Date: 1 Sep 1901
Joseph Dunn was found drowned.
It was heard that Joseph Dunn had left the Patent Fuel Wharf in a boat with two friends on the evening of Sunday 1 September 1901 and rowed with them to Caerleon where they visited the London Inn, the Goldcroft Inn, the Drover's Arms, the Bull Inn and the Hanbury Arms where they were all supplied with drink and in two instances also had bread and cheese.
Whilst at the Bull Inn Joseph Dunn ran back to buy a candle to put in the bow of their boat as the night was dark.
However, Joseph Dunn didn't go in at the Hanbury Arms and waited outside while his friends went in for a drink.
The landlady at the Hanbury arms said that she remembered the two friends arriving and having beer and said that they left after 9pm. She said that she also remembered a plasterer from Oakside in Caerleon chaffingly offer to accept to buy the men's boat. The plasterer said that when he was talking to the men they heard a noise outside and said that Joseph Dunn's two friends then said, 'He disgraced us at the last place we were in, and if he comes in here, I'll give him a good hiding, I'll drown him'. The plasterer said that he took that to be a bit of stupid temper between pals who had fallen out and then offered to take care of their boat and oars and recommended that they took the train back home because of the state of the tide.
It was heard that shortly after a boy came to the door and said that the man was saying that that he was going if they did not come, to which one of the men replied, 'Let him go', and continued talking, but that when the boy came a second time the two friends left the Hanbury Arms and no more was seen of them.
Another plasterer that had been in the pub corroborated that other plasterers story about bargaining for the boat and said that when the boy had come in and told the two friends that the man was going to leave that one of the friends had given the boy an offensive message to give to the man outside, presumably Joseph Dunn, and that he had then said, 'I'll drown that fellow tonight'.
A labourer that had been at the Hanbury Arms said that he heard one of the friends say, 'The dirt is in him, and will never come out. We will wash it out of him tonight. Strike me dead, before we get home tonight we'll drown him'. However, he said that he took it as a joke.
He said that one of the friends also said, 'We will get close to the bank and pull the plug out of the boat and sink her, so as we can get out and leave Dunn in'.
The labourer said that he afterwards left the pub and ran down to the river where he saw the men get into the boat and order Joseph Dunn to the bow. He said that Joseph Dunn was drunk but that the two friends were about half gone, neither drunk nor sober.
A labourer said that he saw the three men go off in the boat and said that they just made it clear of the centre arch of the bridge across the river at Caerleon, but that he heard no threats.
Later, a merchant/general dealer who lived on the East Usk side near the river said that at about 10.45pm he heard shouting and went out and then heard a splash. He said that he then ran back to his wife and told her that there was someone drowning and then saw that the boat was drifting down broadside off, with two men in it. He said that he then heard a man from the boat shout, 'That's four or five times he's been in the water'. He said that the boat then passed Cane's Fish House where it stopped owing to the slack water.
The two friends got back to the Patent Fuel Works at 12.10am and went into the boiler house and said that they had lost Joseph Dunn. A stoker who had seen them all leave together earlier in the afternoon asked where Joseph Dunn was and said that the two friends told him, 'He jumped into the water. I pulled him out once before, but he would have a swim, and we left him on the Marshes'. The stoker said that both of the men were as drunk as could be.
A police officer that saw the two friends leave the Fuel Works said that he interrogated them as to where they had been and said that they had told them that they had been to Caerleon where one of them had offered to sell a coat that he had on his arms. When asked whose coat it was the man had said, 'Mine, whose do you think it is?'. The police officer said that he then looked both of the men up and down with his lamp and said that he noted that one of them was wet up to his chest and that the other had mud on his trousers at the ends as though he had been in the river mud.
It was noted that the following day when the men went to the police station to give statements that they said that they didn't remember speaking to the policeman.
When Joseph Dunn's father questioned the two friends he said that they showed him where they had put Joseph Dunn ashore on the night, but the father said that he could not find him and said that when he later spoke to the two friends said that they told him that they believed that he was in one of the houses nearby but that the people would not say where.
Joseph Dunn was found by a lad that had been in the confectionary trade in the river on 9 September 1901. It was noted that he had been discharged from his job because he had got Joseph Dunn's body out of the river in his employer's time. When the Coroner heard that the lad had been discharged for such meritorious conduct he directed the Superintendent to go to his employer and say a good word for the lad with a view to his reinstatement.
At the inquest one of the friends said that after leaving the last pub and rowing back that Joseph Dunn had suddenly jumped into the water near the marshes but that they had pulled him back but that he had then jumped in a second time. He said that they pulled him back again but said that Joseph Dunn told them that he wanted to swim ashore. He said that they lost an oar on the second occasion and that they then sculled the boat back to the bank and that Joseph Dunn got out after pulling off his coat and got up to the top of the bank and then when at the top turned and waved his hand and said, 'Ta Ta'.
The Coroner asked the man if that was true and the man said that it was. He also added that he had been quite sober and noted that if he were not sober he would not have been able to get the boat between the bridges if he had been drunk, with one oar.
The post-mortem on Joseph Dunn's body concluded that he had died from drowning and that there were no marks of violence on his body.
The Coroner expressed his inability to believe the men's statements but also noted that he didn't believe that the violent and blasphemous language they had used in the pub meant that they intended harm to Joseph Dunn but that it rather indicated their drunken state.
The Coroner noted that the most powerful evidence in their favour was that of the merchant and his wife that had heard the men reproaching someone for having been in the water and having heard them pull someone out, noting that that was an incident that the two men could not have reasonably expected to have been overheard, indicating that they had helped Joseph Dunn out of the water at that point and led him to conclude that Joseph Dunn had lost his life due to stupid drunken larking about in the water and the jury returned an open verdict of Found Drowned.
see South Wales Daily News - Tuesday 17 September 1901