Inquest into the death of Jane Ellis Hobden
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DEATH OF MISS HOBDEN.
On Monday the District Coroner (Mr A. Morrison, J.P.) opened an inquiry touching the death of Miss Jane Ellis Hobden, whose body was found in a large bath tub at the residence of Mrs E. Hobden, in Dangar-road, Singleton, that morning. Dr. Alister Stuart Bowman, Government Medical Officer, stated that he was called to Mrs Hobden's residence on Monday morning at 7 o'clock, and there found deceased's body lying on the grass in the yard, dressed in night clothes. The body was that of a well nourished woman of over 70 years of age. It bore no marks, of violence, and there was no smell of drugs. There was froth on the water in a bath tub near the body such as would be caused by a person drowning. He concluded that deceased met her death from asphyxia from drowning, and did not consider a post mortem necessary. Dr. Reginald William Harrison Maffey said he had known deceased for about twenty-four years, and had attended her professionally during that period. The last attendance was at Fairholme Private Hospital from 1st to 3rd November. She suffered from chronic rheumatism, and had a stiff knee and back. She was of a rather despondent nature, and appeared to think she was not getting any better. The greater part of her trouble was due to senile degeneration. She never appeared to be more than pessimistic about her health. He also gave evidence as to the cause of death similar to that given by Dr. Bowman, he having been called to deceased's temporary residence when the body was discovered. He did not think deceased would commit suicide. If she had fallen into the tub of water she was not sufficiently active to get out of it by herself on account of her rheumatic ailment. He had never been told by her relatives that she might, do any injury to herself on account of her despondency. The inquest was then adjourned until Thursday morning.
EVIDENCE AT ADJOURNED HEARING. Vida Maria Johnson residing at Great Lodge, Jerry's Plains, stated that she had been staying in Mrs E. Hobden's cottage for three week's during the absence of Mrs Hobden. Deceased lived with her brother, Reginald Alcorn, at Great Lodge, but was an inmate of Fairholme Hospital for a few weeks. She complained of being tired of being at the hospital and desired to get home, and witness suggested that deceased should stay with her at Mrs Hobden's, so that she would be close to the Doctor. Deceased had a stiff knee and used a walking stick. She never went out of the house. On the 19th instant deceased retired between 7 and 7.30, and appeared to be in her usual state of health, and witness last saw her at about 8.30 in her room, and had a conversation with her. About. 11.30 deceased spoke to her. About 6 o'clock next morning witness found deceased was not in bed. The back door was open, which was an unusual thing, and on looking for deceased saw her body lying in a bath tub, covered with water. Witness had known deceased all her (witness's) life. She had been depressed and melancholy and in indifferent health for some years, and had been in hospital several times. For some days she had been despondent and strange in her manner, and some time before she came to Singleton she had said that she was tired of life. Witness was afraid to leave her alone, fearing that she might do something with her self. Charlotte Hutton, residing at Dangar road, stated that her residence was close to that of Mrs. E. Hobden. On Monday morning at 6.15 Mrs Johnson came to her and said Jane was in the bath tub and she thought she was dead. Witness went to the house and found Miss Hobden's body in the bath. She examined it and could see that it was lifeless. She had not known deceased more than three weeks. She appeared to be quite sane, but of a melancholy disposition. Reginald William Alcorn deposed that deceased was his sister-in-law, and had resided with him for the past seven years. She had been suffering from a severe cold and was in the hospital for a time. He last saw her alive on Saturday, the 18th. She was strange in her manner and depressed, and complained that her bank receipts were not in order, and she was afraid she would lose her money. She appeared to be suffering from delusions for about 12 months at intervals, but not of such a nature as to cause any suspicion of immediate danger. The symptoms were regarded as those of childishness due to old age, she being over 79 years of age. About five months ago deceased spoke of being weary of life. He could not give any reasons for deceased taking her own life. Her home life was always a happy one, and she was in good financial circumstances. Witness produced several documents which he collected from solicitors with whom she did business. She apparently left no will, and her life was not insured. She was born at Great Lodge on 29th August, 1847. From inquiries made he ascertained that she had moneys affixed deposit in the Government Sayings Bank of N. S. Wales, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, Bank of New South Wales, Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, also an inscribed deposit in Australian Bank of Commerce; and a certificate of title to land in the town of Muswellbrook. Deceased's brothers and sisters are: James Ellis Hobden, of Great Lodge, Robert Ellis Hobden, Ashfield, Mrs Frank Budden, Muswellbrook, and Mrs Eliza Mary Ellis Alcorn, of Great Lodge. He did not think deceased would commit suicide. First-class Constable Joseph Jackson gave evidence as to the position in which the body of deceased was found in the bath tub. When the body was removed there were about eight inches of water at the end where the head was and about 10 inches at the other end. He took the body from the bath and found it quite rigid, death having apparently taken place some hours previous to his examination. The Coroner found that the said Jane Ellis Hobden, at the residence of Mrs Emma Hobden, Dangar-road, Singleton, on the 20th December, 1926, was found dead in a bath partly filled with water, without any marks appearing on her body; and, further, found that she died at the same place and the same day from asphyxia from drowning, caused by her committing the act herself while in a state of despondency. (Singleton Argus Saturday 25 December 1926, page 5)