One shot only

Hertfordshire Mercury, 1st August 1914


Mr Frederick Stevens (47), a harness maker and licensed victualler, of St Andrews Street, Hertford, had shot himself through the heart with a revolver.  For some years, the deceased had suffered from considerable heart trouble and, about a year ago, had suffered from a serious attack that had laid him low for several weeks.

Mr Stevens, a man of very jovial disposition, was well known in the town and throughout the district.  As a licensed victualler, he was tenant of the Red Lion Public House in St Andrews Street which had been occupied by his father and his grandfather before him.  He had served in the old Herts Volunteer Battalion for some years, being bugler to ‘A’ Company, and was, in later years, a non-commissioned officer in the Herts Royal Field Artillery.  He was also a very prominent member of the old Hertford Town band (now defunct) in which he was cornet soloist.

At the inquest, Arthur Frederick Stevens, son of the deceased, stated that at dinner time on the Monday his father had said that he felt very bad and nearly blind.  At 6:00pm on the same day, his father had been in the living room at the rear of the shop and had said that he felt very ‘dicky’.  The witness had gone into the rear yard with his little brother when he heard a bang “ the bursting of an electric light bulb.”  When he went into the house, he smelt gunpowder and, on going upstairs, found his father lying dead on the back bedroom floor with a revolver by his side.  He had had the revolver about 8 years.

Spencer Stevens, of 9 Dimsdale Road, Hertford, a harness maker in the deceased’s employ, but of no relation, said that he had been in the shop between 6:00pm and 6:30pm when the deceased had come in, passed a remark about the work he was doing, and then went into the house.  The witness then heard the report.  Very shortly afterwards, the son had come down the stairs and had told him what had happened.  On going upstairs, he found Mr Stevens lying on the floor apparently dead, with a revolver beside him.  There was a bullet wound in the chest.

Police Constable Pitcher stated that at about 7pm on the day in question, he had been called to the house of the deceased and had found him in the back bedroom, lying on his back on the floor, with his right hand extended.  There was a shot wound in the left breast, and both the shirt and waistcoat were burnt where the bullet had penetrated.  The revolver produced had been handed to him by the son.  It had been loaded in 5 chambers, 1 discharged and 4 undischarged.

Dr. H.S.W. Hall stated that he had been called at about 6:20pm and had found the deceased dead on his arrival.  His shirt was still smouldering, the skin on the left side was blackened and scorched, and there was a round, charred, hole in the waistcoat.  The shot must have been fired at very close range.

The Coroner said that the deceased had evidently been suffering in health for some time and was troubled by this on the Monday when he had been in pain.  He did not think the jury could come to any decision other than that the deceased had inflicted the wound upon himself.  The only question for them to decide was as to the state of his mind when he did it.  He felt that there was no doubt that the deceased had felt in considerable pain at the time and that it may have unhinged his mind for the time being.

The jury returned a verdict of ‘suicide during temporary insanity’ and the foreman said that they wished to express their deep sympathy with the family.  The Coroner said “I am sure I can join with you in that.”

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