Date: 1 Jan 1938
Place: Maiden Newton
Charles James Fox was found in the river on New Year's Day with a head injury.
He had lived in Lower Frome Vauchurch.
His son said that he had been drinking with Charles Fox on New Year's Eve at the Castle Inn at Maiden Newton. He said that Charles Fox was drinking cider and seemed normal and said that he wished him goodnight at about 10.30pm.
He said that Charles Fox had about a mile to go home, a quarter of a mile on the main road and the remainder of the distance along a dark lane that led him straight home. He added that his journey took him over the bridge across the river under which he was found in the river the following day.
He said that when his sister told him the next day that Charles Fox had not returned home he went off to his father's house and on the way found him in the river, fully submerged except for an arm.
He said that Charles Fox ordinarily took a torch with him as his eyesight was bad, but that on that night he had not had one with him.
The son said that his mother thought that Charles Fox was going a bit funny, saying that she had told him that he would come into the room, look at her, and then go off out into the garden. He also said that a couple of years earlier Charles Fox had walked into the river on a dark night.
A man from Maiden Newton said that he had seen Charles Fox in Frome Lane at about 11pm and said that he had seemed unsteady and that he had staggered into a gateway, righted himself, and then gone off down the lane. He said that he thought that he was a bit the worse for drink.
Later on, a farmer from Maiden Newton said that he was driving along Frome Lane at about 11.45pm when he saw a hat in the road which he recognised as Charles Fox's and said that as he then passed over the bridge, he saw the gate open into a field and saw the head and shoulders of Charles Fox further down in the field.
The landlord of the Castle Inn in Maiden Newton said that Charles Fox was a heavy drinker and would drink cider. He said that he had noticed a while before that Charles Fox was a little strange, especially after he had had some drink, adding that he thought that it was clear that he was mentally wrong. He said that when he stopped Charles Fox from drinking heavily in the summer he had appeared steady. He added that Charles Fox had seemed very low a couple of weeks earlier and had told him that he would have to go to hospital again. However, he said that he didn't think that Charles Fox intended to take his life and said that on the night of 31 December 1937 he was as merry as he had seen him in a fortnight and said that he had joined in a song and seemed to have enjoyed himself.
When the doctor examined Charles Fox's body he said that he had a wound to the side of his head that was compatible with him having caught his head on some barbed wire with some considerable force. He said that he almost certainly didn't get the wound when he was in the water. He said that when he examined his body on the river bank he estimated that he had been in the water for less than ten hours and said that his lungs were full of water.
He said that he had seen Charles Fox in the summer when he had complained of a pain in his stomach and said that Charles Fox had a morbid fear of going back into hospital.
The doctor said that it was possible that Charles Fox might have gone to sleep in the field for a few hours and then slipped into the river on his way home. He said that the wound to his head was consistent with him having slipped into the river feet first, stating that if he had committed suicide that he would have probably gone in head first.
The doctor that carried out the post-mortem said that Charles Fox's death was due to drowning following a blow. He said that he thought that it might have been a blow to his head, or by barbed wire, and said that that was up to conjecture. however, he said that he didn't think that it was a heavy enough blow to have been caused by a car.
When the Coroner summed up he said tat it was possible that Charles Fox, with his bad eyesight, lack of torch and having been a bit fizzled, might have fallen into the river by accident, but said that he could not say that for certain and so an open verdict was returned.
see Western Gazette - Friday 07 January 1938