Obituary Of Coroner John Troutbeck

Posted: August 12, 2009 in Obituaries
Find below another obituary of John Troutbeck, Coroner for Westminster, who held the inquest into the murder of an unknown woman whose dismembered remains were found in a vault below the site slated for the new Scotland Yard building. This case is known to many as the Whitehall tragedy.
(From Our Own Correspondent.)
The official life of Mr. John Troutbeck, the Westminster Coroner, who died yesterday, spans quite a long period in the development of legal enquiries in this country. One is almost astounded, in view of the freedom and independence of the press today, to read of his methods so recently as the ‘nineties.
Mr. Troutbeck was not an old man – only fifty-one – and he was first appointed a Coroner for the City and Liberty of Westminster in 1888. First of all Mr. Troutbeck came into conflict with the medical profession by his employment of what he called a "special pathologist," a medical witness who should give evidence entirely on the results of his post-mortem and independent of anything the medical attendant of the deceased person might have to say. He was accused by the Medical Association of actually withholding from the jury the evidence of the medical attendant, and in one case of severely censuring the medical attendant for absence, when in point of fact he had not been summoned to the inquest. Lord Halsbury said he was not in favour himself of the Coroner’s practice, but he could not say that grounds had been established for his removal.
The next outburst was in 1908, when Mr. Troutbeck insisted on holding an inquest on a woman who had died after an operation had been performed by Sir Victor Horsley. The case, Sir Victor said, was such a usual one that there was no necessity for an inquest, but Mr. Troutbeck held that operations were clearly to some extent the cause of death, and therefore such cases came under the Coroners’ Act, 1887. After a long correspondence, The Times declared the practice intolerable to the whole medical profession.
Another of Mr. Troutbeck’s idiosyncracies was the holding of private inquests at which even the Press was not represented. The most famous of these was on the late Duke of Bedford, who died in 1891. It was given out that the Duke had died a natural death, but a week later it transpired that he had committed suicide, and that Mr. Troutbeck had held an inquest in private. This, of course, led to a violent discussion, the result of which was to vindicate the right of a Coroner to hold inquests in private. There was the other celebrated case of the Gaiety girl, Miss Manton, who died under suspicious circumstances. The inquest was never reported, Mr. Troutbeck refusing absolutely to communicate his notes to anyone. In those days, it ought to be explained, reporting was more or less in the hands of cliques of professional reporters, who retailed their reports to the Press at large, and cornered the business. Mr. Troutbeck himself refused to give any information to accredited representatives of individual papers.
A cultured linguist, Mr. Troutbeck often dispensed with the services of interpreters at his enquiries. He was also a skilled musician, and played the viola in the orchestra at the Coronation last year. He was appointed Coroner by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.
Source: Evening Post, Volume LXXXIII, Issue 84, 9 April 1912, Page 8

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