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Wellingborough & Kettering News 04/01/1889, transcribed by Peter Brown
Shocking Gun Accident at Rushden

On Tuesday morning a great sensation was caused in Rushden by a serious gun accident. It appears that a young person named Nellie Dunkley, 21 years of age was on a visit to her sister, Mrs Berry, Ferndale Cottage, at the Higham Ferrers end of the town. She usually resides with her parents at 111, Lower Thrift Street, Northampton, and only arrived in Rushden on a short visit on Monday evening. On Tuesday morning at about twenty minutes past ten o'clock, Mr Samuel Powell, photographer, was in his studio next door to Ferndale Cottage, when he incidentally noticed the unfortunate girl and the young fellow, who afterwards shot her, shaking mats together in the back yard. A minute or two afterwards he heard a terrible scream in the back living-room, saw a flash, and heard the report of a gun. He ran out , and when just going into the house met Robert Fuller, a young man who was living in the house, and who had been there for almost three weeks. His first words were, “ Oh! God, I've shot Nellie.” Mr Powell at once went into the room and found Miss Dunkley lying with her head on the fender, and found blood in all directions. The blood flowed freely from her head and the upper part of her left arm. The upper part of the arm was fearfully mutilated. Her sister had just prior to the occurrence seen both of them laughing and larking with the gun and looking down the barrel. It was a breach-loading and single barrel gun, and was standing in the back kitchen. Mr Powell, on discovering what had happened, ran for Dr Freeman, and Dr Smith and Crew afterwards came. In the meantime Fuller had gone up to a young fellow Chas. Smith, a carpenter, who lives at the same house, and said “Charlie, I've shot poor Nell, where's George?” (meaning Mr Berry). He then came back to the house, and asked whether the girl was alive. Whilst there Berry told him he had better go away altogether, as it would not do for him to be there. It appears that the poor fellow did go away, and he has not since been heard of. His house is at 74 Ethel Street, Northampton, and he was employed at Rushden by Messrs Colson & Co. He is a quiet and well conducted young fellow and there is no doubt that the occurrence was due to accident, resulting from the mistaken belief that the gun was not loaded. In addition to the doctors Mrs Tomkins, wife of the Rev W J Tomkins, was sent for, and very kindly took the case in hand, her practical skill in nursing being invaluable. The doctors, after consultation, found it absolutely necessary to amputate the injured arm of the girl, and she remains in a most precarious condition.

Latest Particulars
Miss Dunkley still lies in a very precarious condition, and no hope is entertained as to her recovery. On cutting off her hair yesterday (Thursday) wounds were discovered at the back of her head, but the report that one of the ears was cut off was entirely without foundation. Some of the shots penetrated through the cupboard door, while portions of the hair and flesh were found adhering to the walls and ceiling. As no one was in the room at the time but the two parties concerned, and as one of them is still unconscious, and the other has made no statement, any description of how the event occurred can only be conjecture. Those who were in the vicinity at the time state that the girl was heard to scream twice before the report was heard; and Mr Berry states that when the gun was left in the house the breach was opened so that anyone might know that the weapon was loaded.

Wellingborough & Kettering News 11/01/1889

The shooting case — The injured young woman still lies in a precarious condition. On Tuesday the wounds in the neck were attended to by her medical attendant, the operation being quite as successful as could be expected. The patient afterwards passed a quiet night, and it is hoped that the favourable symptoms will continue.

The Northampton Mercury, 23rd February 1889, transcribed by Kay Collins

The Late Gun Accident The Rev W J Tomkins (Baptist minister) and the Rev A C Smith (Congregational minister) are getting up a subscription for Miss Dunkley, who lost her arm through the recent lamentable gun accident.

Wellingborough News 24/05/1889, transcribed by Peter Brown


At the Northampton County Court on Wednesday, before his Honour Judge Snagge, Eleanor Dunkley, 111, Lower Thrift street, Northampton, single woman, sued Robert Fuller, jun., 74, Ethel street, Northampton, riveter, for £50 for damages caused by her being shot at Rushden, on New Year’s Day. She alleged that she was shot through the defendant’s negligence in discharging the loaded gun at her. Her claim included £30 for nursing from 1st January to 6th March, and £5 5s. for medical attendance. – Mr. Ellen (Howes, Percival, and Ellen) appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr J G Phillips for the defendant.

Mr Phillips said that the defendant in the case was quite a lad, and the question was the amount of damages. He was prepared to make certain proposals with a view to settling the case without a hearing. It had been a matter of extreme regret to the defendant, and at the time of the affair the defendant and the plaintiff were on the very best of terms, and were intimate friends. Whatever might be said about the negligences of the defendant nothing was intentional on his part, and something might be said of the negligence of the person who left the gun with the breach open, and a cartridge in it. He thought he should be able to prove that the defendant had never before in his life held a gun in his hand.

His Honour: Does that improve matters? The first time he ever held a gun in his hand, and he pointed it at the young girl, and pulled the trigger.

Mr Ellen: But that is not true I can prove your Honour.

Mr Phillips: Well, I know that is no defence. He may have had a gun in his hand, but he never pulled a trigger. It had never occurred to the defendant that the gun was loaded. Ignorance is no plea; but the weapon was one of peculiar construction, a converted rifle, and when the breach was not open the cartridge could not be seen.

At this point Mr Phillips handed the gun containing the fired cartridge to the judge. It would be noticed that the cartridge could not be seen when the breach was closed.

Mr Ellen said the cartridge even now was visible. When the gun was in the state it would be at the time of firing, and when the affair occurred, it would be brighter and shine more clearly.

Mr Pillips called attention to a statement of Mr Ellen that the cartridge was so far in the gun that it could not be drawn when the shooting party returned to the house at Rushden, and Arthur Berry laid down the loaded gun. Something should be said of the negligence of those careless persons who left guns about for silly young people to use.

His Honour: But two wrongs don't make a right.

Mr. Phillips: No, your honour. The young man was exceedingly sorry for what he had done. He was earning nothing.

Mr. Kllen: Oh, no!

Mr. Phillips said he was earning very little; only 12s. a week. Of course the judge could, and probably would, make an order upon him, but Mr Phillips would suggest that an attempt should should be made to settle the matter by bringing the third party into the matter, a friend of the defendant, who would make an offer for some sum to be paid down in settlement. In a few moments, he believed, a volunteer could be found.

His Honour: The only question I have to determine is whether the damages claimed are a penny too much.

Mr Ellen said Mr Phillips seemed to admit the defendant’s liability; and they might take evidence as to the damages.

Mr Phillips: Of course, I cannot say there is no culpable negligence.

His Honour: It is a mere question of whether £50 is too large a sum.

Mr Phillips said an offer was made.

Mr Ellen: £10 down has been offered, with costs. I cannot accept that.

In reply to His Honour Mr Ellen said the defendant was about 18 or 19.

The plaintiff, Miss Dunkley, said that as a result of the accident her left arm had been amputated. A part of her ear was also carried away. She was unable to leave Rushden for 9 weeks after the accident. She formerly worked at shoe fitting, and she used to earn about 15s. a week. Since the accident she had done no work at all.

After a conference between the two solicitors, Mr. Ellen said that they had managed to agree to a sum to be paid to the plaintiff. He added that he had been asked to state that in bringing the action, which was of course merely a civil action, though the plaintiff had suffered heavily and complained of great neglect, she did not allege any criminal intention.

His Honour: I am quite sure of that.

Mr Ellen: We have agreed to accept judgment £20 and costs, under a satisfactory arrangement which has not come before the Court.

The Registrar suggested the verdict should £20 1s., so as to carry costs on the higher scale, but Mr Ellen said he did not wish for it.

His Honour said that £20 was not one penny too much.

Judgement accordingly.

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