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Tragedy at city centre pub; Landlord's horror as he finds depressed drinker dying.

ON MARCH 12, 1898, Coroner Sampson held an inquest into the death of Duncan Owens, a twenty-two-year-old from Lamb Street.

For a while his job had involved keeping the scores at billiard games, but six months ago he had lost that post and fell into depression.

The week before his death, Duncan drank from Sunday to Thursday in an attempt to drown out his miserable spirits.

He had, however, been able to secure a job as a barman at a pub in King Street, but this was not to his satisfaction and seemed to only worsen his already deep sense of unhappiness.

At about noon on his final Friday, Duncan was working behind the bar but he was slightly inebriated, having been quietly drinking in secret.

On discovering his tipsiness, the landlord became most irate and told him in no uncertain terms to go home and sober up.

This was a warning; another stunt like this then Duncan would be out. Coyly, he gathered his things and left. He would not be coming back.

At about ten to one Duncan stepped into the Beehive Hotel in nearby Paradise Street where he found the licensee George Bell busy serving. He thought Duncan to be quite sober, if a little melancholy when he ordered a shot of whiskey.

Mr Bell poured him a small glass.

"Could I have some hot water please? asked Duncan, "I'm not feeling very well and want to take a powder to settle my stomach."

"Certainly," replied Mr Bell, and he poured him a second glass brimming with water.

Duncan then began to mix a powder from his pocket, tossing the contents from one glass to the other.

He took a firm grip and gulped down the mixture in several dogged slurps. Duncan wiped his mouth and headed to the gents toilets where he remained for some time.

The curious landlord started to become a little concerned and after several minutes inspected the lavatory to see if the young man was alright.

He found Duncan on the floor in a most depressed state of mind. "Sir, are you ill?" asked George kneeling over his customer. "No, I have taken oxalic acid. I don't want to live."

George rushed out into the street and implored a police constable to come and help save the dying man.

The officer used emetics to cleanse Duncan's stomach, but these failed to have any effect. Soon a horse ambulance trotted up outside the pub to take Mr Owens to hospital, but it was too late. Duncan passed away whilst being loaded into the vehicle as the medics stood helpless to do anything else than to place a respectful sheet over the dead man's body.

The inquest concluded that he had committed suicide whilst of unsound mind.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2012
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