Did he mean to cut his throat, or not ?

Hertfordshire Mercury, 6th July 1918


Frank Bloom Sharp (51), tailor, of Buntingford, surrendered to his bail on a charge of attempting to commit suicide by cutting his throat on the 18th of April.  Mr St. John Morrow appeared for the prosecution and Mr Waldrett for the defence.  The defendant pleaded not guilty.

Mr Morrow said that his defendant was a tailor living in High Street, Buntingford, and that for some time prior to the date upon which this alleged offence was committed he had been in a somewhat depressed condition and, at 8:00 on Thursday morning, the 18th of April, his son made a communication to Mrs Sharp, in consequence of which she went down into the cellar and there saw the defendant in a stooping position.

She turned him over and found a wound in his throat and some blood on the cellar floor, and a knife and razor beside him.  With assistance, he was got upstairs and a doctor was fetched.  The doctor, on examination, found two severe wounds but, fortunately for the defendant, they were not in a vital place.

Mrs Sharp, wife of the defendant, said that on 18th April she had a communication made to her by her son and that she then went into the cellar and saw her husband in a kneeling position.  She turned him over and saw some blood on  the floor.  The doctor was then sent for.  Her husband had been feeling unwell for some time.  In cross-examination, the witness said that her husband had been worried by business matters, and over his son who was an officer in the army.

George William Reeves, a workman in the defendant’s employ, said that when the defendant gave him his work to do in the morning in question he had said that he felt ‘rotten’.

Oliver Christopher Woods, a baker’s assistant, said that he was called to the baker’s shop on the morning in question and, on going down into the cellar, he found the defendant lying in a pool of blood.  He felt his pulse, found he was still alive, and ran for the doctor.  He saw the knife and razor on the floor and handed them to the police.

Police Constable Mapley said that he took possession of the razor, which had the handle broken off, and a small pen-knife, which he produced.  The defendant made no reply when arrested and charged on the 3rd of May.

Dr R.W. Fell, who described the wounds, said that the vital arteries were not severed.  The defendant was in a dazed condition and did not seem to know where he was, but he subsequently made good recovery.  The defendant, whom he had attended, had been in a very depressed state.  When he asked the defendant how this affair had happened he did not seem to know anything about it.

On being further questioned, he said that he had woken up in the morning feeling very ill, saw to the work for the day, then lost his head and did not remember anything more.  He asked him why he did it and he did not seem to realise then that he had done anything.  He was in a state of delirium at the time.

In cross-examination, the doctor said that the defendant did not feel any pain, but under ordinary circumstances his wounds would have been horribly painful.  This was due to his mental aberration and therefore, at the time he committed this act, he did not know what he was doing.  This condition was quite temporary, and the defendant was now quite all right.  The defendant was a very temperate man.

Mr Waldrett submitted that as the defendant was not aware of what he was doing he could not in law be held responsible for wilfully attempting to commit suicide.  Counsel quoted legal opinions in support of his contention.

The Chairman said that there was no evidence that the defendant intended to destroy himself.  There was no threat beforehand as there was in many of these cases, and he thought he could leave it to the jury to decide.

The jury found the defendant not guilty and he was discharged.

The Chairman said that although the Court expected no other verdict, it was no excuse for the defendant’s conduct.  In these troublous times it behoved all men to be strong and full of courage to meet the trials of everyday life.  The defendant had placed himself in great danger, and he hoped he would never do such a thing again.

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