Henry Harwood

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Friday 24 March 1939

“LIKE A BAG OF WET CLAY” WITNESS’S GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF FALL

Inquest on Mr. Henry Harwood, Mitcham

The Coroner’s Inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Mr. Henry Harwood, aged eighty-two, of 11, Lower Green East. Mitcham, which was adjourned for a week to enable an eye witness of the accident to attend, was resumed in Mitcham Town Hall on Tuesday by Dr W.J. Lord, who sat with a jury.

Mr. Harwood, a six-foot upright man, famed for his walking powers, was returning home from a walk at 6.15 p.m. on Monday. March 6th. when he was struck by a motor cycle combination at the comer of Madeira and Cranmer roads, opposite the Catholic Church. The evidence on Tuesday showed that he was standing on the white safety line in the centre of mouth of Madeira road when the machine approached, and then suddenly started to cross the rest of the road front of the combination.

The only witness, apart from the driver of the combination, answered a broadcast appeal. His evidence differed from that of the motorist to some extent. He described the fall of the body graphically by saying it sounded like the dropping of “a bag of wet clay.”

Mr. Harwood, a very much esteemed native of Mitcham, who had lived on the edge of the Green where he was killed most of his life, died in Wilson Hospital on Friday, March 10th.

Miss Mary Ann Harwood told the Court that her brother was a great walker. He was returning from a walk when the accident happened. He wore glasses for reading only, but he was very deaf.

William John McGuckin, 26, Byron-gardens, Sutton, said he was riding a pedal cycle from the direction of London-road along Lower Green East when a motor cycle combination came behind him and turned into Madeira-road.

Coroner — Did you notice the speed? — No, sir. It seemed reasonable. Witness looked round to the left and saw the machine crash into a man. who appeared to be crossing to the Green from the opposite side. The man dropped into the road with a sound like the dropping of a bag of wet clay. Did you see anything of the pedestrian before the accident?— No. sir. It was just getting dark. He couldn’t say whether the street lamps were lit. Did you hear any sound of horn? —No.

Witness added that he saw the motor combination hardly a second before the accident occurred. It was on its proper side of the road. The man had apparently just stepped off the near side kerb, and the machine was close to him when struck him. P.-c. Gibb said he examined the road after the accident, and found no sign of brake marks. P.-c. Cox said the man was lying on the white safety line. Eric John Redhead, aged twenty-nine, of 208. Devonshire-way, Shirley, told the Court that he was driving his motor cycle combination towards Croydon from Lower Green East, and was making for Madeira-road. No one was in the side-car. His speed was about twenty-five miles an hour. The old man was standing on the white line facing towards witness, who slowed down for him to cross the road, but he did not do so. He was still standing there when the combination got into the entrance to Madeira road. As witness thought he was waiting for him to pass, witness accelerated to get past. When witness was almost level with him he suddenly started to cross, and virtually walked into the side of the machine. His head struck that of witness, and he fell backwards on the right-hand side of the combination. The machine was pulled up in about nine feet. The street lights were on and on that particular corner they were good. His own lights were not on.

Dr. Edward Stewart, Wilson Hospital, said Mr. Harwood was unconscious when admitted, verv seriously injured. Dr. G. T. Ruston, Weybridge said the post-mortem examination showed abrasions on the right side of the scalp, and bruising over the right shoulder. The right leg was fractured twelve inches above the heel due to contact with the footguard of the motor cycle. Four ribs on the right side of the chest were broken, and the base of the skull was fractured. All the injuries were consistent with the driver’s evidence. Death was due to the fracture of the skull and multiple injuries. His organs generally were in good condition for a man of his age. His bones were not as brittle as one generally found in men so old. A verdict of accidental death was returned, and the driver was exonerated.

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