Date: 12 Jun 1940
Place: Heighley, Morpeth
David Galloway Dargie was found dead near a hedge with a gunshot wound.
The police and doctor said that they thought that it was suicide, but the Coroner said that there was not sufficiently strong evidence to record a verdict of suicide.
He was a retired wine and spirits merchant and had been retired for some years.
His son said that he was perfectly all right and that his health was absolutely perfect and that he had no worries. His son said that David Dargie loved his garden and lived for it more or less.
His son said that the last he heard from David Dargie was a letter that he had written him that he got on the day of his death. In fact, he said that he was reading it when he got the telegram informing him that David Dargie had been found dead. After the deputy coroner read the letter, he observed that there was nothing unusual in the letter. He noted that it wasn't a very cheerful letter, but his son whilst agreeing that the letter was not very cheerful reiterated that David Dargie had no worries as far as he knew. He noted that the letter was written in a strong firm style and did not look as though the writer had been trembling or emotional.
David Dargie's housekeeper said that she had been the housekeeper for 17 years and said that she had never heard him complain and said that he was a very healthy person.
It was also noted that when his body was found, David Dargie had four bank cheques in his pockets, all ready made out for Martins Banks and signed and that they were made out on the day he died, presumably to be paid at the next opportunity.
She said that David Dargie had been working in his garden all day on the 12 June and came in during the evening for his supper after which he got up, and she said to him, 'You are not going back to the garden again?', to which she said that David Dargie replied that he was going to the quarry to see about the water.
She said that when he had not arrived home by 9.30pm she became anxious as he was always home by about that time. She said that at about 10.15pm she saw the Mayor and told him that David Dargie had not come home and that he had told her that he was going to the quarry and said that the Mayor told her that he would have a look around.
She said that she had never once heard him threaten to take his life and said that he had no worries.
She said that he was in the habit of taking his gun out with him and that she had seen him carrying it over his right shoulder, holding it by the barrel.
The Mayor, who was a farmer from Low Heighly Farm said that after he spoke to the housekeeper, he went out in the direction of the quarry to look for David Dargie and said that he soon saw him lying beside a hedgeside, at about 10.30pm. He said that he ran forward towards him thinking that he had had a seizure and then saw a lot of blood on his body and found him dead with a sporting gun beside him. He said that he immediately went off and telephoned the police.
The Mayor said that David Dargie had given him the impression that he had been very much worried about the war and that he usually cheered him up and asked him not to take it so much to heart. However, his housekeeper said that he was not worried about the war but had told her that he thought that 'it was going to be a horrible thing, this dropping of bombs'. She said that before he went out he had been listening to the wireless and that after he had heard about some bombings he had said, 'That must be a horrible death'.
The Mayor said that when he found David Dargie he was lying on his back with his feet through the rails of the fence, which he said was very old, and that his gun was lying to the side of him, about two yards to his left. When asked whether David Dargie would have been able to climb over the hedge, the Major said, 'No'.
The policeman that was called out, who had been stationed in Morpeth, said that he saw David Dargie dead, lying near a hedgeside about three-quarters of a mile north of Heighly Farm with a sporting gun lying near him and a dead rabbit. He said that he feet were through the hedgeside and the gun was three feet from the left side of his body and there was a dead rabbit about eight feet north of him.
He said that he found that the right barrel of his gun had been discharged and that there was a live cartridge in the other breach.
The policeman said that he examined the hedgeside where David Dargie was lying and said that that he found three small twigs that had recently been broken and came to the conclusion that David Dargie had sat down by the side of the hedge, gripped the gun by the barrel, holding it up, and had fired downwards by hooking the trigger on to the twigs. He said that he found some small twigs that had definitely been broken recently.
When the policeman was questioned he was asked whether his theory was his own idea of what had happened and the policeman said that it was. He was then asked whether it might well have been possible that the gun had been discharged accidently, but the policeman said that he did not think that it could have been an accident. He was then asked whether or not it was possible that if David Dargie had been trying to get through the hedge that an accident might have happened then, and the policeman again said that he didn't think so, saying that he didn't think that David Dargie had ever attempted to get through the hedge.
The policeman then said that in his opinion he thought that there was no possibility of an accident and added that he thought that the twigs would have gone through the trigger very easily and that very little pressure would have been needed.
The doctor said that when he arrived at about 10.45pm and saw David Dargie lying on the ground near the hedge, he formed the opinion that the gun had been discharged within two feet of the body and that the wound was self-inflicted. The Coroner asked him if it might not be possible that it might have been an accident and he said no. The coroner then asked him whether he thought that David Dargie might not have sat down, and when putting the gun down that it had gone off, and the doctor said again that he didn't think so, stating that it would not have gone off accidently.
The doctor said that the charge had penetrated his lungs and liver.
The coroner said that the evidence made it all the harder for him as David Dargie had left behind no letters or anything.
The doctor then showed the coroner how he thought that David Dargie would have been holding the gun with the barrel pointing downwards. The coroner asked if he would have held the barrel with one hand and the doctor said that he might have held it with two hands. The coroner then asked whether, if David Dargie had been holding the gun in that position, whether he would have been using something as a lever, which the doctor replied 'Yes' to and the coroner then asked if he might have been poking about with the gun, and the doctor again said, 'Yes, he might have been'.
When the coroner summed up he said that the onus was on him to record a verdict on the evidence that he had been given and said that when dealing with the question of suicide, he said that one often found in such cases some motive or other, or some writing or notes left behind, or where the deceased was in financial difficulties or bad health.
The coroner then said, 'In this particular case the deceased was in a perfectly healthy condition for a long time and was financially well off. He had no worries, no troubles at all. A short time before his body was found he had been with his housekeeper and had told her he was going as far as the quarry. He had given his housekeeper no indication of going to commit any such act, the taking of his life. He had written a letter to his son in bold handwriting, nothing in the letter to lead one to suppose that he was worried over any matter. He had endorsed cheques and had them all ready to pay into the bank the following day. Now, it made it very difficult because, after all was said and done, they could only form opinions as to whether the wound was self-inflicted or whether accidently received. The doctor said definitely that the wound was self-inflicted. It had just occurred to him when the doctor was explaining the holding of the gun as to whether it was not possible for the deceased to put the gun over the hedge, and the trigger caught a branch or twig and gone off, because he went out to shoot some rabbits. If he had wanted to commit suicide, he could have gone to a building. Taking everything into consideration, that the man was perfectly healthy and with no worries, it was an extraordinary thing that he should go out for the purpose of taking his life. I do think, and I think I am justified, in recording an open verdict to the effect that the cause of death was due to haemorrhage and shock as the result of a gunshot wound. My opinion is that there is insufficient evidence to prove that this wound was self-inflicted. Again I say the evidence is not sufficiently strong enough to record a verdit od suicide, so it will be an open verdict'.
see Morpeth Herald - Friday 21 June 1940