An inquest was held on Thursday, 29th December 1881, at the Cock Inn, Raunds, before J T Parker, Coroner,to decide the cause of the death of Joseph Scott, of Ringstead found dead in a dyke on the side of the road from Raunds to Ringstead on Tuesday, 27th December 1881. The body was removed to the Cock Inn to await the inquest. He was seen by many people in the Raunds streets on Monday night, apparently helpless from drink or another cause. Several people saw him lying in the street, smothered with dirt. Some believed he was pushed about and maltreated. He was found on Tuesday morning by John Bass, who notified the police.
Thomas West, police constable, stationed at Raunds: I can identify the deceased as Joseph Scott a shoemaker, lately living at Ringstead. I believe he has no relatives there. I have known him previously. He was about 64, a native of Towcester, but he has no relatives there either. I did not see him in the street on Monday night, but I did see him in the Baker's Arms.
John Cobley, landlord of the Baker's Arms: I knew the deceased. He came into my house about 5 p.m. on Monday. I was not at home, but when I returned at 5.30 we spoke to each other. I did not serve him with any drink. I dare say he had some, but if so, it was given to him by other men there. After three quarters of an hour I told him to go. I sent him away because I knew he was an awkward character when he got drunk. He left quietly. I don't know if he was drunk, but when he got outside, he fell down in the street. It was getting dark then. [To Henry Perkins, Foreman of the jury -] I had no complaint about him, he was not drunk or making any noise. I have turned him out on previous occasions.
The Coroner: It is strange, Mr. Cobley, that you turned him out when he was neither drunk, quarrelsome or noisy. Perhaps you had a little too much yourself!
Cobley [to a juryman]: The deceased got up after falling down. I don't know where he went after he got up; he did not fall down through illness.
William Hall, junior, shoemaker: I did not know the deceased. I saw a man outside James Blott's house on Monday night, with a hundred or a hundred and fifty boys and people round him. It might have been someone else.
Thomas Hall, shoemaker, Raunds: I saw a man outside the Cock Inn. I did not know him. It was five past ten on Monday night. One or two of the crowd of people round him were pushing him about. I called to them not to hurt him. I said to Bradshaw Harris, "Let's take him part of the way home". I knew from what people said, that he needed to go towards Ringstead. When we got him part of the way up the Ringstead road, he wanted to lie down, so we put him in to a field of Mrs. Pentelow's, called Butcher's Close, and we left him where we thought he would be safe. I know no more about him. [Cross-examined by a juror-] That field is near the ditch where he was found dead on Tuesday morning. The gate of the field was fastened, so he would have had to get overfthe gate to get into the road. When we put him in the field, we took the gate off its hinges, and put it on again afterwards.
The Coroner: You should have put him in the hands of the police, instead of leaving him.
John Crew, surgeon, Higham Ferrers: I saw the body on Tuesday evening, in the stables of the Cock Inn. I examined it. he was quite dead. He had bled from a scratch on one ear. He had a great deal of dirt round his nose and mouth, as if he had lain against soft earth. I believe death resulted from suffocation, that is impeded respiration, either from drowning or having his face pressed in soft, wet earth.
John Bass, boot and shoe salesman, Raunds: About a quarter past ten on Tuesday morning, I was driving along the road between Raunds and Ringstead. While I was in the cart, opposite Butcher's Close, I saw something in the ditch by the roadside. I got out of the cart and went to the ditch or dyke. I found the deceased on his back, leaning on his right shoulder. A good stream of water was running through the dyke. It covered his shoulders, but his face was clear of it. His face was dirty, but I did not see any dirt on hios nose or mouth. His whiskers were dirty, and his clothes were very wet. He seemed to be dead. I pulled him out of the ditch, and gave information to the police. I saw a broken glass bottle lying in the ditch near his head. I did not search the area. His head was lying towards Raunds. There were ordinary footmarks near his feet, but not as if he had been struggling. His coat and shirt were torn, and his shoulder was bare. I do not think the bottle had been used violently. His clothes were disarranged. My opinion is he fell backwards into the ditch and was unable to get out. I don't think he drowned. I believe he died from exposure.
Eliza Bull, widow, Ringstead: I knew the deceased well. He had lodged with me for two years. He was a shoemaker. I saw him last Monday afternoon at two o'clock. He did not say where he was going when he left home. He was subject to falling fits. I cannot say how often he had them, but they were frequent, he had two in a night. [To a juryman -] He had no drink for two months. He left home that afternoon, sober, and in his usual health. He came out of prison a rnonth ago. I have seen him drunk, and when he was, he was rather awkward.
The Coroner: I think the deceased did not fall into the ditch through a fit. I remind the jury that the surgeon who examined the deceased said he had died from suffocation.
Henry Perkins, Foreman of the jury: The evidence given does not tally with the opinion of Mr. Crewe because his face was proved to be clear out of the water. We do not agree that he died from suffocation. Our verdict is that Joseph Scott accidentally fell into a dyke, and died from exposure, not otherwise. We believe his death was caused by being treated more like a dog than a human being. Verdict: "DEATH FROM EXPOSURE".
NRO Ref: ZB1478/522