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1850: Murderous attack on a policeman

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Morning Chronicle - Friday 09 August 1850


Police-constable Pocock, a most active and vigilant constable in the East Sussex Constabulary, apprehended two men on Wednesday night at a place called Hedge Court, near Copthorne, on suspicion of being concerned in the late burglary at Hayward's Heath. He also took possession of a cart containing a variety of articles, supposed to be the produce of a robbery; and having kept the men in the lock-up at Turner's Hill during the night, started with them the next morning for Cuckfield.

He rode in a cart with the prisoners whom he had handcuffed together, and Stanbridge, parochial constable of Worth, preceded them a few yards in the cart containing the goods supposed to have been stolen.

Paddockhurst c1900

When they came near to Mr. Livesay's mansion, Paddockhurst, the two fellows, on receiving a signal, seized Pocock unawares and, with the assistance of a third party who came up, bundled him out of the cart. Pocock fought manfully with the three; but though he used his staff he was repeatedly struck to the ground by the third man with a soldering iron. Stanbridge hearing the scuffle turned back, but instead of assisting Pocock, drove past him and his assailants, crying murder with all his might. Pocock continued the fight until a heavy blow prostrated him.

He contrived, however, to draw a pistol from his pocket, which he fired at one of the men, but with what effect he could not observe, as he was again struck down, and they threw themselves on him and rifled his pockets. He shortly after became insensible, and the fellows escaped into the forest. The cries of murder brought persons to the spot, and Mr. Livesay directed an active pursuit, sending an express to Cuckfield for the police. After Pocock's wounds were dressed, Mr. Livesay sent his servants with him to Turner's Hill.

On the road, Pocock recognised two women belonging to the gang, and had them arrested and sent to Cuckfield. The whole of the neighbourhood turned out with alacrity, and in less than an hour more than one hundred persons on horseback and on foot were scouring the forest. The men were seen at Whitely-hill, within a mile or two of the spot, but in the most dense part of the forest fox covers, where it was supposed they were hid.

They are well known, and belong to a gang who encamp about Copthorne and the confines of the forest, and are called "cadgers." They are accompanied by women who carry baskets, and vend tape and other articles to the cottagers, carry on a trade in plunder, and commit depredations among the rabbit-warrens and game preserves with which the country abounds; and not confining themselves to these petty offences, are the terror of the surrounding residents. Among the property found in the cart was a quantity of fishing and poaching tackle, and a large quantity of tea.

Shortly after the assault a lad named Cripps came up and followed the men into the forest but they turned on him and producing a knife threatened to cut his throat if he persisted in dogging them. One of the fellows threw his shoes away in the forest and travelled barefoot, which in a measure helped the parties to trace them, which they did through the very wildest and thickest part of the forest for upwards of twenty miles, and from their method of foiling and turning in the covers, they were very evidently forelaid by the horsemen.

They were at length traced as far as Tinsley Common in Surrey, near Charlwood, where they were seen by some children, but night coming on the traces were lost. Some of the party during the search fell in with two men on land belonging to the Dog Smith Charity at Worth, stealing broom. They were apprehended and sent to Cuckfield, and on Friday were committed by the magistrates for three months to hard labour at the House of Correction.

They are said to have been recognised as the party Kitchenham was in pursuit of when he discovered the stolen property at Copthorne, belonging to Captain Wood, of Horley. The women were also taken before the magistrates on Friday, and committed under the vagrant act for a fortnight. A gold thimble marked "M. A. Brownlow," in Roman characters, was found on one of them.

The names of the men who escaped are Brooks and Hallett. They are well known, having been in custody previously, and are notorious in the neighbourhood into which they were last traced. The pursuit continued actively during Friday, but without success. Several gentlemen from Cuckfield, Balcombe, the Forest, &c., kept it up that day on horseback.

Pocock is under the care of Mr. Hunter, of East Hoathly, who pronounces him still in a very precarious state, suffering under concussion of the brain, - Brighton Guardian.



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