1839: Charge of attempted murder after unprovoked attack at the Rose and Crown Cuckfield

Sussex Advertiser - Monday 25 March 1839


John Fowler, horsekeeper, 40, was charged with having, on the 28th of November, maliciously wounded Ann Juniper, at Cuckfield, with intent to murder her.


John Simpson deposed that on the 28th of February he was lodging at the Rose and Crown, Cuckfield. He was in the taproom(1) on that morning. Prisoner was there, and said “if that b____ old wretch came in he would knock her down”. Witness told him he hoped he would not strike a woman. He said “won't I?”.

Mrs Juniper came into the room with a cup and a teaspoon. She made towards the tap room fire. Fowler said to her, "What have I done to you for you to be down upon me like this?” She said she was not down upon him and had given him no provocation. He said “You b____ old wretch”, and took up the poker.

Rose and Crown circa 1860

Witness caught his right arm to prevent the blow, but could not, being dashed against the settle by prisoner, who struck her on the side of her head. He put the poker down and went out into the yard. Mr Juniper’s brother came in, followed by prisoner, and said, “for God’s sake John, come back and see what you have done: you have murdered the woman”. He replied “I meant it”.


Did not know the cause of the dispute between Mrs Juniper and prisoner.


Lovell Byass, surgeon, deposed that he was called in to see Mrs Juniper, and found her labouring under concussion of the brain from wounds in the head, apparently inflicted by a blunt instrument. Her life was in danger.


Ann Juniper (who was obliged to be seated during her evidence, being yet in a precarious state from the injuries inflicted on her) deposed that she went into the tap room to wet some mustard on the day in question, and could remember nothing further of the transaction.


John Garland deposed that he was superintendent on the Brighton railway. Was at the Ship Inn, where a prisoner was in custody. Heard him say that if he had pistols he would have blown the d_____ old wretch’s brains out and if he'd had a pistol he'd have killed her, for he intended to do this it. He did not appear to be sober then, and was much excited.


John Bennett, headborough(2), deposed that when in custody, on the 28th of February, prisoner said, when asked how he came to strike a woman, that he meant to do it. Produced the poker.


By the judge – prisoner was not a violent man when sober. Sometimes when in liquor he was not rational. He was a very good sort of man when sober.


Charles Juniper, landlord of the Rose and Crown deposed that he had known prison five or six years. On the 28th of February there was a wrangle in the tap room. A railroad man accused prisoner of robbing him of 30 shillings. Afterwards went into the tap room and found his wife on the ground bleeding. Fowler said he meant to do it. He wanted to do something to get transported, Mrs Juniper had had no quarrel with prisoner.


By the judge –"this prisoner was riotous and inclined to fight when drunk. He had his leg broken sometime since in a fight".


Prisoner being called in for his defence, said he had a kick in the head from a horse some years ago, and, in consequence, whenever he took an unusual quantity of liquor he was out of his mind. He expressed his sorrow for what he had done.


Mr Byass being recalled stated that he had attended prisoner for a wound to his head some time ago.

The Learned judge said, in summing up that if the jury thought that the conduct of the prisoner had been brought on by drunkenness alone, it would be their duty to find him guilty of the whole charge; but if they thought that from some injury in the head he became insane when drunk, they would find him guilty of the assault only; since, if a man had any affliction which is by liquor rendered insanity, he is not to be supposed to act with premeditation.


His lordship in passing sentence, gave the prisoner a severe lecture upon the evils of excessive drink, and advised him to take warning from his escape today not to indulge in drink, for in his state every glass of ardent liquor which he took was, in fact committing a serious crime against society. The Learned judge then sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment.


(1) A tap room is the space in which a brewery serves its beer to customers. In most cases, this space is either part of the actual brewery or attached to it.


(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headborough