LOOK BACK IN TIME: 28 February 1903

The IW Observer published on 28th February, 1903 recounts a mystery over a young woman’s body discovered off Dunnose Point in Shanklin.



The body of Miss Lumsden was recovered on Wednesday. It had evidently been disturbed by the terribly stormy weather, and was washed up at Dunnose Point. There it was discovered by Mrs Kemp, the wife of a fisherman, who is credited by rumour with having dreamed it was in the place stated. If so Mrs Kemp did not mention the remarkable coincidence at the inquest, which was held on Thursday, at St. Saviour’s Parish Room, by the coroner (Mr F.A. Joyce). The following evidence was given:-

Donald Innes Smith, 42, York Mansion, Battersea Park, identified the body as that of Marjorie Lumsden. Her age was about 23.

He last saw her alive on the stage at Shanklin, when they were acting “School” on February 10th. Deceased took the part of one of the school girls. They all finished together at 10.35 p.m. or 10.40 p.m. Deceased had gone through her part in her ordinary state of mind, and witness saw nothing strange in her demeanour. He did not see her go away from the hall. At the time they left the Theatre she had on her theatrical garb. He presumed she went out with these clothes on.

John Mauger, coastguard at Shanklin, stated that between 3 and 7 minutes to 11 on the evening in question, he was standing by a shelter on the Esplanade. As he turned, he saw a lady on the brow of the pier. She was tripping along, neither walking nor running. When she got by the first shelter on the pier, he missed her, and never saw her again. She was dressed in clothing of a whitish colour. As he walked along by the pier, about five minutes later, he saw a lady go into the Spa Hotel, and put it down to be the same lady. He went down the pier just afterwards, and remained there for some time, just to satisfy his own curiosity. The pier gates would be closed at about 6 p.m. Anyone would have to climb over. It was no trouble to climb over, as the height was only 3½ feet to 4 feet.

Mrs Kemp, wife of Silas Kemp, Luccombe Chine, stated that on Wednesday morning she went down to the shore at about quarter to one. There she found the body of the deceased, and called her husband. Afterwards, she gave information to the police.

Dr Cowper, practicing at Shanklin, said he recognised the body as that of the deceased. She was dressed in the same dress as that which she wore when taking part in the play of “School”. The body had been very much mutilated, probably by the action of the sea, and in all probability no injury had been caused before death. The probabilities were that death was caused by drowning.

The Coroner, said in summing up, that there were only two points the jury had to decide, whether the deceased destroyed herself, or whether there was a doubt on the point. The evidence was necessarily of an unsatisfactory character, and the coastguard could not affirm positively that the lady he saw was Miss Lumsden. If there was any reasonable doubt deceased was entitled to the benefit of it. After a consultation in private the jury returned a verdict of “found drowned”.

Mr J. Milman Brown expressed the sympathy of the jury with the relatives of the deceased lady in their sad bereavement.