Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Sussex Tragedies and Romances.            199
wake of the idiot boy, a spectacle presented itself which was sufficient to stagger the stoutest nerves; for there, in a comparatively open spot, among the long grass, lay the body of a man, but so decomposed by the elements, and so torn and mangled by birds and beasts, that, but for its clothing, there was nothing to denote humanity about it. The skull was separated from the trunk, and the coat only hung on a heap of bones. The man instantly reported his fearful discovery to the authorities, who went to the spot and took possession of the remains, and of an open razor that was found lying beside them. Active enquiries were set on foot to ascertain the identity of the body, and by what strange fate it had come in such a spot, and lain there so long; for the opinion of the medical men who examined it was, that the body had been in the wood some four months. Had no one disappeared about that time ? or was there no recollection of any stranger having been seen in the neighbourhood—passing by or through it, or stopping at a village inn or beer-shop ? None. Every inquiry was made in the neighbourhood, but no traces of a missing man were found. The clothes were searched, and three half-pence in copper and a bunch of keys were found in the pockets. The clothes themselves indicated that the deceased had been—at one time at least—in a respectable sphere of life, for the coat on his back (he had no waistcoat) and the boots on his feet were well made. His linen was marked "T. H." Then came the question, had he destroyed himself, or had he been murdered ? The evidence produced at the inquest was inconclusive on this point. The razor found beside him might have been the means of destruction in his own hands, or those of others. Decomposition left no traces for medical science to raise even a surmise upon. All that could be done at the time was to return an open verdict of " Found Dead," to take possession of the keys, clothes, &c, and to advertise the facts as extensively as possible. These steps were taken; but they never led to the identification of the dead man. From the time he was found in the wood by the idiot boy (who was
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