Woman's lonely death near Codicote

Hertfordshire Mercury, 13th November 1915


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At Potter’s Heath, near Codicote, on Thursday, an inquiry was held touching on the death of an elderly woman named Jemima Craft, which took place the previous day in a cottage at Potter’s Heath.

The chief witness was Joseph Simper, a gamekeeper, in whose house the inquest was held, and which is almost opposite the cottage occupied by the deceased.  He had known the woman for nearly two years, and she had told him her age was 78.  Her brother used to live with her, but he died last March, and since then she had lived alone.  He last saw her alive on Tuesday morning; she was then leaning against the door.

On Wednesday morning he noticed that the blind was not altered; and after remarking to his wife that he did not think Miss Craft was so well, he went to the window of the cottage, and saw the deceased lying near the door, quite naked.  He tried to open the door, but could not, so sent for the police.  The deceased, he added, usually had old rags round her, and she appeared to have pulled them off before she died.

P.c. Day, of Codicote, said he received information of the death of Jemima Craft, and on going to the cottage found her lying against the door in a nude state, except that she had her stockings on.  The body was covered with vermin, and there was no bed linen of any kind about.  There was a large quantity of feathers and rags about the house.

On a window sill the witness found the sum of 14s. 41/2d..  There was a small quantity of bread, butter, and tea on the table.  The deceased had received her old age pension up to date.  Both the deceased and her late brother were most peculiar in their habits, and would not let anyone do anything for them.

Dr B. W. Thomas, of Welwyn, said he examined the body and found no evidence of a struggle.  The body was only poorly nourished, and was covered with vermin.  He attributed the death to natural causes, accelerated by the cold night.  To a great extent it was due to her self-neglect.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony.

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