Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Bedford > The Inquest on Hubert Vere

The Inquest on Hubert Vere

35 The Grove in June 2009 - former home of Hubert Vere
35 The Grove in June 2009 - former home of Hubert Vere

Bedfordshire Mercury 21st July 1883 page 8: article on the murder of Eleanor McKay and suicide of Hubert Vere at the Ship paddock, Saint Cuthbert's


"The Coroner now proceeded to swear in the same jury, with the same foreman, to inquire into the death of Mr. Hubert Vere. The Coroner said that it would be unnecessary to recapitulate the evidence, and he would simply call upon the witnesses to state that they adhered to the evidence which they had already given. The object of this inquiry would be more particularly directed as to the unfortunate man's state of mind, when he committed the rash act, and on that would depend whether they came to the conclusion that he killed himself in an unsound state of mind or whether he died feloniously by his own hand. If the jury came to the latter conclusion it would be a most painful matter, and one which it had never been his lot to arrive at. The parties most deeply interested, however, were represented by Mr. Mitchell, who would be given an opportunity of addressing the jury after the evidence had been gone through".

"Police-Inspector HAYNES deposed: yesterday evening, at 7.20, I received information at the Police Office that a gentleman had shot himself in the Ship paddock. I proceeded at once thither and on my way I was told that a young lady lay by the side of him and they thought she had fainted. When I got to the paddock I saw first Vere and then Miss McKay lying dead upon the ground. Mr. R. H. Coombs then handed me the revolver which I now produce. I examined the revolver. It has six chambers, of which two had been discharged. I had the other four shots fired into the earth before leaving the ground. Each of the chambers was loaded with a bullet. I also produce a man's hat, found on the ground, and it is perforated on the left side where the bullet which had passed through deceased's head came out. I then searched the body and found 2 sovs. and 3s. 4d. in other money, wit ha knife, latch-key, and bunch of keys. I also produce a watch and chain, a pair of gloves, two rings, a small pocket-book, a photograph, and stamps. (The photograph is a vignette of Miss McKay). I also produce a letter directed to Mrs. Vere wit ha cross upon it and two pocket-handkerchiefs, with a walking stick and 1s. 4d. which I received from Mr. Peacock, landlord of the Ship.

The photograph was examined by the jurors. With regard to the letter found on deceased and addresses to his mother, Mr. Mitchell said: Nobody knows the contents of that letter at present. I don't dispute the right of the Court to open the letter, but at the same time it is the property of Mrs. Vere. No one knows what it is, whose name it may mention, or whether any statement made in it may be correct or not. I therefore ask the jury, if possible, to avoid opening the letter. I think, gentlemen, without opening that letter you will be able, from facts which I shall bring out in evidence, to deal mercifully with this case".

"Mr. Tebbs: I quite concur in Mr. Mitchell's statement as to not opening this letter. It certainly appears to be the property of Mrs. Vere, and if it were opened at all it should be now. It is written to Mrs. Vere and appears to be her private property".

"A juror: I think we can come to a verdict without opening the letter".

"It was accordingly decided that the letter be not opened at present".

"Mr. CHAS STIMSON, called, formally acknowledged his evidence on the previous inquest. He was then interrogated as follows by Mr. Mitchell": -

"Mr. Stimson, you told the jury in the last case that Vere was personally known to you? - Yes; I have known him for some years".

"May I take it that you knew him before he went into the army? - Oh, yes".

"Do you remember the fact of his going to the army?"

"Oh, yes: I think it would be 3 years ago when he went to Sandhurst as a Queen's cadet. (The Coroner: a Queen's cadet, gentlemen, is the son of an officer who has either died of wounds in battle or of sickness contracted in the service of the country)"

"And from Sandhurst, I believe, he took his commission? - Yes, in the York and Lancaster Regiment. Do you know whether he served in the Egyptian Campaign? - Yes, I know that he did".

"Do you know as a fact that his regiment was in several engagements there? - Yes. I believe he was in several engagements. He was at Tel-el-Kebir, I know, and at Kassassin".

"Do you remember seeing him shortly after he came home? - Yes".

"From that period up to last evening have you constantly seen him from time to time? - Yes, I was in the habit of seeing him three or four times a week; sometimes more sometimes less".

"You knew him before he went out to Egypt? - Yes".

"And you knew him after he came back? - Yes".

"Will you tell the jury whether you consider there was any change of manner in the man? - yes, I consider that the incidents of the Egyptian campaign had a very marked effect upon him".

"Did you notice anything, particularly more recently, in the man? As to his manner? - Yes. Within the last fortnight I have noticed what I call a very marked change in him".

"And having come back from Egypt he has left the army? - Yes. He resigned his commission some two or three months ago. I knew it from him, and I saw it in the Gazette".

"With reference to the change which you noticed in him for the last fortnight or three weeks? - Well, I noticed the change. It is difficult to define it, but he was more quiet. He used to be a very free, bright, lively fellow, rather sarcastic in conversation; but during the last fortnight I noticed there was something the matter with him. When I had spoken to him before he always spoke very nicely to me, but there was lately a very quiet, almost morose manner and sullen".

"Do you know anything as to his sleeplessness or appetite? - Yes. I know that he has been sleepless, that he has gone for nights without sleep; and I know too that his appetite was not what it should be for a young man of his build and age".

"May I ask you your authority for saying that he was suffering from sleeplessness? - His mother told me both before and after this. She has often spoken to me about her son".

"To Mr. Roberts: From his manner generally I knew there was something the matter with him".

"The Coroner: You have said nothing about his feelings with regard to this young lady? - I knew nothing about that, for he never mentioned this to me".

"Captain Glubb: Was it not a matter of great surprise why he resigned his commission in the army? - It was a very great surprise to me, and I cannot understand it even now except on one basis".

"Mr. Mitchell: What is that? - Witness: That he mind was unhinged".

"Mr. EDGAR KEMPSON, called, deposed to his previous evidence. He was  examined by Mr. Mitchell, as follows: " -

"You told us before that Vere was a friend of yours. Was he a great friend of yours? - He was an intimate friend of mine. I believe he was attached to me more than anyone else, except, perhaps, to Miss McKay".

"Was he a very great friend of yours? - yes, he was".

"And were you, as far as you know, his most intimate friend? - I was".

"And, as such, did he ever speak with reference to his feelings towards Miss McKay? - yes, he did".

"Can you tell the jury if he was attached to her deeply or not? - He was, most deeply. I know it for a fact".

"Did you happen to notice, since the estrangement which has been spoken of, any change in his manner? - Yes, I have: a decided change, since last Monday week - since their estrangement".

"You remember his going abroad and his return? - Oh, very well, indeed".

"Was he of the same manner when he returned as when he went out? - No. When he came home he was home on sick leave for 6 weeks".

"He came home in consequence of illness. Was his manner changed? - Yes".

"Did he become more serious and sullen? - Very much so. In fact he gave way too much to depression".

"And was not the light-hearted man he was before he went out? - No, he was not".

"I believe he has been on very good terms with you since he returned and has been often to your house? - Constantly".

"At dinner and meals? - He has dined with me very often, but most times he would come and have supper with me".

"Can you tell the jury anything about his appetite? - I can say that I know as a fact that for the last five or six times he has been at our house it has been at supper time and he has had nothing to eat whatever. He has been in five times within the last fortnight and has had nothing".

"Mr. Tebbs: Mr. Kempson, as you have mentioned the quarrel again, will you tell me whether Miss McKay spoke to Mr. Vere on the Monday night which you have referred to, - Monday week? Did Miss McKay speak at all to him that evening? - I believe so".

"Do you now what was said?" -

"The Coroner: You need only say what you know of your own knowledge".

"Witness: My belief is that she said she did not want him, or words to that effect".

"Mr. Tebbs: There was no quarrel, as far as she was concerned? I believe not. She said she did not wish his company that night".

"He wished to take her home and she refused? - Yes".

"Mr. E. Smith: What was Mr. Vere's age? - 22".

"Mr. WILLIAM STATHAM, called, deposed: I am son-in-law to the Rev. Howard Kempson, rector of St. Cuthbert's. Mr. Vere was well known to me. I have frequently conversed with him, and we used to go fishing together. He was not the same man when he came back from Egypt. He told me that the water there was so filthy and impure that he was very ill in consequence. It was his manner towards myself that led me to think that he had suffered in his head. His manner was entirely different after he returned. He didn't seem to know me when he met me in the street. As late as last Sunday I passed him very close, and he seemed to be staring at me all the time but did not appear to recognise me. My daughter was with me and I made the remark to her that he seemed very queer".

"Mr. Mitchell: Did he ever tell you anything about bodies being in the water in Egypt? - I cannot say, but I know it was so".

"Mr. E. Kempson: He has continually told me so".

"The Coroner: We know ourselves. We have seen the pictures in the illustrated papers of what they had to drink".

"By Capt. Glubb: he saw me in the street but was evidently pre-occupied. There was an expression of vacuity of mind".

"Mr. E. KEMPSON, recalled, said: He has told me repeatedly the horrors of the water in Egypt were something appalling, and that he never could get over it".

"Mr. ROWLAND H. COOMBS was now called and gave evidence as to the wound in the deceased's head. Immediately above the right ear was a hole large enough to admit the forefinger, and leading directly into the brain. On the opposite, or left, side about two inches above the ear, there was a hole large enough to admit two fingers, and some of the substance of the brain was coming through thereat. The wound would be caused by the discharge of a ball from the produced revolver, fired at close proximity".

"This concluded the evidence".

"Mr. Mitchell now addressed the jury, pointing out the various items of evidence on which he relied as sufficient to establish at all events a reasonable presumption that the unfortunate young man's reason was so impaired that at the time of the commission of these terrible deeds he as under the influence of insanity. He entreated the jury, if any doubt as to the man's sanity had been raised in their minds, to bring in a merciful verdict, and thus save the feelings of the surviving friends from being further harrowed by returning a verdict which was only a relic of an obsolete past"

"At 6.35 the jury retired, and on their return at 6.50 the foreman announced a unanimous verdict of


The foreman adding that he was desired by the jury to express their hearty and sincere condolence with the two families".

"When the jury had been away for a few minutes, Capt. Glubb returned and spoke to the Coroner. Both, shortly after, retired to a side room and opened the letter referred to and addressed to Mrs. Vere. Having seen it, it was handed over to Mr. Mitchell and kept private; but it is believed to merely indicate where another letter will be found at home".

"The proceedings then terminated".

"We have reason to believe that Mr. Vere had no grounds for believing that Miss McKay favoured any other suitor".