Benjamin Trumper was b: 19 Sep 1885 in Geraldine and d: 03 Jun 1892 at his home at Ruakapuka Downs, Geraldine; Burial: 05 Jun 1892 at Geraldine CemeteryAn inquest was held on the body of the boy, Benjamin Trumper aged 5 years. Death was caused by some sort of poison. The only unusual substances known to have been eaten were ice and brier berries. Two older boys were laid up with similar symptoms, one of whom ate no ice, and neither of them berries. The inquest was adjourned for an analysis. The boy died in less than 24 hours from the time he was taken ill.
Timaru Herald, 6 June 1892: INQUEST.
An inquest was held at the house of Mr Benjamin Trumper, at Geraldine, on the body of his son Benjamin Trumper, before C. A. Winy, Esq., Coroner for the district, and a jury of six
The following evidence was given:
Benjamin Trumper deposed : I am a farm labourer residing at Geraldine, and father of the deceased, who was five years and eight months old. I was not at home when he died. I came home at about 4 pm. the day before yesterday. He was then dead He was in good health on Monday last, the 30th May.
Elizabeth Trumper, mother of deceased, deposed: The boy left home at about 9 o'clock on Tuesday morning to go to school. He had breakfast before he left, some bread and butter and a drink of milk. His two brothers and his sister went to school with him. They were all older. He appeared to be quite well then. I did not see him till between 5 and 6 o'clock in the evening, he having been away all day at school. I next saw him sitting by the fire in the house eating some bread and cheese. I did not see him come in, but he passed me outside. He met me by the little gate as he came from school. He was a few minutes behind the others in coming home. There did not appear to be anything the matter with him. I didn't give him the bread and cheese. The others were eating it also. He had a drink of milk. He looked dull and heavy about the eyes while eating his bread and cheese. I asked him what was the matter. He said " Nothing" and I asked him if he were sleepy and he said he was. He then complained of a little pain on one side of his face, which I thought was toothache. He then undressed himself and went to bed. At about 6 o'clock the same evening I gave him a drink of blackcurrant jam in some hot water and sugar. He seemed to go to sleep. He woke up at about half past 7 o'clock, and commenced vomiting He said that his head ached, and his throat was sore. I put a flannel with hot oil round his throat. He asked for a drink, and I gave him some milk. He then went to sleep, and woke up again at about half past 10 o'clock. He vomited again. He asked for more drink, and each time I gave him milk with a little warm water and sugar with it. He was rather feverish. He slept on till about 2 o'clock when he vomited again. He had another drink of milk and water and went to sleep. I lay down, but the little girl watched him and gave him some drink. When I got up about 5 o'clock he seemed worse, and very pale He complained of no pain. The vomiting and discharge kept on every few minutes. I sent for the doctor about half past 7 o'clock on the morning of Wednesday. Before the doctor arrived at about 9.30 a.m. he took a turn for the worse. He died at 4pm. that day. I don't know what he had taken to disagree with him, except that the children told me he had taken some ice on Tuesday morning. He was always a pretty healthy child.
Samuel Trumper, a lad of 11 years of age, deposed: I went to school with my brother Benjamin on Tuesday morning to the Pleasant Valley School. My brother did not eat any berries on the road or take anything except some ice, which was off a pool at the bottom of the cutting near Pleasant Valley. I was with him in the school, and he could not have eaten anything but what I saw. He had bread and butter for lunch, and drank some water out of a creek. I did not eat any of the ice in the morning. We came back home together through the bush. There were no berries to eat about except sweet briar berries. My brother made no complaint and was not taken bad till he came home. I ate none of the berries or had anything from anybody else except what my mother gave me. I drank some water from the creek.
James Trumper, brother of deceased, 10 years of age, corroborated the evidence of his brother, but added — " I saw him eat some ice at the bottom of the cutting. I ate some too. We came home together. Coming through the bush Ben ate two or three sweet briar berries. I did not eat any. Deceased was not taken ill till he got home. I did not drink out of the creek. I did not see my brother having anything else but his bread and butter for lunch.
John Craig deposed: I am a duly qualified medical practitioner, residing in Geraldine. I attended Benjamin Trumper at half past 9 o'clock on Wednesday morning. By direction of the Coroner I made a post mortem examination, and I requested that an analysis of the stomach and intestines be made before giving my opinion as to the cause of death, the analysis will take nine days, and I therefore ask that the inquest be adjourned. The Coroner adjourned the inquest accordingly.
Otago Witness, 23 June 1892: CASUALTIES.
At the adjourned inquest at Geraldine touching the death of a boy named Benjamin Trumper, supposed to have died from poisoning, Professor Black's report on the analysis of the stomach and intestines having been read, Dr Craig deposed as to the analysis having been made, showing that no mineral or vegetable poison had been detected. He was of opinion that, owing to the rapidity with which the symptoms came on, the severity of their nature, and the rapid and fatal termination, death was due to the swallowing of some decomposed substance, probably picked up when the children of Mr Trumper were returning from the Pleasant Valley school, causing irritation and inflammation of the intestinal track. Three other members of the same family became ill with similar symptoms, and having been treated for some poisonous and irritating substance had recovered. He was of opinion that the deceased met his death through inflammation of the intestines from swallowing decomposed matter, which must have been in the pool of water from which they ate some of the ice and drank some of the water. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.