A sad case of suicide

Hertfordshire Mercury, 17th August 1918


Walking along the bank of the River Lea at Waltham Abbey, Constable Bellerby, of the War Department Police, saw a woman ahead of him suddenly disappear.  He ran to the spot and, seeing bubbles in the water, plunged in fully dressed.  He found the body, but was unable to extricate it from the weeds.  It was eventually recovered by drags.  The woman, who was well dressed and about 45 years of age, was a stranger to the district.  An inquest was held on Thursday at the New Inn, Waltham Abbey.

The inquest was held at the New Inn, Waltham Abbey, into the circumstances attending the death of Mary Ann Condon Waters (51), of Church Lane, Hornsey, whose body was recovered from the River Lea between Waltham Abbey and Cheshunt, as recorded above.  Walter Waters, the bereaved husband, secretary to an Insurance Society, said that his wife had suffered from nervous attacks.  She had been advised by her doctor to go for long walks.  He (her husband) had seen her alive on Saturday morning when they had breakfasted together, and she had appeared in good health.  She had told him that she was going for one of her long walks.

Police Constable Bellerby, of the War Department Police, said that on the Sunday evening, he had been walking along the bank of the River Lea between Cheshunt and Waltham Abbey when, about 200 yards ahead of him, he saw a woman walking alone in the same direction.  There was nobody else about.  Suddenly, she disappeared and, as she did not come into sight again, he hurried to the spot.  Some 20ft from the bank, he noticed air bubbles rising to the surface of the water.  There was no sign of a struggle, and the bank was not broken away.

As he was a good swimmer, he threw off his coat and hat and dived three times into the water.  He was considerably impeded by weeds and, although he made 3 attempts, he was unable to recover the body as it was entangled in the weeds.  While he was still in the water, Mr Hall came along and he called to him to see that drags were brought at once.  Soon afterwards, a Constable arrived with the drags, and the body was recovered with their aid.

The Coroner said that the witness was worthy of every commendation for his gallant and plucky action, and that he (the Coroner) would see to it that the deed was mentioned in the proper quarter.

Doctor Damer Priest said that death was due to drowning.

The jury returned a verdict of found drowned and expressed appreciation of Constable Bellerby’s conduct, which they considered deserved official recognition.

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