Suicide by Drowning in New River

Hertfordshire Mercury, 28th April and 5th May 1900


On Wednesday 25 April 1900, P.C. Cooper and Alfred Phipps, a foreman employed by the New River Company, found the body of Miss Ethel Thurgood in the New River near Bury Green Farm.  Miss Thurgood, aged 23 and lately a cook to Dr Nichol Evans of Turners Hill, was on notice to leave her employment on April 25th.  She was known to have left her employer’s house on the evening of 24th May at about 9 p.m. and was not seen again.  There was no indication of violence to the body.

The inquest into her death was held on Friday 4 May at the George Inn, Cheshunt, by Mr T J Sworder.

Her father, Alfred Thurgood of Bishop’s Stortford said he had not seen his daughter for almost 12 months and did not know that there was anything wrong.  On 25 April her mother received a letter in her daughter’s handwriting in which she had asked if life was worth living and Mr Thurgood sent a telegram to say he would come on the next train to be with her.  However, by the time he got to Cheshunt he found his daughter had been pulled out of the river and was dead.  He did know if she had been keeping company with anyone or who had got her into trouble.

Dr Evans said that Miss Thurgood had been his cook and had been employed by him for nearly two years.  On the morning of Tuesday 24 April he spoke to her about her condition and she admitted she was ‘enceinte‘ (pregnant).  She had not seemed excited about her pregnancy and had cried a little but had not appeared suicidal.  She admitted to Dr Evans that the father of the child was a page boy aged 15 or 16 years who was previously engaged in the household but had left the previous November.  Mrs Evans immediately gave her notice to leave the next day and told her she must write to her mother.

Dr Evans went to London at 4.30 p.m. that day and on his return at about 11 30 p.m. his wife told him the girl had disappeared.  It was rumoured she had gone to the station to find a porter to collect her boxes.  However, Mrs Evans had been there and to the police station, but nothing had been heard of Miss Thurgood.  They had waited up until about 1am but there was no news.

On 25 April at 5.20 a.m. a Police Constable visited the Evans’ house with a hat, which Dr Evans’ daughter identified as belonging to Miss Thurgood.  Initially, the policeman said they were going to drag the river but at 7.30 a.m. he returned and asked Dr Evans if could identify a body they had found, which turned out to be that of Miss Thurgood.

William Clinch, coachman to Dr Evans, said he had not noticed anything wrong on the day Miss Thurgood disappeared.  He also said he had not seen any ‘familiarities’ between Miss Thurgood and the page boy.  The page boy had lived in the house for about a month.  Lena Brooks, a nursemaid in the Evans’ household, said Miss Thurgood had told her about six weeks ago that she had been intimate with a young man who had been there six months.

P.C. Cooper said that on the night of April 24th he had received information that a young woman had gone missing from Turners Hill.  He carried out a search of the river banks and at about 4.45 a.m. he found a hat on the bank between College Road and Theobald’s Lane.  The body was subsequently found about 30 yards from where the hat was lying.

Dr W E Clarke said he examined the body between 6-7 a.m. and there was evidence of drowning.  He estimated that the deceased, later identified as Miss Thurgood, had been dead for six or seven hours.

The jury’s verdict was that Miss Thurgood had committed suicide by drowning whilst suffering from temporary insanity caused by the trouble she was in.



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