BALLARAT policeman Constable William Thomas Clarke knew he was badly hurt during a tussle with a drunk man he was arresting in Humffray Street in 1887.
Constable Clarke sought medical attention on more than one occasion after he was assaulted by the man, but his severe abdominal pains as a result of a ruptured liver persisted.
It wasn’t until his death some months later that doctors realised how serious the problem was.
He died on November 27, 1887, and was buried in the New Street cemetery with full police honours.
His grave is one of 14 police graves around Victoria which have been earmarked for restoration under a state government scheme.
According to his police service record, on an unknown date in 1887, variously reported as being three months, six months, nine months or “some time ago” before his death, Constable Clarke arrested a man for being drunk in Humffray Street, Ballarat.
He was conveying the prisoner to the Ballarat East lock-up when the man viciously assaulted him, kicking him in the groin and the back.
One of the kicks ruptured the constable’s liver. Constable Clarke complained of great pain at the time and sought medical treatment.
From that date, his health deteriorated and, although he sought help from “nearly all the doctors in Ballarat”, there was nothing they could do for him.
For the three weeks before his death he was confined to his bed.
His death certificate recorded his death as haematemesis, the literal meaning of which is “vomiting blood”.
The ruptured liver would not have caused bleeding into the stomach, but a possible explanation could be that medication given to control the pain of the ruptured liver developed ulceration in the stomach.
His medical records stated this condition would have been exacerbated by the stress he was under.
Loss of employment or death would have resulted in the destitution of the constable’s wife and three children, the eldest of whom was four.
The number of doctors he saw also indicated a level of stress and dissatisfaction with the fact that the treatment he was receiving wasn’t working, official records at the time stated.
Constable Clarke was appointed as a constable in the Victoria Police on January 3, 1882. He was described as:
• Born in County Wexford, Ireland on September 14, 1857
• Labourer by occupation
• Height - five feet nine and five eighths
• Weight - twelve stone four pounds
• Light brown hair and eyes
• Fresh complexion
• Married September 12, 1883
On November 23, 1883, he transferred to the Victoria Street police station in Ballarat (the Victoria Street police station opened in 1862 and closed in 1953).