Clarence and Richmond Examiner - Tuesday 6 May 1873

Shocking Death Through an Overdose

An inquest was held at the European Hotel, Grafton on Monday 5 May 1873 before Mr. A Lardner, J.P., coroner, and a jury of twelve, concerning the cause of the death of one Richard Thomas Goddard, who had died suddenly on Sunday morning, from an overdose of intoxicating drinks.

The first witness examined was Sarah, the wife of Stephen Halloran, residing at Grafton, who testified that the deceased, Richard Thomas Goddard, who would have been eight years old in July next, was her son by a former husband.  Sarah had last seen him well and healthy at half-past four on Saturday afternoon, 3 May 1873.  Richard had never had any serious illness. 

About five o'clock on Saturday, Mrs Stokes brought, Richard Goddard home in her arms, as he was unable to stand.  Sarah asked her son what had happened to him, or if anyone had given him anything and he replied " Nobody, Mother, don't beat me."  He did not speak any further.

Richard was quiet until two o'clock on Sunday morning and Sarah thought he was sleeping.  He then became convulsed and continued so up until the time of his death at ten o'clock on Sunday morning.  At daylight on Sunday, Dr. Houison was summoned to see Richard.  The Doctor saw him twice prior to Richard's death.

Prior to Richard leaving home on Saturday afternoon, an old man, whose name Sarah did not know, came to her dwelling in a state of intoxication, and followed Sarah through the house into her back premises.  Sarah was frightened at such conduct and sent one of her children for Mrs. Coyle, to try and get him out.  He remained at the place about an hour and a half.  Richard being away from the home the latter part of this time.

After Mrs. Coyle got the old man away, he returned again and so she sent for the police.  The man had a black bottle in his coat, but Sarah could not say what it contained.  She saw no drink about while the man was in the house.  Nor did she believe that spirits could have been given to her son at that time without her knowledge, although Sarah was shut in her bedroom part of the time the man was there, during which he might have given boy drink without her knowledge.

When Richard was brought home he had all the appearance of being intoxicated.  Patsy Coyle, a boy about ten years of age, told Sarah that Richard had informed him that the old man had given him some rum, and that he had got more at the black's camp, just before taking ill.  Sarah had not told anyone that she had ordered the boy to throw out a bottle supposed to contain rum or brandy.

Eliza, wife of Joseph Stokes, residing at Mr. Kritsch's, Grafton, testified that on Saturday afternoon she saw Richard at the corner of Prince and Dobie Streets, stagger and fall several times.  As some horsemen were coming by, and Richard appeared to be in danger, she picked him up and carried him home.  Richard appeared to be stupidly drunk and was abusive to Mrs Stokes whilst she carried him home.  When she took him home his mother Sarah shook him, and threatened to beat him.  His mother and a man, in a red shirt, were locked in a back room, and she had to call several times before the door was opened. 

In answer to his mother's question as to "who had given him drink?", Richard replied, "The old man who is in there", indicating the back room out of which the mother had just come.  Mrs Halloran asked her son if the blacks had given him drink and her son replied "No - the old man there".  Mrs Stokes did not see any spirits, but she had the impression from Mrs Halloran's conduct that she had been drinking.

Mrs Halloran made no complaint to Mrs Stokes of the man being there, nor did there seem any desire to get him away.  When she next saw the boy it was Sunday morning when he was in a dying state.

Mrs Catherine Coyle swore that she was called upon to get a man away out of Mrs Halloran's house.  He was known as Old Slavien.  She got him away but he returned again.  She did not see any drinking going on and she was only in the house a few minutes.  She did not see Richard until he was dying.

Daniel Coyle proved he left Old Slavien at Halloran's on Saturday afternoon, half drunk.  At that time Slavien had a black bottle with him, but he did not know its contents.  Mrs Halloran had told him that Old Slavien had left a bottle there and she had ordered her eldest son to throw it away.

Margaret Kritsch swore that Old Slavien called at the European Hotel on Saturday afternoon, where he had some drink and took away with him half a pint of rum and a glass of brandy mixed in a black bottle.

James Houison, M.D., stated that when he saw Richard at half past eight o'clock on Sunday morning, he was convulsed, the pupils dilated, and he was informed that Richard had been in that state since about two o'clock that morning without intermission.  He ordered a warm bath, and saw the boy again in an hour, when he found him sinking fast.  When he called at noon, he found him dead.  From the symptoms before death, and the appearance of the body after, he was of the opinion that death was caused by congestion of the brain, such as would be produced by an overdose of raw spirit.  There were no external injuries visible that could have produced such symptoms.  He did not observe the smell of spirits upon the deceased.  There would be no way of proving the presence of spirits so long after death.

The jury after hearing the foregoing evidence arrived at the following verdict:

"That the deceased Richard Thomas Goddard met his death at Grafton, on the 4th May, from an overdose of intoxicating drink, taken the day previous but by whom the spirits were administered there was not sufficient proof to satisfy the jury”.