Strange suicide in a water butt

Hertfordshire and Essex Observer, 12th June, 1915


On Friday night, 4th June 1915, Walter Sidney Griggs, 42, a painter living with his mother at 15 Whitley Road, Rye Park, who had lately been rather strange in his manner, was found head downwards in a water butt by his mother. She screamed for help and his brother, Herbert, got him out, tried artificial respiration but was unsuccessful. The inquest was held in the County Council Schools, Rye Park by Mr Philip R Longmore (District Coroner) and Mr G A Hitches was the Foreman of the Jury.

Mrs Mary Ann Griggs, of 15 Whitley Road, Rye Park, widow, said the deceased was her son, was 42 years of age and was a painter by trade. He had not been well for a long time. He had been away from work for a fortnight. He came home on the previous Thursday, about 10 pm, and went to bed. He remained in bed the next day, had his dinner in bed, and got up at about 5, had some tea, and went back to bed. About 10pm he said “Mother, I am going downstairs.”

She got out of bed after about a quarter of an hour, went to the backyard, and found him in the water butt, head downwards. She called to her other son for help. Deceased threatened to do away with himself nine years ago. Some little time ago he had a fall and cut his nose. He had been drinking rather recently.

Herbert Griggs, nursery hand, of 15 Whitley Road, deceased’s brother, said he last saw his brother on Sunday, May 30th, when he seemed all right. Witness was in bed on the previous Friday night, June 4th, when, hearing his mother screaming, he went to the back yard, saw the deceased in the water butt, pulled it over and got him out. He appeared to be dead. That was about 10.15.

Martha, wife of Thomas Bright, also of Whitley Road, said she saw deceased on the previous Thursday and told him she thought he ought to get to work and leave off the drink. She thought he seemed strange. She heard screams on the Friday night, went to No. 15, and saw deceased lying on the ground.

PC Angell said he was sent for about 10.30pm on Friday. He found deceased lying in the back yard at 15 Whitley Road, dead. He sent for Dr Appleford. The water butt was 18 inches across the top and 3 feet deep. It had been standing on the ground, under the spouting. He knew deceased, who had been very funny lately and had been on the drink.


Dr S H Appleford said he was called on the Friday night and found deceased lying on his back in the yard. Life was extinct and he was quite cold. Death was due to drowning. He attended Griggs two months ago for contusions and severe cuts across the nose. He did not think they affected him mentally. He seemed rather morose.

The Jury returned a verdict of “Suicide while in a state of temporary insanity.”

This page was added on 21/07/2015.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!