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Dr Bond and time of death estimates

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  • Dr Bond and time of death estimates

    I have recently been going through some of the National Archives CRIM files of several cases where Dr Bond was called as an expert witness, including the Masset case I mentioned recently on another thread about victim photography.

    Dr Bond appears to have been brought in to the Masset case to give an opinion on the estimated time of death of the child and what factors would interfere with an accurate time of death estimate being made.

    Manfred Louis Masset, aged 3, was found dead in a station ladies W.C. cubicle, naked and wrapped only in a shawl. Manfred was an illegitimate child and had been fostered out to paid foster parents from birth. Manfred's mother, Louise, had recently requested his return to her so she could take him to live with his father inFrance and she collected him from his carers on the day of his death. His mother was the prime suspect and the time of Manfred's death was crucial to the mother's alibi.

    Dr James Patrick Fennell was the first doctor called to Dalston Junction Station, where he examined the child's body and noted his wounds and the surroundings. Dr Fennell also did the post mortem on Manfred, in conjunction with another doctor; Charles Howard Jackman, who was the Acting Divisional Surgeon. The two doctors disagreed on the time of death and Dr Bond sided with the Divisional surgeon, while also stating that estimating time of death was very difficult.

    Interestingly, in their signed statements from the CRIM files, given on oath at the Magistrates Court prior to the Old Bailey Trial, both Dr Fennell and Dr Jackman wrote " I made a post mortem examination" in conjunction with Dr (naming each other) suggesting the Acting Divisional Surgeon was not in sole charge of the post mortem and both men seem to have been working together, with equal responsibility on the official post mortem.

    I have put my own transcript of the three doctors' statements, given at the magistrates court, below.

  • #2
    James Patrick Fennell on oath

    I live at 20 Dalston Lane + a, a registered medical practitioner. On 27th October I was called to Dalston Junction at 6.55 p.m. to see a dead child. It was lying in the first closet (marked with a green cross) of the ladies' waiting room no 3 platform. The head was towards the window. The trunk was warm, the arms, legs + feet cold. It was loosely covered except the head and face with a black woollen shawl. Rigor mortis had not set in- that sets in in a child of that age- not within four hours.The child certainly had not been dead more than four hours. The condition of the head + face is shown by this photograph (0) as to the position and number of bruises fairly well. It shows them all. There were wounds. A bruise extended from the centre of the left eyebrow to the outside of the right eyebrow. They were recent and must have required considerable violence + with a hard susbstance.

    There had not been much bleeding. This brick was there + might have inflicted the wounds + bruise. At one corner of it was a minute trace of what might have been blood + a hair similar to that in the childs eyebrows. Before making a post mortem I noticed the lips were blue- the tongue slightly protruded between the teeth-the upper lip + tip of the nose were bruised. They indicated pressure over the mouth and nose. The blue lips and protruding tongue indicated eath by suffocation.

    I ordered the child to be conveyed to the mortuary. The next night [morning originally written and struck through] at 10 0'clock in conjunction with Dr. Jackson I made a post mortem examination. I formed the opinion that death was due to suffocation and the [external written and crossed through] bruises and wounds were caused by violence.
    The suffocation arose from pressure on the mouth + nose. I found nothing in the body of the child to account for it being choked and no internal or external signs of strangulation. It was a well nourished child with a good deal of fat on its body.
    From what I saw I should say probably about an hour had elapsed between the death and my seeing it. It is not an easy matter to estimate the time.

    By prisoners sol.r [un recorded question]

    The lavatory was cold. It was a cold draughty place.I remember giving evidence before the coroner. I may have said "He was still warm + so recently dead " I have no doubt I said it. If a child was left in that cold draughty closet with no clothes I would expect the arms + legas to get quickly cold. They were colder in life but not quite cold. Colder than if the body had been lying there half-an-hour. It was completely covered by the shawl except the head and face. I formed the opinion that the child had been killed at that station + had been dead at least half an hour. I said before the coroner I thought the child had certainly been killed within an hour. The period with which rigor mortis sets in varies. Struggling might hasten it. If there had been much violent exercise of the muscle immediately before death they stiffen sooner.

    re examined

    I am not certain that the child died within an hour of my seeing it. It is not a subject upon which as a medical man I could be certain.
    [signed] James P Fennell

    Charles Howard Jackman on oath

    I live at 69 K????dale Road . I am a medical practitioner + acting divisional surgeon. On 26th October last in conjunction with last witness [Fennell] I made a post mortem examination of the body of Manfred Louis Masset. I have heard Dr Fennell's evidence as to the cause of death and I agree with it. I have heard is evidence with regard to heat remaining in the body at 7 pm + the fact rigor mortis had not set in. I am of opinion the child had been dead at least 2 hours.

    By prisn. sol r. [un recorded question to Jackman]

    I heard Dr Fennell's evidence today. I had no opportunity of judging from the appearance + temperature of the body how long it had been dead.
    Dr Fennell did not tell me what the temperature was. He said there was no sign of rigor. He said it was in a W.C. He didn't say [it struck through] the W.C. was cold. Lying in a cold draughty place would interfere with the temperature + so would the fact of being without clothes. When I formed the opinion as to 2 hours I was not aware teh place was cold and draughty.
    [signed C Howard Jackman]

    Dr Thomas Bond on oath

    I am a F.R.C.S. + consulting surgeon Westminster Hospital. I was formerly for many years Lecturer on Forensic Medicine. I reside at 7 the Sanctuary, Westminster. I have heard Mr Fennell's evidence as to the temperature of the body of the dead child this answer to question put by Mr Newton as to the draught + cold character of the place where the body was found also as to the absence of clothes and the fact the floor is of wood.
    I think the most probable time of death is about 2 hours before Dr Fennell saw it. There can be no certainty, absolutely none.

    by ???? [un recorded question put to Bond]

    I observe the shawl is very porous + partly transparent + would only form a slight protection against wind or draught but a good deal of protection in comparatively still air. The difficulty of fixing the time is increased by not seeing the body + by having no temperature to judge one. I do not think it is possible to say the child had been killed within the hour.
    Dr. Fennell had greater opportunity of judging.

    by magistrate [un recorded question to Bond.]
    Without having the exact temperature one can't make an exact estimate. It is a very difficult question. I certainly could not ???? myself to 1/2 an hour in the case of a body I had seen + it would be difficult to do so within an hour. It is not usual to take the temperature in such cases but it would be prudent to do so.
    [signed] Thomas Bond.


    • #3
      The arguments on time of death continued at the Old Bailey trial and I think perhaps Dr Bond comes across as a bit more arrogant in those court transcripts because of the way the evidence has been taken down. He had probably been called in to give an opinion on TOD because there was some disagreement between the two doctors who had done the post mortem and in the course of his evidence he obviously would have been asked about his experience in this area compared to an average practitioner but it comes over as though he is just bragging


      • #4
        Thank you Debs
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        • #5
          Hi Deb's and thanks for posting this.

          You know, no matter how long ago it has been the murder of a child like this is utterly heart breaking. But as you undoubtedly also know, studying the medicos of interest during this period sadly involved what appears to be a disproportionate amount of child mortality. While Bond was considered a forensic expert (and as noted he wasn't humble about it) Phillips gained a reputation in detecting deliberate neglect and sometimes poisoning of infants and toddlers... Sad.

          The fact that both Drs. Fennel and Jackson testified that each officially conducted the autopsy probably had to do more with professional courtesy in an awkward situation. By the end of the 19th century the police surgeon had evolved into prominence in murder investigations - hence Jackson's appearance and probably summons at the autopsy. Nevertheless, the physician initially called to the scene technically had control of the body, so both got paid the 2 guineas for the postmortem, although to avoid repetition and confusion one probably assisted the other in the procedure.

          On the time of death, certainly Fennel had the advantage there ( despite Bond's not so subtle charge of inexperience - compared to him) as he was the only of the three at the scene. This didn't deter Jackson or Bond from offering their own different opinions, but notice Jackson hedged his bets when cross- examined citing that Fennel hadn't shared certain information with him.

          While Bond tooted his own horn and sided with Jackson on a longer time, he pulled back a little as well at the trial.

          Interesting for sure. I would be interested on your take on Bond in this matter Debs.
          Best Wishes,
          Cris Malone
          "Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist."


          • #6
            Hi Cris,

            Thank you very much for your input on this. I always appreciate and value your opinions.

            Yes, sadly a lot of the LVP cases involved deaths of young children. This case is quite an unusual and harrowing one compared to most other child murders I have come across before because of the callous, cold blooded pre-meditation and apparently meticulous planning that took place by the mother who did it.

            Thanks for the pointers about the responsibility of Divisional Surgeons etc. I havenít come across a case before where both doctors state they have done a post mortem , usually when several doctors attend a post mortem, which is more common than I thought, one or other are described as assisting. I like to make a note of unusual cases where something different to what I understand, or is regularly stated to be the normal routine occurs and try and understand why.

            Thanks for the information about Dr Phillips. Yes, sadly all too many children were a neglected inconvenience. I donít doubt Phillips expertise and capabilities in this area.Dr Bond seems to have been involved with many death through abortion related cases that survive in the CRIM files and horrifically, murders of newly born children. The instrument damaged uterus of an 1889 case he was involved with ended up in the Pathological Museum at Westminster Hospital. At that time Hebbert was curator of the museum.

            I do think Bond comes over as arrogant in the Old Bailey case but wonder if perhaps that is more to do with the court stenographer recording Bondís answer to what might be an unrecorded question about his experience and qualifications for being able to give another opinion on estimating time of death? Bond does say that seeing the body in situation gives Dr Fennell an advantage at estimating TOD and that Dr Fennell had not taken a temperature which the other doctors were able to work with, making it difficult for them to give an accurate estimate. That could be a slight dig at Fennell and him not having the same forensic expertise or training, but equally it could be Bond explaining simply why he couldnít put the TOD within the hour of being found, as Fennell had, given that he personally hadnít see the body?

            Iím still trying to weigh Bond up in my own mind to be honest .. Bond seems to have certainly gained a reputation of going against other doctors opinions and Iím always on the look out for cases that support or contradict that opinion.

            His colleagues certainly thought very highly of him and were sure that he would be more hurt by being criticised for his lack of skill with horses than criticism of his medical skills. If only Hebbert had given an opinion on Bond! Hebbert was off to pastures new and working in Boston by 1892, which is probably when he got involved with Dr Harris.


            • #7
              Hi Deb's,

              I agree that the part of Bond's testimony expousing his qualifications was probability led by unrecorded questions from the prosecutor to add weight to his testimony - something Iím sure Bond was willing to volunteer. While admitting his disadvantage at not seeing the victim in situ, and unless I read it wrong, he apparently was going only from the previous testimonies of both Fennell and Jackson and other witnesses. Whether or not they shared their notes with him is not clear, but they apparently had not shared their own notes with each other. Nevertheless, at the Old Bailey, and apparently as a result of challenges by the defense counsel, Bond placed himself as more qualified than Dr. Fennell, who was a mere ďgeneral practitioner.Ē

              If I may be permitted to add a little more perspective, this is not surprising. Bond notwithstanding, the evolution of medical pathology had led to a divide between those in the medical professions and a further riff in relations between the coroner and medical witnesses. To ďforensic expertsĒ such as Bond - and some coroners as well - general practitioners were on the low rung of the ladder. Already for more than a decade, Bond had served as a special medical witness at the behest of Westminster Coroner John Troutbeck at many of his inquests, regardless who the original attending physician was. And this was a method Troutbeck would enhance further after Bond's death, igniting one of the most controversial episodes in British medical jurisprudence since Thomas Wakley.

              After the death of Braxton Hicks, coroner for the large Southwestern District of London in 1902, the county council appointed Troutbeck to the position. This was not without controversy. Troutbeck already had a reputation for bending the rules a little in cases involving high profile individuals, including holding private inquests. And he would bend them some more.

              As part of the same session that brought about Troutbeckís appointment, the county council expressed that there were too many unnecessary inquests and that general practitioners were largely inefficient at autopsies. Their recommendation was to place a well qualified pathologist in each district to be available in cases of a special nature. Of course, this was right down Troutbeck's alley. He had been using Bond in pretty much the same capacity at Westminster and it wasn't long before he found his own pathologist here as well.

              Troutbeck chose Austrian born Dr. Ludwig Freyburger. Out of 23 inquests at Battersea alone, Freyburger performed the necropsies in 16 of them. While that by itself may not have been enough to arouse the ire of the medical community, the fact that Freyburger was not a resident physician certainly did (at least Bond was a resident at Westminster.) Furthermore, general practitioners who had been the attending physicians for the deceased soon were lodging complaints that they were shut out of the autopsies. Both were seen as violations of Section 21 of the 1887 Coroner's Act on the use of medical witnesses. Most important was the loss of revenue for local practitioners attending the deceased. Their only compensation had often been the 2 Guineas for conducting the autopsy and providing medical testimony at the inquisition.

              It didn't take long for the Lancet, the prominent medical journal originally founded by Wakley, and one that had openly advocated the requirement of the coroner himself to be a licensed physician, to sound the hue and cry about Troutbeck. They would be followed to a lesser degree by the British Medical Journal

              The matter would eventually end up in front of the Lord Chancellor, the only individual a coroner was answerable to. But after hearing the complaints of a special committee of general practitioners, the 80 year old Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Halsbury, vacillated. He considered the provisions in the Coroner's Act regarding the use by the coroner of medical witnesses to be mere suggestions and not something a coroner had to rigidly adhere to. Even though some slight compromises were made, the issue was left unresolved and Troutbeck kept his job. Indeed, he was emboldened to write his own treatise on the history and duties of the coroner.

              Throughout his career, Troutbeck managed to remain untouchable and continued to advocate for a special pathologist right up until his untimely death in 1912. I believe Thomas Bond would have been very proud of his old friend.
              Best Wishes,
              Cris Malone
              "Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist."


              • #8
                Hi Cris
                Thanks very much for all the information.
                It's all very interesting and certainly helps put things in to perspective.


                • #9
                  Hi Chris,

                  When discussing coroner John Troutbeck I think it is important to remember that he became coroner for Westminster at the very early age (for a coroner) of 28.

                  I think this may have led some of his contemporaries to resent his new thinking on how things should be done.



                  • #10
                    Hi John,
                    Good point. Yes, he certainly was young and considering his lineage it would be easy for some to construe that patronage was involved. This was something he was openly very proud of (his lineage,) to the extent that when he died at 52, his ashes were taken back to the ancestral home of his grandfather at Dacre, Cumberland, in the Lake District.

                    I have little doubt that he was perceived to curry favors at Westminster. The press disliked him and accused him of excluding them from certain inquests for a reason - a less than vague inference that he was protecting the elite from scandal. In one case, involving the son of a prominent politician who actually had owned the land Stonehenge was on, Troutbeck managed to convince the jury that an accidental death had occurred, instead of suicide (the deceased had shot himself with a pistol.)

                    Another thing that fueled Troutbeck's opposition was his inclination to not only make the case for specialized pathologists in extraordinary cases, but his severely criticizing general practitioners in particular at public lectures. At one such event, he mentioned an inquest involving a man who was stabbed in the heart with a dagger. The physician attending the deceased had nevertheless proclaimed that the man had died of cardiac arrest. Well... technically, I reckon he was

                    It got quite comical when the counsel for the British Medical Association countered with an incident regarding a decapitation on the South-Western Railway, submitting that “from one's knowledge of English history, there was not much doubt, when a man was decapitated, as to the cause of death; so was it really necessary for Dr Freyberger to be brought down from Regent's Park Road to say that what this man died of was that his head was found on one side of the line and
                    his body on the other?”

                    Adding to the BMA’s interpretation of the Coroner's Act, their solicitor also questioned how Freyburger “could in any way be described as being in actual practice near the place of death.”

                    The solicitor for the London County Counsel, representing Troutbeck's side, said, “that in so far as he carried out post-mortem examinations there, he could be so described."

                    His adversary quickly answered that “the practice of medical men was among the living, not among the dead. If Dr Freyberger was said to be in practice in Battersea, then all his patients, fortunately or unfortunately for them, were dead before he got there.”*

                    *Remarks in quotation come from:
                    Mr Troutbeck as the surgeon's friend: The coroner and the doctors—an Edwardian comedy - D. Zuck.,1995, pg-276.
                    Best Wishes,
                    Cris Malone
                    "Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist."