[APG Public List] Re: APGPublicList Digest, Vol 5, Issue 1

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 2 13:39:53 MST 2010

--- On Tue, 3/2/10, eshown at comcast.net <eshown at comcast.net> wrote:

> Craig wrote: 
> "What I think we really need is access to the Vatican archives.
> The Pope's personal physician attended Hester after she hot herself in 
> the head that fateful morning. She was not yet dead but did not long 
> survive. There was in inquest led by the Pope's physician."
> Interesting.
> A woman shot herself in the head? No sleeping pills. No overdose on 
> some narcotic. Have you sought statistics for how common or rare
> “shooting herself in the head” was for female suicides of that era? 

     While I agree that the method does sound like an uncommon one for the era, I do think it is important to recall several points.
     First, except in cases of more or less ritual suicide (where a military officer is handed his pistol and left alone, for example), suicide is often an irrational and impulsive act, and the method chosen may reflect a passing thought. Craig has suggested the woman in question was already mentally unstable - to expect, in a moment of such extreme distress, that she would necessarily follow social norms, is really stretching a point.
     Yes, of course, there is a real possibility this death was a murder passed off as a suicide. It is very unlikely any evidence would survive which could rule that out. But, on the other hand, such vague and circumstantial evidence as typical methods of suicide can't prove it was murder, only leave the suspicion open. If you _really_ wanted to form a reliable idea of what most likely happened, it would be more relevant to investigate the personality of the specific woman involved. She is said to have been eccentric. How much so, and in what ways? Is such a method consistent with _her personality_?
     Your suggestion that statistics be used to resolve this question has another fatal flaw: a certain, unknown percentage of recorded suicides are probably in reality successful murders passed off as suicides. So, if this was such a case, it would form a part of the statistics, along with every other such case, by whatever method. In other words, statistics based upon records can only reveal what the recorder knows.
     In some ways, the very fact that the method would have been seen at the time as atypical for a woman suggests to me that it was _not_ a murder. After all, wouldn't the murderer be more likely to choose a less remarkable method, one less likely to arouse any comment or question? There was apparently a lot of press coverage - something the survivors would have had strong motives to avoid, and even more so a potential murderer.
     But, in the end, all any of this can ever be is speculation. There is no way to be sure, no likelihood - whether suicide or murder was involved - that the official record will contain a truly accurate portrayal of an incident anyone at the time would have felt they had a motive to hush up. If the records of the inquest survive, perhaps they contain a few more tangible hints, pointing in one direction or the other. But it is unlikely they can really settle the question.
                       Ray Beere Johnson II


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