WARNING - Article contains graphic content that some may find distressing

Ditch Death in Earls Colne


Friday 24 November 1893



On Monday morning, the dead body of Joseph Pollard, a discharged Army man, aged 44 years, was found in a ditch near Hay House, the residence of Mr. T. S. Bell, farmer, of Earls Colne.

The deceased, who lived on the Curds road, left the Atlas Ironworks, where he was employed as a labourer, at half past one o'clock on Saturday, taking 16s. as his wages. About two o'clock he went to the shop of Mr. Gallifent, jun., and purchased a quantity of grocery, four shirts, and other articles, after which he found his way to the Lion Inn.

With James Raven, aged about 35, and three other men, he left the public-house, according to the statement the landlord, at half-past seven o clock. Pollard's home is a little more than a mile off, and is reached from the Lion partly by road partly by the fields. The three other men walked in front of deceased, and Raven walked a few yards behind. Raven states that just after passing the foundry, and before they entered the fields, Pollard asked him to carry his parcel while he stopped behind a minute. Raven did so, and, as the deceased did not overtake him, he left the parcel at his house, telling Mrs. Pollard that her husband would home presently. This was about a quarter to nine o'clock. As her husband did not return, Mrs. Pollard became anxious, and went to Raven, who lives near by, and asked him about her husband. Raven again assured her that lie would home directly. Saturday night and Sunday passed without Pollard reaching home, and Mrs. Pollard, who is only 35 years old, and has two little children, again appealed to Raven, who went on Sunday to P.c. Wade with a view to obtaining information. No news as to the deceased's whereabouts could be obtained until Monday morning, when Sidney Blackwell and Reuben Sharp came across the dead body in a ditch in one of Mr. T. S. Bell's meadows, a few yards from the path the deceased would have crossed to get to his home. There was a nasty wound over the right temple. P.c. Wade was summoned the spot, and the body was carried home. Dr. Taylor afterwards made an examination. The weather on Saturday night was very rough, rain and snow falling in storms.





Mr. J. Harrison, coroner, held an inquest on the body at the Institute on Wednesday. The jury were conducted from the Lion Inn, where the deceased and his companions stayed on Saturday, to the home of the deceased. They took the path supposed to have been taken by the men, and minutely examined everything that was likely to help them in their decision. Mr Hy. Massingham was foreman of the jury.

Hannah Pollard, wife of the deceased, deposed that her husband worked for Mr. Hunt. She last saw him alive at 5.30 a.m. on Saturday, when he left her to go to work, He was in good health. With the exception of an epileptic fit which he had about four years ago, he had always enjoyed good health. On Saturday morning he said he would have no beer, but would come home early after leaving work. At a quarter to nine at night James Raven called at her house, and said, "Here are the things, Mrs. Pollard." She asked Raven where her husband was, and Raven said he would be home in a minute. Deceased was brought home dead on Monday morning. Raven and her husband had been the best friends. Deceased was given to drinking.

In reply to Mr. I. Sadd (a juryman), witness said that as her husband did not come home she went to Raven after waiting a few minutes, and said, "Raven, whee is Pollard?" He replied that he would be home in a minute. Raven was the worse for drink. He satisfied her that her husband would come home.

James Raven, labourer, deposed: On Saturday last I left work in Mr. Hunt's fields at half-past one o'clock. After seeing a football match in the afternoon, I went into the Lion public-house, and sat by the side of the deceased and drank with him. We had three pints. I left the public-house with young Bryant, his father, and Pollard. It was raining fast. Bryant fell down in the road after we left the house, and Pollard fell over Bryant as we were picking him up. He did not complain of having hurt himself. We had a trouble to get Bryant up as he was so helplessly drunk. I was "beery." At Nunn's Corner the deceased asked me to take his parcels and I did so. I did not wait for the deceased, but went straight to his home, and then to my own home. I had my supper and went to bed. Mrs. Pollard came to me and told me her husband had not returned, and I said he would home presently. The following (Sunday) morning I went to the Lion for Mrs. Pollard, to see if anything could be learned. The ostler looked round the stables and lofts, but the deceased could not be found. I ascertained that Pollard did not return the Lion after I took the parcel from him. I have always been on friendly terms with the deceased.

The Coroner said the witness had given his evidence in a very straightforward manner.

In reply to Mr. Stedman, witness said he could not say if the deceased was assaulted some few months ago when going home.

Mrs. Pollard said her husband was assaulted one night at the last election.

Raven: Yes, I heard about that affair.

Mr. Massingham : He had some peas in his basket —Witness : Yes.

Can you account for the peas being spilt on the road between here and the deceased's house ?—I cannot, sir. I took them as carefully as possible.

And you cannot account for the peas being spilt in two places between here and where the body was found ?—No, sir.

Mrs. Pollard said the peas were loose in the parcel.

Philip Bryant, 16 years, also in the employment Mr. Hunt, said that on Saturday afternoon he went the Lion Inn and had some beer with Raven. When he and the others left the house they found his father lying in the road, having fallen down. Pollard fell over him, but witness did not think he hurt himself. While he and his father were going home they could hear the deceased and Raven behind. Deceased was "freshy," but witness had seen him worse. They were all "freshy."

William Bartholomew, aged 36, a machinist, said he came out of his house at a quarter to eight, when saw the deceased on the path. Deceased was drunk, and fell down on the other side of the road near an oil van. Deceased did not appear to be hurt, and it was so dark that he should hot have seen any blood there had there been any. As soon as one of the men picked him up they went off.

Sidney Blackwell, a labourer, in the employ Mr.. Mathews, said he was going across the meadow near Hay House about a quarter-past nine on Monday morning when he saw the deceased in the ditch. He called to his father-in-law. He did not see any blood on the bank, nor any signs of a struggle in the ditch.

In reply to Mr. Massingham, witness said deceased's head was in the mud. It was not a deep ditch.

P.c. Wade said he was called to the spot on the Monday morning. The deceased lay on his back in tho ditch. Upon the body he found 3s. 9d., a knife, and a shop-book. The deceased spent sums at different shops in the village, which, together with the sum found on him, amounted to 13s. 8d. Witness did not know where the deceased bought the peas. A little way from where the deceased's body was lying witness found his belt. He could not find any stains of blood about — not even on the clothes. The clothes were very wet. There was no snow about at the time, and he would have seen the blood if there had been any.

Police-inspector Mann, of Halstead, said that on Monday he saw the body. There was a wound over the right temple about 2½ inches in length. It was deep and a little jagged. The ditch was 14 yards from the central path in the meadow deceased passed through. There was about two inches of water in the ditch. Witness made a thorough search, but could find no trace of blood on the ground or hurdles near. About 12 yards from where the deceased gave Raven the basket witnessS found some split peas spilt. A little bough was broken off at the spot. The belt was found 20 yards from body. There were stones near where Bartholomew saw the deceased fall. Raven told him he saw no wound, and deceased never complained of having hurt himself. The deceased was wearing a cap, which they had searched for, but had been unable to find.

Young Bryant said he saw the deceased's cap fall off when he tumbled over his father. He did not see if the deceased had it on when he got up.

Arthur Owers, landlord of the Lion Inn, said the deceased went to his house about four o'clock. He had a pint of ale and went into the taproom. Bryant also had a pint. The party left the house at half-past seven. About a quarter to seven he heard Pollard talking rather loudly about work, and as he was afraid this would lead to quarrelling he stopped it. The men all appeared to be on good terms when they left his house.

Dr. John Taylor said he examined the body. The hands were clenched. There was a very severe contused wound over the right temple, 2½ inches long and half an inch broad. There was an abrasion of the nose and cheek. The wounds might have been caused by a fall among stones, or it was possible that they might have been caused by a blow. There was no fracture of the skull. The stomach was empty. The liver was very much enlarged. The immediate cause of death was exposure. he was inclined to think the deceased received the blow somewhere near the spot where he was found. There must have been a considerable amount of hemorrhage.

In reply to a juryman, Dr. Taylor said that once a man was an epileptic he was always epileptic.

The Coroner: Then you are satisfied that death is not due to violence? —Witness: The wound could not have caused him die. There was no corresponding internal injury and there was no fracture outside.

In reply to Mr. Bocke, the Coroner said that people dying from exposure generally had the fists clenched.

Mr. Rogers mentioned that the deceased's cap had not been found.

Dr. Taylor: That is the most extraordinary thing — where the cap has gone to.

In reply to Mr. Massingham, Raven said he did wait for the deceased on the road. He then went straight home.

Andrew Bartholomew said he came through Mr. Bell's meadow about five minutes past nine o'clock. He did not hear anybody call out.

The jury retired to consider their verdict. On their return the Foreman said: "We find that the deceased met his death from exposure to the weather; but there is not sufficient evidence to account for the wounds on his head."