Thursday, 20 April 2017

Schoolgirl Death - Inquest at Cardington

Z1306/24/6, Kings Arms, Cardington. View from Cople Road, 1922 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Friday 20 April 1917: Today an inquest resumed into the death of schoolgirl Jennie Evans. It took place at the Kings Arms, Cardington, and was presided over by the Deputy Coroner for the County. Jennie attended Bedford Modern School and was reported missing from her home on George Street, Bedford, on 14th February. Her body was found last Sunday in the river. Dr A.F. Goldsmith testified that no signs of violence were found on the body, though the body was decomposed from having been in the river for so long. Both hands were clenched and it was his opinion that the girl had died by drowning. It was likely that the girl did not suffer from melancholia, the clenched hands indicating that she had attempted to save herself.  

On the morning of the 14th February, there were missed signs of Jennie’s fate. One witness stated that he had noticed a schoolgirl’s hat floating along the river at the foot of the weir. He reached it easily and plucked it from the water to see if there was a name in the hat. Having found none, he hung it on the fence, assuming it would be reclaimed. Another witness stated that he had seen what he thought was a horse rug floating in the river and had no inkling that it could have been a body.

The body was recently discovered at Fenlake Barns, wedged against a tree. Jennie was fully dressed, wearing gloves and had a ribbon in her hair. She was wearing a blanket overcoat, a gym suit and lace-up boots. Since 22nd February, the river had been searched by police, but a school bag had not been found. 

The girls’ mother testified that Jennie was 17 years old, but looked younger. She was never melancholy or depressed and was fond of studying, particularly art. She used to admire the little island by the river and intended to paint it. She was happy at home, punctual at school and well-liked. On the 14th February, Jennie left home at her usual time of 8.30am, as she liked to get to school ten minutes early, and she often took the route by the river. Jennie’s art mistress, Miss Jones, testified that Jennie was of above-average ability and that she had given her class homework that involved studying the river.

In summing-up, the Coroner said there was no doubt in his mind as to the verdict, that of ‘accidental death’, which the jury returned.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 20/4/1917

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