Unsolved Murders

Lewis Thomas Rowlands

Age: 41

Sex: male

Date: 14 May 1935

Place: Frome Public Assistance Institution, Frome

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Lewis Thomas Rowlands died the day after being admitted to the Wells Mental Hospital from the Frome Institution.

His inquest showed that he had 13 broken ribs and that his body was covered in bruises.

Lewis Rowlands had been a rag and bone sorter for Farr Ltd in Yeovil and had lived at the Dolphin Lodging House there and had previously been in the Wincanton and Frome Institutions.

It was thought that his injuries were received whilst he had been in the Frome Institution. However, the attendants there denied that any violence had been used.

It was heard that Lewis Rowlands was married but had lived apart from his wife since May 1925.

The inquest heard that Lewis Rowlands had been working in Yeovil on 7 May 1935 but didn't go into work the following day. It was heard that he did go back to work on 9 May 1935 but said that he had looked ill and didn't appear to be quite clear in his mind.

He was later seen at the Swan Inn in Yeovil at 6pm and also called in the Swan Inn the following day, 10 May 1935 at about 1.30pm but then went home to his lodgings. It was said that he made no complaints but was later taken by ambulance to the Wincanton Institution where he was seen by a doctor. The doctor said that Lewis Rowlands made no statement regarding how he had got his injury and that he stayed there until 12 May 1935 and then went on to the Public Assistance Institution in Frome. It was noted that there were only female attendants at the Wincanton Institution but that the attendants at the Frome Institution were male.

The Master of the Public Assistance Institution in Frome said that Lewis Rowlands was admitted on the Sunday from the Wincanton Public Assistance Institution, having been brought by taxi and accompanied by a porter. He said that Lewis Rowlands was then taken to a dormitory by an attendant and said that at that time he had been stooping. The Master of the Public Assistance Institution in Frome said that when he saw Lewis Rowlands later in bed that he was a little restless. He said that he had not been alarmed by Lewis Rowlands's stooping as he said that patients of all shapes were admitted. He said that on his orders, a small dose of drugs was then administered to Lewis Rowlands.

The Master of the Public Assistance Institution in Frome said that the following morning he saw Lewis Rowlands as he was about to leave the dormitory and said that Lewis Rowlands shouted. He said that his nose had been bleeding through the night and said that there was blood on his bedclothes and from where he had been scratching himself.

A doctor was then called in and when Lewis Rowlands was asked his name he replied, 'Two pints of beer'. The Master of the Public Assistance Institution in Frome said that a reliable man had been in charge of Lewis Rowlands through the night and said that he had not been informed that Lewis Rowlands had needed to be restrained, noting that if a patient was required to be restrained that it would have to be reported to him.

It was noted that when Lewis Rowlands was then admitted to the Wells Mental Hospital on 13 May 1935 he had been done so on a certificate signed by the doctor at the From Institution who had noted that Lewis Rowlands had been noisy and quite uncontrollable when examined and had required three men to keep him in bed.

The doctor said that when he examined Lewis Rowlands he found that there was blood clotted in his right nostril and that there were bruises on his legs, arms and chest, such as might be caused by holding him down. He also said that there was a rash on his legs from his thighs downwards and that he had three small ulcers on each leg, some of which were bleeding.

He said that about seven of his ribs on his left side appeared fractured and said that he considered that his second and seventh rib on his right side were also broken.

He said that mentally Lewis Rowlands was very confused and didn't understand what was said to him and didn't appreciate his surroundings.

He said that in his opinion, Lewis Rowlands was in a very critical condition and very ill and ordered another doctor there to apply a broad bandage to his chest, and in view of his restless condition, gave him certain drugs.

At 6pm a doctor reported that Lewis Rowlands's pulse was very weak and that his condition was deteriorating. It was thought by one doctor that an operation might be necessary, but another doctor said that he didn't think an operation was necessary. However, Lewis Rowlands died the following morning.

When a post-mortem was carried out it was found that seven of his ribs were broken on his right side and six were broken on the left side, and that there was a large amount of haemorrhage. A doctor said that in his opinion a considerable amount of pressure would have been required to break them. He added that he had no experience of ribs being broken by patients being restrained, noting that patients were frequently brought in with bruises on them following being restrained, but they seldom had broken bones.

He added that the injuries were recent and had been caused within the last week, but could not say exactly when.

A night attendant that had been on duty at the Frome Institution said that he took charge of the ward at 10pm on the Sunday from another attendant and said that he was told that Lewis Rowlands had been restless and noisy. He said that he then heard Lewis Rowlands use vile language and said that he then tried to get out of bed but said that he took hold of his hands. He said that when he did so, Lewis Rowlands kicked off the clothes and when they were replaced he shouted and got violent and attempted to strike him. The night attendant said that he held Lewis Rowlands's hands for a while and said that after that Lewis Rowlands said, 'All right, I am finished'.

The night attendant said that Lewis Rowlands continued to do the same through the night and tore the bandages from his legs and at 4am he got more restless and wriggled out of bed and he and another attendant had to put him back. The other man said that Lewis Rowlands tried to hit him several times but said that he just held him by his wrists and didn't lose patience with him or kneel on him at all. The other man added that if a patient became unmanageable, it was his duty to inform the Master of the Institution but said that Lewis Rowlands had not been unmanageable and added that no violence was used.

Another attendant said that after Lewis Rowlands had arrived at the Frome Institution he had walked about the ward and yard trying all the doors but said that all the doors were locked. He said that when Lewis Rowlands was undressed he became violent and said that he had some difficulty putting him to bed. He added that whilst he had been away from the ward on short occasions, he had left two other inmates in charge of Lewis Rowlands. He also added that when Lewis Rowlands had undressed he didn't notice any bruises on his body.

When the Coroner summed up he said that there were a number of witnesses that could testify to what happened to Lewis Rowlands before he arrived at the Frome Institution as well as those that could testify to what happened after he entered the Wells Mental Hospital and stated that it seemed clear that Lewis Rowlands had received his injuries in the Frome Institution. He said that the evidence stated that Lewis Rowlands had received his injuries not more than four days before he died, that he had been restrained whilst at the Frome Institution and that he had struck out with force there. He went on to state that he could not see how Lewis Rowlands could have struck out with force if he had had the injuries to his ribs at that time that he was later found to have had and that as such it appeared that they had been cause sometime after 10pm at the Frome Institution.

The jury then returned an open verdict, stating that Lewis Rowlands had died from injuries received between 10pm on 12 May 1935 and 6.45am on 13 May 1935.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Wells Journal - Friday 24 May 1935, p3