It was only after the coroner had adjourned the inquest and the gathered pressman crowded and jostled around the men from Scotland Yard in some hope of a quote that Nicholls realised Dr Jones had already been interviewed by a reporter from the Amman Valley Chronicle, the local weekly newspaper.
His heart sank even lower when he learned that Thomas Hooper Mounstephens, the dead man’s landlord, had also already received a visit from the press.
Nicholls and Canning dispatched everyone else from the vestry save for the man from the Chronicle before demanding to know exactly what the doctor had said – and more importantly, what the newspaper planned to print.
The reporter said he had spoken briefly with the doctor on the Sunday evening after his initial viewing of the body but prior to the post-mortem examination.
“Dr. Jones said he was called to the shop about ten o’clock on Sunday morning and saw the deceased lying behind the counter with his head towards the window,” the reporter told them.
Flicking through his notepad, he read the quotes he had taken down during the conversation.
“On a superficial examination I found a gap in the throat, which had severed the carotid artery and the jugular vein. There was also a punctured wound in the abdomen.”
The newsman then reeled off a list of the dead man’s injuries which both Nicholls and Canning would have preferred to keep to themselves for the time being.
“The puncture wounds were done with a sharp instrument, and the bruises may have been caused by the brush.
“Either of these wounds would ultimately prove fatal, but the immediate fatal wound was the gash in the throat, from which he would bleed quickly to death.
“The wound was about one inch by one inch and death would come in the course of a few seconds.”
Nicholls shook his head and wondered what other evidence and details of the case which could in time prove essential to the investigation had already been made public. His worst fears were soon to be confirmed.
Turning his page, the reporter continued quoting the doctor.
“The peculiar part of the wound in the abdomen was that none of the clothing was cut,” he read.
“The top buttons of the trousers were opened and also part of the waistcoat. The shirt had been uplifted, and there was a punctured wound with a couple of scratches round about it.”
Crucial information about the nature of the crime which should by rights have been known only to the police and the killer would be common knowledge within days, if it was not already.
To make matters worse, the reporter flicked another page and continued.
“It would then have been an easy matter for the murderer to have followed the deceased upstairs and then felled him,” the doctor had said.
“The first blow apparently only stunned the deceased, leading to the conclusion that Thomas Thomas must then have recognised his assailant.
“On his partial recovery another scuffle seems to have taken place, with the result that the murderer got hold of the broom handle lying at the time on the floor and afterwards found in the brook, and belaboured deceased with it.
“The knife was eventually brought into use.”
With the details of their case already known to the general public before they had even arrived on the scene and about to be published in the valley newspaper, the two Scotland Yard detectives began to wonder whether the investigation was already beyond their control.