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1870: Attempted murder(?) and suicide of Cuckfield man

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Violent scene in Portsea. Image created by AI in Bing Image Creator

The late attempted murder and suicide at Portsea. The sitting magistrates at the Portsea police court, were engaged for some hours on Thursday, in hearing the charge prefer against.

Benjamin Carter, 47 years of age, of having attempted to murder Julia Ward, a young woman belonging to the 'unfortunate' class.

The prisoner who is a brewer's clerk, at Cuckfield, and married, with a family, is also a pensioner from the Royal Marines, and in August went to Portsmouth to draw bit pension. On the 20th of that month, it will be remembered, he met the prosecutrix, and, with the exception of a sbort interval, remained in her company until Saturday, the 27th ult. On the previous evening Ward went into the street to speak to a young man who had inquired about another girl, which seemed to excite the prisoner's jealousy, and later in the night he told her had a great mind to shoot her.

The young woman know that the prisoner had a revolver with him. On the following morning Ward get some ale for the prisoner, and the postman brought her a latter from a seaman an board the Minotaur.

Prisoner asked to look at the contents, but she would not allow him to do to. He then made an infamous proposal to her, in consequence of which she dressed herself. Prisoner locked the door, and after they had had a few words be wanted her to kiss him, which she declined to do.

He then said, 'If you don’t, as sure as the sun is shining I will hart you.' As she was sitting on the chair with her hand to her forehead she heard a report, and felt that she was shot in the aide. While she was trying to open the door prisoner shot himself in the heed, and then placed the revolver on a chair. Ward ran down stairs and gave an alarm, and the police arrived and removed the man and woman to the hospital.

It transpired that the prisoner had been drinking to excess while he had been in the company of the prosecutrix. The female was wounded in the abdomen, where the ball remains. The prisoner had two wounds in the head, one in the left side of the neck, and one behind the ear. The prisoner, who is defended by Mr Cousins, solicitor, of Portsea, was committed to trial at the next assizes at Winchester.

Sussex Advertiser, 27 September 1870

In a second news report we learn of the seemingly unlikely verdict:

At the Hants Assizes, on Tuesday before Mr Justice Luch, Benjamin Carter, a middle-aged man, was charged, with shooting at Julia Ward. with intent to murder her. The prosecutrix is a prostitute living in Hawke-street, Portsea. In August the prisoner, a brewer's clerk, at Cuckfield, in Sussex, went to Portsmouth to draw his pension, having been a sergeant in the Marines, and he met the prisoner and remained with her several days. It was alleged that he be came jealous of her, and on the morning of the 27th of August shot her with a revolver in the bedroom, and then made an attempt on his own life. They both remained in a precarious state for some time. Prisoner in his defence said he had told the girl not to touch the pistol, as it was loaded. He tried to frighten her, but it went off by accident, and in his anguish and horror he shot himself. His lordship having summed up the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.

Maidstone Telegraph 10 December 1870

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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