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Old 04-03-2010, 02:23 AM
Dave O Dave O is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 294
Default A Medical Witness Puzzle: Hannah Rees/Susannah Bees

I've noticed something interesting in Thomas Hammond's trial, linked in the post above. Going over discrepancies in the financial records, Macdonald refers to an inquest for "Hannah Rees", which was held on 17 June 1891. He cites paying a guinea to Dr. Phillips for performing a postmortem. There's no mention of an additional guinea for his testimony at this inquest--this leads me to think he didn't attend, and this would have been the point of Macdonald bringing him up, because the records had been altered to show that he had been paid for testifying. But of course I can't say without having read an account of the inquest. I should say that I'm assuming that this Dr. Phillips is Dr. George Bagster Phillips; this may not be the case.

When I think about possible non-attendance at an inquest and Dr. Phillips, I think of Mary Kelly. There we see that Macdonald hasn't informed Phillips to attend (Phillips has to ask whether he's wanted). I have always thought that, besides indicating to the jury that more medical evidence would be forthcoming, this bit of business between Macdonald and Phillips is an indication that Macdonald initially attended to adjourn the inquest for detailed medical evidence. After all, the cost of medical evidence, as insufficient as it was, had to have been the largest expense of the inquest (Phillips would have received two guineas), and it doesn't make sense that Macdonald would intend to hold the Kelly inquest in a single sitting without informing Phillips to come. Besides justifying the expense, without Phillips present, how could the cause of death in this case be determined?

So naturally when I saw this Hannah Rees case--an examination performed by Phillips but no testimony (apparently)--well, I wondered whether I had got things right. In other words, a look at Hannah Rees might shed some light on the Mary Kelly case. Then I noticed this:

The next witness in Hammond's case was a doctor practicing in Bow named Walter Barber. He cites several cases where he was paid one guinea for inquest testimony, but although there are signed vouchers indicating that he was also paid an additional guinea for performing an autopsy in each of the referenced cases, Barber testifies that he performed no postmortems and wasn't paid for any (Hammond has performed some financial surgery of his own). The last case Barber mentions took place on 17 June 1891, and the deceased was "Susannah Bees".

Same woman, but with a garbled name? Same case, with Barber testifying but Phillips, performing the postmortem, isn't there? If so, how come? I can't find a newspaper account either way, so I'm left with a lot of questions. Did the inquest take place in Bow, where Barber practiced? Bow was K division, I believe.

Does anyone have access to death registries for June 1891? Perhaps the name or (names) can be clarified, at least.


Last edited by Dave O : 04-03-2010 at 02:28 AM.
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