he could not make room enough for witness to work at it in the mill that night but added that, if he wanted anything else they could see about it in the morning. Witness went home. Deceased told witness he was going to work in the mill the ‘night through’ and that was the reason he could not have the bench. Deceased was quite sober at the time.
Thomas Berry, a haulier, residing at Harbury, said that about 10 minutes to 11 on Thursday night, as he was going to bed, Mrs Verney came into his house and said that her husband had not come home; she hoped nothing had happened to him and asked him if he would go down to the mill to see, as she was frightened. Witness asked the last witness to go with him and they and Mrs Verney all went down to the mill together. She supplied them with a candle and they went up into the mill, witness going first. The mill was quite still at the time but when witness got to the floor next to where he found deceased, it started to go. He went up the next pair of steps and saw deceased going round with the shaft. Witness noticed at once the extent of the injuries to deceased, and ran and put the brake on to stop the mill. Having done that, he then ran for the doctor and assistance. The doctor came in less than three minutes. Verney was dead when witness first saw him, and he should think he had been dead quite an hour. He saw the rope in the cog above, but deceased was perfectly clear from any rope. He also saw the lantern picked up afterwards. It was broken to pieces. He thought it probable that the lantern went out, and deceased, catching his feet in the rope, was taken up. By a juror: the mill was in full cloth, and was going when witness went to see to his horse between nine and 10 o’clock that night. It afterwards stopped, and a flush in the wind started it again. Deceased had his arm around the shaft, as if in a death clutch. When found he was close to the ground, and quite away from the cogs.
The coroner, in summing up, said there was not the slightest evidence or suspicion whatever of any foul play having taken place.
A verdict of “Accidental death, resulting from being entangled in the shaft of the mill”, was accordingly returned.
A juror (Mr Green) said he should like to draw the attention of the jury to the dangerous state of the mill from dilapidations. There were no means of governing or stopping the mill except from the stage, which was in a rotten condition, being unsafe for anyone to walk upon. He contended that means of putting on the brake and stopping the mill should be provided on each floor. Even if two persons were working the mill, and one got entangled, it would be impossible for the one to save the other, as one would have to run down the stairs and out onto a dangerous platform before the mill could be stopped. That was the only way the mill could be stopped, and there were seven floors to it.
Other jurors concurred in those remarks.