Walter Ferdinand Bethell was a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Bahamas. Not very much is known about him in life, but his death made newspaper headlines. Walter F. Bethell M.L.A., killed himself. He died tied to a coconut tree. Bethell endured an awful and painful death, quietly, without uttering any audible screams or moans, and by his own hand.
Bethell tied himself to a coconut tree, doused his body with kerosene oil, and set himself on fire, on January 2, 1908.
Incredibly, neither the cook, nor the manservant, who were at home at around one o’ clock in the afternoon, heard nothing, or noticed anything until the fire had all but consumed poor Mr. Walter Bethell.
The inquest touching the death of Mr Walter F. Bethell M.L.A., was concluded on Monday when the following facts were elicited in evidence:
The deceased was 69 years old, had been suffering from acute gastritis for some time and lately had taken little food. He became very depressed and melancholy and was despondent about getting better. Finally his weak and depressed condition affected his mind to such an extent that he had to be watched.
On the night of the first instant he became worse but on the following morning he appeared to have improved and to be fairly composed, in fact so much so that his sons left him to go to their business, but directed the manservant to keep an eye on him.
About 1 o’clock or thereabout, the cook on coming out of the kitchen noticed smoke around the front corner of the house, and upon rushing around he saw the deceased lying off on his back in the fire at the base of a coconut tree.
His body was very much burnt especially his face and head which was beyond recognition. There was a piece of rope around the trunk of the coconut tree as also a burnt piece around the waist of the deceased.
A box of matches saturated with kerosene oil and an empty pitcher were found near the body.
From the manner in which his clothes were burnt it was quite evident that some inflammable fluid had first been poured over him.
The police having made exhaustive enquiries were satisfied that the deceased came to his death by his own act.
The jury returned a verdict of “suicide whilst of unsound mind,” and desired to express their sympathy that the members of that the bereaved family.