Reported in the “The Hants and Sussex News” on the 18th September 1916.
INQUEST OPENED AND ADJOURNED.
The first stage in the investigation of the tragic circumstances of the sensational shooting affair at Headley which resulted in the death of Emma Smith, the wife of James Smith, engine driver, employed by-a Petersfield steam roller and threshing engine proprietor, and living at Rockpit Cottages, Liss, was reached last Wednesday, when the inquest on the body of the unfortunate woman was opened at the Alton Workhouse by Mr. Henry White, Coroner for North East Hants. Mr. M. P. Stoodley was chosen foreman of the jury.
The Coroner, in a brief address to the jury, said they would of course have to give very careful an accurate attention to the evidence. He wished to say at once that they had probably heard that the case looked like being a serious one, but he proposed on that occasion to take only formal evidence of identity, so that the body might be buried. This was a case in which the husband should have an opportunity of coming before them if he so wished, and it would be wrong for them to go fully into the enquiry and take evidence of a substantial nature unless he had the opportunity of being present. The doctor was of the opinion that the man would be able to appear, if he chose, on the following Wednesday, and he proposed to adjourn the inquest until that day.
Miss Elsie Amelia Smith, aged 16, daughter, said the body was that of her mother, Emma Smith, who lived at Rockpit Cottage, East Liss. She was 55 years old; Witness thought she would have been 56 in November next. Her father was an engine driver on a steam threshing machine.
No other evidence was taken, and the inquest was adjourned till to-day (13th inst.) at 1.45 p.m.
Exactly what took place on the day of the tragedy will not transpire until the adjourned inquest to-day, but the brief facts appear to be that Smith met his wife in the vicinity of the Arford Stores, owned by Mr. A. Bellinger, about a quarter past four in the afternoon. Mrs. Smith, it should be mentioned, had left her husband some time ago, and for the past few weeks had been acting in the capacity of housekeeper to William Holden, a bricklayer. Some argument arose between Smith and his wife, and Smith was heard to ask her to return home with him. Apparently she refused, and suddenly revolver shots were heard and the woman ran screaming into Mr. Chuck’s garden nearby, followed by her husband. As she ran Smith caught hold of her arm and fired three shots at close quarters at his wife. A short, but terrific, struggle then took place, and eventually the woman wrenched herself free and ran in the direction of Bellinger’s shop. Smith fired again and followed her into the shop, where he fired another shot. As he fired this last shot he stood upon the threshold and before the people who had rushed up at the sound of the first shots could in any way interfere, he turned the revolver on himself, and pressing the weapon just behind the ear, fired twice. He then fell across the doorstep. P.C. Mileham, who had heard the first shots, arrived on the scene just as Smith had fallen down. Dr. Crowther Smith, of Stanford, was at once telephoned for, and rendered what assistance he could. It was then ascertained that both husband and wife still breathed although, owing to the terrible nature of the woman’s injuries it was feared she would not last long, and as a matter of fact she passed away on Monday. After the injuries of both had been attended to, they were removed in charge of P.S Clark and P.O. Montague to Alton Infirmary in Mr. Cotton’s motor car. Upon admission they were treated by Dr. Leslie, who found Mrs. Smith to be suffering from gunshot wounds in the neck, while Smith had received two just behind the ear.
There is every prospect of Smith recovering from his self-inflicted injuries. The weapon which he used was a new one, but was of only small bore, and to that must be attributed the fact that both man and woman were not killed outright. Smith is 56 years of age, and has five children, the youngest of whom is 16. One son has had twelve years service in the Royal Marines, and a daughter recently lost her husband in France.
The funeral of the deceased woman took place at Liss last Thursday, the remains, which were brought from Alton by a motor vehicle, being interred in the churchyard adjoining the Parish Church. The Rector the Rev. 0. S. Walford) officiated, and the only persons present were Mr. W. Smith (son), Mrs. Hounsome and Miss Elsie Smith (daughters), and Mrs. Clark.