1862: Attempted double murder and suicide at Cuckfield

THE BRIGHTON GUARDIAN, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6. 1862.


Attempted Double murder and suicide at Cuckfield


—Rhoda Clark, 24, single woman, was indicted for attempting to drown herself and her two infant children, named Mary Ann Clark, aged four years, and Alfred Thomas Clark, aged one year and eight months, at Cuckfield, on the 14th July. Merrifield prosecuted. Prisoner was not defended by counsel.


Cuckfield High Street c1900 (colourised). Trials was held on the first floor of The Talbot - picture courtesy of Cuckfield Museum

Alfred Wood stated that he was a brickmaker at Hayward’s Heath, and that prisoner and her two children lived with a man named Martin, who was employed in the same brickyard as witness. On the night of the 14th July, the night after Hayward’s Heath club, he met the prisoner about ten o’clock, and she said she had lost her road. She had two children, but only one was with her. He enquired where the other child was, and she replied that she did not know. He told her she had better go home and lead the child that was with her. She vowed she would make off with herself and her two children before morning. Witness told her she was in liquor and that he had heard people say she would do so before.


His Lordship: Did you say she was intoxicated?


Witness: Yes. Witness said that prisoner repeated that she would commit suicide—that she would cut her own and her children’s throats. He went with her to the hut, and having left her there and gone a little way he heard a screaming. He went back and saw prisoner and the two children taken out of a pond close by.


Prisoner asked no questions, but said she was drunk and did not recollect seeing the witness.


In answer to the learned judge and Merrifield, witness said the man Martin, who lived with the prisoner, was at the club, and also saw her taken out of the pond. He said she might drown herself, if she liked, but not the children.


William Weller said he worked in the same brickyard and lived with Martin. On club night, about half-past eleven, prisoner asked him to go and get some brandy, but before he got out of the door be heard the razor case drop, and on turning round saw she had an open razor in her hand. He asked her what she was about, and the reply was that it was her last home. He took the razor from her, and she immediately ran out of the house, got to the pond, and pushed the children under the water. The pond at the deepest spot was only about two feet and a half deep.


Spencer Card, another brickmaker, said he helped to get prisoner and the children out of the water. She was very drunk.


Prisoner said she did not recollect anything that had taken place. She was very sorry, and if they would let her off, it should not occur again. The learned Judge summed up, and said the jury would have to consider whether the time of committing the offence prisoner was a reasonable being.


The Jury returned verdict of Not Guilty.


The Judge (to prisoner): Are you going to live with Martin again?—No, Sir.


The Judge: Have your home to go to?—Yes, Sir; my father’s.


The father stepped forward and said he should take her to his home. ,


The Judge: And I hope you will take care of her. Let her be discharged at once.

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