Unsolved Murders

Thomas Turto

Age: 53

Sex: male

Date: 16 Dec 1902

Place: Library Street, Wigan, Lancashire

Thomas Turto was attacked whilst he was working as a nightwatchman in Library Street, Wigan.

He had lived in Wood Street off Hodson Street and had been employed as a night watchman for the Corporation.

It was said that during the night of 6 December 1902  whilst he was following his occupation in Library Street, that two men came to him and asked to be allowed to stay by the fire but that he had asked them to go away as he could not allow them to stay there and that one of the men had then pulled him out of his box and knocked him down whilst the other man then kicked him twice in the leg.

He had informed his sister when he returned home, but made no reports to anyone else.

He returned to work the following day, Sunday, but on the Monday be became ill and on the Tuesday a doctor was called in and he was found to be suffering from erysipelas and he died on 16 December 1902.

Thomas Turto's sister-in-law said that Thomas Turto lived with her in Wood Street and had been a night watchman and had been on duty on the Saturday night, 6 December 1902 and that early on the following Sunday morning at about 9am he told her that something had happened to him.

She said that he went to work on the Sunday night but that on the Monday he couldn't walk and they called for a doctor.

She noted that Thomas Turto had suffered from a bad leg for some years, noting that his leg had broken out in one place as a running sore and that it was on the same leg that the two red marks caused when he was attacked were. She noted that Thomas Turto used to wash the running sore every night and every morning and used an ointment that they made up from a prescription. Thomas Turto's son later noted that he thought that the ointment was made up from lard that they got from the butchers which was then rendered down.

She said that Thomas Turto had been a night watchman for about twelve years on and off.

At the inquest she said that she never thought of reporting the statement that Thomas Turto had made to her about being assaulted at his box to the police. She said that he had showed her his leg on the Sunday morning and that whilst she thought it was serious, she didn't think it was serious enough to report, noting that Thomas Turto  had not wanted the police to know about it because he didn't think it was so bad and that it would get better soon which was what she thought too.

Thomas Turto's sister said that Thomas Turto wasn't a heavy drinker but that he wasn't a teetotaller either.

The Coroner noted that if they had told the police about what Thomas Turto had said in time, arrangements could have been made to have taken his depositions before he died and added that he had allowed things to lapse and that he could not take the statement that he had made to her in evidence.

Thomas Turto's son said that he knew about his father's sore leg and noted that he made no statement to him about being assaulted.

The doctor that carried out the post mortem said that he found Thomas Turto well nourished. He said that the first peculiarity that he noticed was a chronic ulcer on his left leg just above his inner ankle. He said that it was very dirty and did not exhibit any evidence of any recent active change. He said that he next saw two separate contused and lacerated wounds:

  1. Wound to the inner side on the upper third of the leg measuring about 2¼ inches by 1⁄8 inch.
  2. Wound to outer side measuring ¾ inch by ½ inch.

He noted that the ulcer was 3 inches by 1 inch and that the whole of the left leg from the thigh almost down to the ankle joint was the seat of intense cellular inflammation that had gone into a condition of septicity.

He added that there was inflammation of the glands in the groin and on section through the leg, at the seat of the two contused and lacerated wounds there was an extravasation of blood. He said that there was also evidence of disease internally but that not such as would have caused death apart from the condition of the leg.

He said that he was of the impression that his cause of death was due to absorption of septic material from the cellulitis of the left leg, and that that cellulitis was the result of the wounds described and had not been set up naturally.

When the Coroner asked the doctor whether his death was due primarily to violence, the doctor noted that such ulcers often became exceedingly dirty and that in many cases discharged a very irritating substance, but that as to how far the septic infection of the recent wounds was due to the chronic ulcer it was impossible to say. He then noted that what he meant was that the old wound might have poisoned the new ones and that the recent wounds might have got quite well if something had not been introduced into them, but that how that something had been introduced he didn't know.

The doctor then said, 'If the wounds had been ordinarily clean, and there had been no chronic ulcer, then the chance of their recovery would have been very good, if he had been a temperate man'. He then added that the wounds might have been caused by external violence.

When the doctor was asked whether the flour of zinc and lard was a proper application and said that he didn't think that there was much wrong with it, and that it was rather a question of keeping the wounds clean than of the application.

The doctor that was called out to see Thomas Turto before he went to hospital said that he was called on the Thursday and found Thomas Turto lying in bed with his left leg swollen and two in the upper part a redness and two wounds. He noted that Thomas Turto had been suffering from erysipelas and that he had attended him before for his ulcerated leg about twelve months previously.

He said that Thomas Turto made a very connected statement to him and that he had no reason to doubt that he was telling the truth.

He agreed with the other doctors opinion on the cause of death and added that he was prepared to swear that that the erysipelas had started from the two recent wounds.

He noted that he didn't think that his sister was to blame for not reporting the matter to the police as like her he didn't anticipate any serious issue until the Sunday when he then took steps to inform the police.

When the Coroner summed up he said that it didn't follow that what Thomas Turto had said didn't happen because he had not reported it to the police. The Coroner then said that one would naturally expect to find some resemblance to the truth in a statement such as Thomas Turto was stated to have made, but that unfortunately he was dead and that they had no eye witnesses of what had occurred and that he could not see how they could bring in any other verdict than that Thomas Turto died from erysipelas caused by violence but that how the violence was cause there was no evidence to show which meant an open verdict and an open verdict was then returned.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Wigan Observer and District Advertiser - Saturday 20 December 1902