An angel or a policeman ?

Hertfordshire Mercury, 15 September 1900


On Saturday 8 September 1900 George Peter Leekey took his own life by strangling himself with his handkerchief in most unusual circumstances.  The incident took place at Mr Eyles’  shop of in High Street, Harpenden, where Leekey had been employed for about 6 weeks.  Prior to that he had been unemployed for about 6 months and had been in poor circumstances as a result.

Some years previously Leekey had been in India and South America, where he had had an attack of yellow fever.  It was reported that he had acted strangely since his return home, sometimes pacing up and down in his room all night.  In the week prior to his death he went to the police station and reported that his cash-box containing £1 and £10 of Mexican coins had been stolen.  P.S. Hyatt investigated the matter, but found no supporting evidence for the claim.  Leekey then admitted he had cut out a window himself after making the report to the police, but gave no reason for doing so.  Later he alleged that that he had been standing near Mr Eyles’ shop window when a policemen had snatched the key to the shop from him.  On being questioned he then said “if it wasn’t a policeman it was an angel or Mr Eyles”.

As a result of his hallucinations Mr Eyles gave him notice to leave on Saturday 8 September.  On that day Leekey went upstairs at about one thirty, but did not reappear.  A Mr Hannell was sent upstairs to see what he was doing, who reported that Leekey was lying on the floor face down.  Mr Eyles and two employees went up and found Leekey dead, having strangled himself with his handkerchief.  The Police and Dr Blake were sent for and his wife in London was telegraphed.

It transpired that Leekey had sent his wife a most peculiar letter, and she had not received a reply to her telegram asking him what the matter was.  Leekey had arranged for her and his family to move to Harpenden on the Friday before his suicide, but it appeared that had subsequently telegraphed the removal firm as they had not turned up.  This alarmed Mrs. Leekey, who on arrival found that her worst fears had been realised.

The inquest was held on Monday 10 September by Dr Lovell Drage, who remarked that this was the first time since he had been a coroner that it had been clearly proved that the person was of unsound mind.

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