see also Andrew Wynter in Our Social Bees - click here
SUICIDES in Hyde Park, unfortunately, were of
a very frequent occurrence. Drowning in the
Serpentine was usually the method adopted.
The revolver and poison are often resorted to, and
even hanging in the trees. I knew of one case where the body of a man was discovered in broad daylight
suspended by a piece of cord from the bough of a tree
situated between the Marble Arch Gate and Police
Station. One of the most determined suicides was a
man who stood on the parapet of the West or Magazine
Bridge, shot himself with a revolver through the head,
and fell backwards into the water. Another came under
my own personal observation. I was on duty one morning near Stanhope Gate, and was informed that on a
seat a little distance away a man was bleeding from the
throat. On my arrival at the spot indicated I could see
nothing of the man, but was attracted by a trail of blood on a path leading to the Serpentine. This I followed in
that direction, thinking he had made for the water, but being unable to obtain any further trace of him, I went
to the R.H.S. Receiving House for the purpose of informing the officials, who would at once search the
vicinity in a boat. Upon my arriving there it appeared
information had already been given, for the dead body of a man had just been taken out of the water, and
undoubtedly the one I was in pursuit of, for there was
a frightful gash in the throat.
In this brief reference to these regrettable affairs, I must relate one more, for whenever I have a walk in the Park, and should I cross the Magazine Bridge, the occurrence I am about to relate usually comes to my mind. I was way to my evening duty (5 p.m. to 1 a.m.), and on my my last visit to the constables on duty at the Albert Memorial, and was crossing the bridge as Big Ben was striking twelve, when I heard a sound not unlike the discharge of firearms come from the direction of the south bank of the Serpentine. It was not a sharp bang, but a thuddy, suppressed kind of report. I stopped - short and listened . . . but could hear nothing more, only the last strokes of the clock booming in the distance, and all was still! Then came the question- "What was it?" and the cause. It certainly sounded like a revolver or something of the kind-possibly some poor wretch putting a tragic end to his existence, or perhaps only some half-drunken characters passing through the Park "having a lark, as they call it, for there are all sorts of strange noises in the evening made by people on their way home; but I must confess this struck me as something out of the ordinary. However, I tried to persuade myself it was of no consequence, for, having been on my legs for nearly eight hours, I was not very anxious to go out of my way and look for a case of suicide, especiallyon the off chance of one not having been committed.
At any rate, whatever it may have been, I would have the night duty constable informed, so that he would give an extra look over that particular part of his beat. Having thus decided, I accordingly proceeded on my way through Kensington Gardens to the Albert Memorial, made my visit, and retraced my steps with - the intention of going to our station (to get to which I should have to re-cross the bridge again), for with some reports, etc., that I should have to enter, the whole of my time would be busily engaged up to the end of my tour of duty.
But when I arrived at the bridge - cross I could not - an irresistible feeling came over me that I must go to the place from whence the noise proceeded, it being that side of the water I was then on. I said to myself, "Well, this is all right I for there was not a soul about, no "bulls-eye" with me, and almost pitch dark. However, across the grass. I went, in the direction I believed the sound came from, and had walked about two or three hundred yards, and passing through a clump ot old elm trees, I could just discern in the darkness an object on the ground. I approached it; it was a man-there was no doubt at all now-the usual position, flat on the back, arms and legs extended, revolver clutched in hand. Bending over him, I could perceive a. fearful wound in his forehead, and his whole frame was quivering like an aspen leaf - evidently the bullet had not yet quite completed its fatal work.
I could now also quite realize the cause of my uncertainty while standing on the bridge, wondering what the sound may or may not have been. That it was a revolver shot was now only too evident; but I believe there is no doubt but what the suicide, with a view to ensure his certain death, pressed the muzzle of the weapon as close as possible to his head at the time lie discharged it, and, as an additional consequence, would have the effect of producing the stifled report I heard that caused my perplexity.
However, I will not go into further details concerning this ghastly case, any more than to say, although I was hours later in getting to bed that night, I felt considerably more at rest that I had "cleared up" the affair myself. When I commenced this chapter I intended to say as little as possible about these sad occurrences-they are not pleasant subjects to read about, and under the most favourable circumstances a very unpleasant duty to perform. Still, it had to be done, and likely to be, I am afraid; but I could not tefrain from entering at length into this one, for in all the many cases I have been engaged in, I cannot recall one that made a greater impression on me-the sudden prompting to go and look, and walking direct to the body, was a coincidence I cannot easily forget.
Lastly, it may afford a certain amount of relief for me to state, regrettably frequent as these cases of self-destruction - or self-murder - are, yet, during the whole of my service, or since that I am aware of, not a single case of the terrible crime of deliberate murder, or even attempted murder, by a person or persons, upon the life of another, has ever had to be recorded by the police; md when one comes to consider Hyde Park, open as it is from early morn till midnight, day after day, from one year's end to the other, to its myriads of humanity in all sorts and conditions of life, - is at least, I should hope, some consolation.
Edward Owen, Hyde Park, Select Narratives, Annual Event,
during twenty years' Police Service in Hyde Park, 1906