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.-_---_-__-----A COURT FAVOURITE.

--- ----.--A MISSILE IN THE…




Her Body Found in a Park


Her Body Found in a Park EVIDENCES OF SUICIDE. Boys' Gruesome Discovery. As briefly announced in our first edition yester- day, the mystery of the missing lady doctor has at length been solved after a lapse of over two months by the discovery of the body of Miss Hickman in a plantation in Richmond Park. There appears to be no doubt that death took place upon the very day of the disappearance— August 15th—and that the body has lain in the sequestered spot on which it was found on Sun- day eveninsr ever since, exposed to the disin- tegrating action of sun and rain. As must have been expected after such ex- posure, the body waa in a condition which rendered identification in the ordinary sense of j the term absolutely impossible, bat fortnnately, as is elsewhere explained, there were articles on the corpse which clearly established the identity of the person who in life had owned them, while he clothing also told a similar tale. How the unhappy lady reached Richmond and the remote spot upon which she died and the circumstances which led her to take her own life -for that she comitted suicide there is appar- ently no reason to doubt -may perhaps be cleared up at the Coroner's inquest, which will be held in due course. Those who knew Miss Hickman in life have no doubt whatever that something occurred upon the day of her disappearance which affected her so deeply that her mind became temporarily unhinged, and it is hoped that the Coroner's investigation upon this important point of motive will be open and exhaustive. The police almost from the first cherished the theory of suicide, and as the weeks passed and no trace of Miss Hickman could be found, despite the enormous amount of publicity given to her case by means of the newspaper reports and the printed descriptions and portraits which were scattered broadcast throughout the land, that belief became a matter of certainty to the minds of the trained investigators who had charge of the case, but that has not prevented the police from continuing to follow up every clue which promised to place the fate of the missing lady doctor beyond doubt. It is a curious fact that one of the earJiest claes which the police took in hand led them to Richmond and most exhaustive inquiries were made in that town and its vicinity. Whether the park itself was thoroughly examined is not known, but most of the park-keeper3 were questioned and the men themselves were placed on the alert at the pro3- pect of earning the large leward which had been offered, but Monday's gruesome discovery has proved almost beyond question that there was never any chance of findiug Miss Hickman alive, for she evidently went straight to Richmond on the afternoon of Saturday, August 15th, travel- ling unnoticed among the thousands of returning business men and women and week-end holiday- makers and that she lay dead in the recesses of the great park long before the hue and cry com- menced. The fate of Miss Hickman thus solved by the discovery of her dead body in Sidmooth Planta- tion, Richmond Park, on Sunday afternoon, I clears opone of the most sensationaland dramatic I disappearances of recent years. The circum- stances surrounding the unfortunate young lady's disappearance from the Royal Free Hospital and the subsequent tragic discovery of her decom- posed remains in a lonelyspot within a few miles of her home, stands unparalleled in the long list of similar cases which have been reported to Scotland Yard. But for the fact that a few Richmond boys in a venturesome spirit made an unauthorised excursion into the prohibited part of the park, it is doubtful whether the fate of the missing lady doctor, which has aroused so much sympathetic interest throughout the whoJe country, would ever have been satisfactorily de- termined. FINDING THE BODY. Since Miss Hickman disappeared on August 15th many sensational theories were put forward as to her whereabouts but nearly all these thus sadly have been dispelled. On Sunday afternoon, just after dinner, three little boys living in Richmond, whose names are John Mackenny, 10 years of age, son of a waterman, James Watkins, and Tom Fennel, set out to gather chesnuts in Richmond Park. They rqamed about the grounds for some time, and ultimately by some curious chance their footsteps were directed towards an unfrequented plantation, The Fence3 Plantation wherein Mias Hickman's body wa; found. lying about a quarter of a mile from the Rich- mond gate of the park, and between the road- ways leading to Sheen Gate and Kingston. The plantation, comprising an area of about 50 acres, is enclosed by a wooden fence 5ft. 6in. in height. Although this portion of the park is strictly private and closely guarded by vigilant keepers, the youtbful trio climbed the high fence, and made their way into the thickly- wooded interior of the plantation. What occurred after this may be described in the words of the boy John Mackenny, a bright and intelligent lad, who was immediately responsible for the sensa- tional discovery. Simply an-I frankly he told his story to an interviewer. About half-past 3 on Sunday afternoon," he said, I and two other boys, James Watkins and Tom Fennel, went to Sidmouth Plantation to get chesnuts. We knew we were not allowed to go there, but we got more chesnuts there than anywhere else in the park. We climbed the wooden paling on the side nearest Richmond gate, and made our way into the middle of the plantation. We were running about laughing and whistling when I suddenly came upon what I thought at first was a bundle of old clothes. I ran away at once, I was sc frightened. Coming up to my two companions, who were some dis- tance away, I told them what I had seen, and we thought we would return and have another look. It was then that I saw a head, and looking more closely I saw among a lot of rotten leaves what I took to be the body of a woman. The body seemed to be covered with a long black cloth, and the head was lying a short distance away. We aid not stop a minute, we were so terribly fright- ened, and hearing the keepers coming after us we took to our heels and made for the fence. We ran home as hard as we could. I told my father what I had seen, and he and my uncle later in the evening told the police. That is ail I can say about it." Acting upon this story the police went to the spot indicated by. Mackenny, and after a short search fonnd the body lying at full length in a marshy spot in the plantation. Thick shrubs almost concealed the body from sight and de. cayed leaves and broken twigs were strewn upon it. One giance at the remains was sufficient to indicate to the officers that life had been extinct for some weeks. Procuring an ambulance from the police-station, the officers lifted the body, and placing it on the ambulance conveycd it to the mortuary. This wa9 a difficult and delicate operation on account of the condition of the remains, but the body was handled reverently and carefully, and was deposited in the mortuary with the least possible disturbance of its general appearance. Dr. Gardner, the divisional surgeon, was immediately summoned, and made an examination. He expressed the opinion, which is amply bcrne out by the state of the body itself, that the woman must have been dead at least six weeks. As the body lay on a long g::ey slab in the mortuary it presented what can only be described as a repulsive appearance. The bead, almost devoid of flesh, had apparently been eaten away from the trunk by rats. The features were entirely unrecognisab!e. The brain was gone, and only a bleached skull remained. The body itself was decomposed almost beyond recognition. The clothes huncr limply from the bones, from which the flesh had been almost entirelv gnawed away. The clothing showed ample signa of the depredations of the wood rats, while thousands of insects still clung to the be- draggle-iskirts and petticoats. The body was fully dressed. The skirt was of blue alpaca material, and covered a dark-coloured petticoat. Under a light bodice she wore a linen under- vest, and white linen underclothing. The blue stockings and low-heeled shoes, which apparently had been covered by the skirt during the long ex- posure to the weather, were in a remarkably good state of preservation. r MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION. There were no corsets on the body, and this fact helped later in the identification, because it was known that Miss Hickman did not wear corsets. Close to the spot where the gruesome discovery was made the police picked up a black straw hat with a black ribbon. There was no pocket in the skirt of the dress, bnt a few articles which were important factors in deter- mining the identity of the woman were found I clinging to the clothes. These were a silver watch (which had stopped at 7 o'clock), a tiny silver chain, a fountain pen, and a cross of the St. John Ambulance Association. No letters were found which would elucidate the mystery of her death, and the first hint of the woman's identity was given to the police through the medium of the little ambulance cross which the woman had been wearing. On this was engraved the name, Frances Hickman," and the evidence of identification was further strengthened by the finding on the clothing also the name of Frances Hickman. This Dame was eewn on ewry wtictaJevutf on the woy. The shoes (size 10) also played an important part in satisfying the police that the body was that of the missing lady doctor. Mr Hickman was at once communicated with by the police, who requested the presence of some of her friends at the mortuary who could establish beyond doubt the identity of the body. Early on Monday morning one of Mr Hickman's maids, Bessie Blackwell, visited Richmond, and positively identified the body as that of her late mistress. Miss Blackwell, who has been in the service of the Hickman family for many years, was greatly distressed when taken into the mor- tuary by the keeper and the police, but she re- covered herself sufficiently to be able to examine minutely the clothing. She assured a Press representative afterwards that unfortunately no doubt wa9 left in her mind that the body was that of Miss Hickman, as although it was impossible to gauge anything from the features, there was no mistaking the attire which her late mistress wore when she bad last seen her, and which she knew were included in Miss Hickman's war j robe. Chief Inspector Fox, of Scotland Yard, who has had charge of the case from the commence- ment, went down early to Richmond. Along with Inspector Cleave he visited the mortuary and afterwards proceeded to Richmond Park, where they made a minute examination of the scene of the discovery. The officers covered the spot with large branches of trees to prevent disturbance, and instructed a number of police-constables to i search the immediate neighbourhood with a view I to finding any other property which might have belonged to Miaa Hickman. IMPORTANT DISCOVERY. In the afternoon, during the search by the police of the plantation, a discovery was made which may have an important bearing on the question as to how Miss Hickman met her death. Underneath some shrubs, below which the body had lain for so many weeks, a police-sergeant found a small medicine bottle and an ordinary ginger beer bottle. Both articles were imme- diately taken to the police station, and in due course will be submitted to experts for examina- tion. Both bottles were uncorked and were without labels, and gave forth no perceptible odour. Later in the day two friends of the deceased-Dr. Annie McCall, under whom she served in the Battersea Maternity Home, and Dr. Mary Rorke-went down to the mortuary at Mr Hickman's request, and made a short exami- nation of the remains and clothing, which left no doubt in their minds that the body was that of their unfortunate colleague and friend. There is a considerable quantity of game in the wood, and the shooting rights belong to the Duke of Cambridge. About a fortnight ago there was a, shooting party in the wood, but the non- discovery of the body then may be explained by the fact that it was almost completely hidden from view by shrubs. A difficulty is likely to arise over the allocation of the reward of S200 offered jointly by the hospital authorities and Mr Hickman for the recovery of the missing lady. The point is likely to be raised that the way in which the body was found does not entitle the discoverers to the reward. Nothing will be done until application has been made for the money, but the bills circulated offering the 'I reward state positively that C200 will be paid to any person or parsons who shall first give I information as will lead to the discovery of Miss Hickman. A number of letters were received at the hos- pital as late as Monday morning stating that Miss Hickman bad been seen at various places throughout the country. One letter from Glas- gow said Miss Hickman was professionally en- gaged at a hospital in that city. A postcard contained the follOwing: It is very good of you to search for me so, but I am all-right thanks.—S. F. Hickman." An Uncanny Disappearance. The search for Miss Hickman in all parts of the world is now a matter of history. She disap- peared with almost uncanny suddenness on the afternoon of 16th August. At lunch time she was seen in one of the corridors 41 gazing ab- stractedly at nothing," and swinging a stetho- scope in her hand. Nobody saw her leaving the hospital. M She was 29_ veat3 of age, tall, strong, and masculine-lookinsr. Her home was in Courtfield- gardens, South Kensington and her father was in business in Fenchurch-street as a Spanish merchant and a dealer in house property. Hue and cry was immediately raised. Large rewards were offered for information which might lead to her discovery, Scotland Yard was put on the track, and thousands of placards bearing her portrait and description were circulated over the country. She was to be identified -among ot!Aer signs—by the fact of her wearing a long brown waterproof. As a result tall ladies wearing brown waterproofs were seen in all parts of the country and identified as the missing lady. Nearly a month after her disappearance her mackintosh was found in the ladies' dressing- room at the hospital. This killed the principal clue—to the effect that Miss Hickman, dressed according to the first official description, had been seen in a shop in tho Clapham-road, where she bought an oil-stove. Before the waterproof was discovered Clapham was searched, unavail- iug-b. from end to end. Then came two reports of undoubted accuracy. On the afternoon of her disappearance the lady doctor had been seen in the Gray's Inn-road, and later on during the same day the postman who delivers letters in Courtfield-gardens saw her out- side her father's house there. Further Interview with the Father. Mr Hickman made a further statement to a Central News representative on Tuesday with a view to throwing some light upon the death of his daughter. About 10 or 12 years ago," he said, my daughter thought of taking up her residence at Holloway College and going in for a London University degree. Rooms were accord- ingly taken for her, and other arrangements made for her entry into the college. Just about that time I went to Spain. Before my daughter could enter the college as a student it was neces- sary for her to have a medical certificate as to her physical soundness. The students at that college devoted themselves very much to athletic exercises, and it was essential that a student above all things should have a sound heart. h Dr. Duncan, of Richmond, where I was then living, was called in to examine Fanny and give the necessary certificate. When he looked at her he said, Oh, you are well enough. I might at once sign the certificate, but,' added the doctor, let us have a pro forma examination.' The doctor then proceeded to examine my daughter, and was startled to find that she had a weak heart. He arranged to come on the following'day to make a further examination, and having again examined Fanny he declined to sign the certificate. She was consequently unable to go into the college. After my return from Spain she was taken by her mother and by myself on two occasions to see a specialist at the West End—a gentle- man at the head of the Hospital for Diseases of the Heart, in Soho. That gentleman said there was certainly something the matter with Fanny's heart, the result doubtless of influenza, but he thought there was not much amiss, and said she might scull or walk eight miles at a time, but should not play tennis. Three years ago she went to live for three months with Dr, Annie McCall in order to study maternity, and doubtless she overworked herself there. After returning home-and feeling unwell she consulted a lady physician of fiarley- street, who told her she was suffering from her heart, and told her to give up cycling and take rest for a little time. She soon seemed all right again. I have this morning heard for the first time," continued Mr Hickman, "that she had influenza six months ago, when she was at work in Battersea, and possibly this attack of influenza brought on heart weakness, as it did before. My daughter concealed the fact from me as I had two children ill at the time, and was in great trouble about them. She was always desperately fond of fresh air. Summer and winter she had all the windows of her bedroom open, and she would even sieep all night in the garden in the summer at Battersea. It is quite possible that, feeling a sense of her great respon- sibiJityat the Royal Free Hospital, and feeling much alono there, this, coupled with the heart weakness, would explain her taking her hat and going out to get fresh air; as the atmo- sphere of the hospital would be oppressive to her. Her bedroom there too was a very small one, and with a great deal less ventilation than she had been accustomed to. Probably she in- tended returning to the hospital imme- diately, but went on to my residence in Courtfield -gardens, and as we were not at home bat in the country she might have come to the conclusion that it might do her good to go to Richmond Park via Wimbledon Com- mon and Coombe Wood, as she used to do almost weekly on Sundays. It is quite likely that she got over the railings of the enclosure where her body was found so as to enjoy the privacy of which she was so fond. She would think that a few hours' perfect quiet on such a spot would restore her to her usual health. But she might have been overcome with heart disease there," pursued Mr Hickman, and have succumbed, or, as her lady medical friends think, she may have been attacked by some poachers or other bad characters, in which case sue would certainly have defended herself most thoroughly until she was overpowered by them and murdered. I- The women doctors, who examined the bodv yesterday are of opinion that there has been foul play that could account for the separation of the head from the body. They feel quite certain that there has been murder."


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