Journal Volume 6 2010

A Greystones Miscellany  (continued/4)

The Mysterious Death of Patrick Doyle - 1908

He was followedby Dr. A.G. Price who said that on that Monday evening he was summoned to the railway station a few minutes after 7 o’clock and when he arrived there discovered the body lying as described by the previous witness and that it was quite dead.

  D.I. Triscott: ‘Was the body cold?’
  Dr. Price: Yes: strange to say it was. It generally takes eight hours fora body to get cold.’
  D.I. Triscott: Did you find anything to indicate that the engine struck him?’
  Dr. Price: The leg was taken off right inside the body as it were.’
  D.I. Triscott: ‘Could the man’s death have taken place before the train struck?’
  Dr. Price: Yes, The fact that the body was so cold was contrary to the hypothesis that the train killed him.’
  D.I. Triscott: If he was knocked down by the engine, would you not expect to find the arm where it was?’
  Dr. Price: ‘No. I cannot say he was not dead before the train ran over him.’

Coroner Murray proceeded to put a line of questions to Dr. Price:

  Coroner: Would a post mortem examination reveal whether the man died from natural causes or from being knocked down by the engine?’
  Dr. Price: It would only reveal the condition of his heart. I could not say whether the heart was healthy or not. The left arm was amputated and the right leg taken off.’
  Coroner: Were these injuries sufficient to cause death?’
  Dr. Price: It was certainly the case in this instance.’
  Coroner: Are you of the opinion that death was caused by these injuries.
  Dr. Price: I have difficulty in this regard and can only say probably for the body was cold.’
  Coroner: ‘Suppose he had died from heart disease would his body be cold?’
  Dr. Price: In my opinion it was too cold for 15 minutes.’

The phrasing of Dr. Price’s last answer leaves one with the impression that he assumed that the deceased had been struck by the 6.45 p.m. train and did not consider the possibility that the deceased could have been lying on the tracks from an earlier time.

That concluded the testimony of the various witnesses summoned after which Coroner Murray summed up the evidence presented indicating to the jury that the all the evidence had been examined in detail and emphasised that no blame could be attached to anyone regarding the cause of the man’s death whether it was due to heart failure or as the result of his injuries. After due deliberation the jury returned a verdict of ‘death due to haemorrhage, the result of his injuries’ adding a rider expressing their sympathy with the deceased’s relatives.

The inquest verdict was that Patrick Doyle bled to death from his injuries but it did not answer the central question as to how they had been caused. Was he lying on the tracks when the locomotive ran over him or did he fall unnoticed in front of it? On the basis of the inquest evidence on that Monday he was last seen alive at 5.30 p.m. and what he did or where he was during the next hour a half remained a mystery and still does. Did he head for home sometime between 5.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and suffer a heart attack while crossing the tracks in the station as a short cut home instead of using the footbridge and lay where he fell until his body was found.  In the darkness of a January night when the station was only lit by oil lamps, which were also used by steam locomotives, his body was not seen by anyone until after the arrival of the Down Wexford Mail at 6.45 p.m. Why the body was so cold was never explored fully but one piece of critical information not quoted at the inquest was the air temperature that evening: as had it been a very cold night, the body would have cooled very quickly and that would have indicated that it had lain where it had fallen for some time but at that time forensic science was only in its infancy and we today have the benefit of more up to date scientific methods to determine the time of death for a body.


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