Date: 30 Jul 1946
Geraldine Mary Coussens was found dead near a bus depot on Tuesday 30 July 1946, but there was not enough evidence to show how she received her injuries.
It was thought that she had been hit by a bus, but there was not enough evidence to prove that.
A doctor said that he was called to Clegg Street on the Tuesday morning, 30 July 1946 at about 9am where he saw her body. He said that she had a fracture to the left side of her skull and facial bones and said that he thought that she also had internal injuries. He added that it was obvious that she had only just died.
He said that she could not have been run over by a bus, but said that she had been struck a heavy blow.
Geraldine Coussens had lived at 1 Earl Street. Her mother said that on the morning she died, Geraldine Coussens had gone out to play with her 3-year-old brother after breakfast although she had told them not to be long as she was going to take them to the park.
She said that after she finished bathing her baby that she went out to look for them and found them playing near the wood stack at Bones'. She called them over and her boy came to her but Geraldine Coussens was a little further away up Clegg Street near the NFS water tank. She said that a motor van then came along and she told Geraldine Coussens to stop whilst it passed, which she did and that after the van had gone by she took her by the hand to go off to the park.
However, she said that after a few paces Geraldine Coussens became obstinate and wouldn't walk. Her mother said that she turned from her and told her that she would go to the park without her and said that Geraldine Coussens then started to follow her. However, she said that she didn’t look back to check if she continued to follow her, saying that she was under the impression that she was.
However, she said that after she got back home a man from Bones' came to her house and told her that Geraldine Coussens had met with an accident and said that when she immediately went back, she saw Geraldine Coussens lying in Bones' yard.
The coroner commented that there would have been 'masses of buses there all day' and that it was the worst place possible to allow children to play. However, Geraldine Coussens's mother said that she had seen no other vehicles besides the van.
A man who had business premises on Earl Street said that at about 8.40am on the Tuesday morning he had been driving a 10 cwt van along Clegg Street to his premises and had seen Geraldine Coussens's mother in the yard holding her son's hand, standing practically stationery on his nearside, just off a stationary bus. He said that Geraldine Coussens was on his offside, almost opposite the water tank.
He said that he saw Geraldine Coussens make a move towards her mother but said that her mother then put up her hand and, he thought, spoke to her, as she then immediately stopped and stood still.
He said that he then passed the entrance to the bus yard and saw a single-deck bus backing out slowly, which he said had about three lengths to go before it reached Clegg Street but saw nothing further.
A man that worked at Messrs Bones' premises in Earl Street said that at about 8.45am on the Tuesday morning 30 July 1946, he had been in the south side of Clegg Street in Bones's premises but did not notice the man in the 10 cwt van drive along, but did see Geraldine Coussens lying in the road nearly opposite the water tank.
He said that for a moment he thought that she was playing, but then realised that she was hurt. He said that he and his mate then ran to where Geraldine Coussens was lying and found her in a puddle and a pool of blood, apparently dead. He said that there were two stationary buses nearby on either side of Clegg Street but that he could not recall any other vehicles.
The man said that he knew Geraldine Coussens by sight and carried her into the mill and that someone then went for her mother and another person sent for the police and an ambulance.
The man said that he had seen Geraldine Coussens on other occasions playing outside the mills but said that her mother had come to fetch her a number of times.
When the coroner asked the man, 'I think you will agree it is one of the worst places for children to play?', the man replied, 'It is a bad spot, sir'.
A bus driver who was employed by the Maidstone and District Co., said that he clocked on at 8.40am at the depot and had gone to his bus, a petrol single-decker and had examined it, filled the radiator and started it. He said that he backed down Clegg Street slowly, passing other buses on his near side and that when he got to the entrance of Clegg Street there was a stationery bus at the corner, broadside with the water tank, that obscured his view of that part of Clegg Street.
He said that he then reversed into Clegg street half to three-quarters of a bus length, stopped and then put the bus into second gear and continued out of the depot to the coach station.
He said that he didn't hear any noises of any description and wasn't conscious of hitting anything and said that he didn't see any child as he was manoeuvring.
He said that when he later examined his bus about an hour later, he found no traces of blood or signs of any description that he had hit anything.
When the coroner summed up he said that it was dangerous to allow children of two and three years old to run about anywhere in that area and noted that it was possible that the bus that had reversed out of the depot had hit Geraldine Coussens, but that there was no evidence to show that, and an open verdict was returned.
see Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 03 August 1946, p5