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1871: Murder suspects remanded in Custody

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Chichester Express and West Sussex Journal - Tuesday 29 August 1871


It will be in the recollection of our readers that in the month of November, 1869, it was discovered that a man had been brutally murdered, his body being found in a ditch near the church. An inquest was held, and, after adjournment, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. A reward of £290 was offered for the apprehension and conviction of the murderer or murderers.

Bedlam Pond c1908 where a clue to the murder was found

The body was identified as that of James Greenhead, who was supposed have been implicated in a jewel robbery at Croydon in conjunction with a man named Rowland, who was sentenced in April, 1870, at the Assizes, to a year’s imprisonment for the robbery. Suspicion was directed at the time towards Rowland as being guilty of the murder, but the evidence against him did not warrant action being taken in the matter. Since that date the affair has been shrouded in mystery, the only clue as to the murderers being the discovery of dark lantern and small iron crowbar. The former was found in Bedlam pond, the road to Hayward’s Heath station, and was proved to have been in the possession of Greenhead. The crowbar, which was of the kind used by burglars, was supposed to have been the weapon used by the murderers to commit the heinous crime. It was found in the Newbury pond, about 200 yards from where the body was discovered.

Yesterday morning, two men. who gave their names and ages, as being Trayton Weller, 45, and William Pettit, 55, the former describing himself as a painter, East Hoathly, and the latter as a labourer, of Jevington, were brought before Captain Sergison in custody of Superintendent Pocock, at the residence of W. W. Burrell, Esq., High Sheriff of the county, charged on suspicion of being concerned in the murder. During the hearing of the case, the court was crowded.

James Edwards deposed—l am landlord of the Newport Tavern beershop, Newhaven, and both prisoners were in my house on the 20th instant, between seven and eight o’clock. Weller said to the other prisoner, “Jack, don’t you know me? Do you know where the gold ring is? You know it belongs me, and you have got it. Jack.”

Pettit said he knew nothing about it, and asked Weller what gold ring he meant. Weller replied, “If you don’t give it up, I will split and get the £300 reward.” That was all that was said, and Weller left.

On Saturday night last, between seven and eight o’clock, Pettit was in the house, and remarked to me, “Jim, I never done the murder, but I saw it done at the back of Cuckfield Church. He was hit on the head with an iron bar, and thrown into the ditch.” After that he said to me, “Jim. you’re a fool if you don’t get the reward,” and looking down at me said, “If I had my _____ swap hook in hand I would chop your ________ head off, and then it would be settled, and it could go no further.” I have seen both prisoners before and know them.

Pettit said he knew nothing about it, and knew nothing of what had passed. Weller also gave an unqualified denial to the statement. Witness admitted, in answer to Weller, that he had sold him two or three pints of beer and some tobacco on the Sunday morning.

Supt. Pocock deposed -Yesterday I saw Pettit at Newhaven. I asked him if he knew “Chickabiddy,” the name Weller is known by. He replied that he did, and had been in his company twice; once at Cuckfield about the time of the murder, and then correcting himself said, I don’t know exactly when the time was, but I saw him there. I went to the Ship, a little way out of the town with a man I fell in with at Brighton. We left there at about 10.30 at night, and went to a hovel opposite Cuckfield Park and slept. I took him into custody shortly after and told him the charge. He said he knew nothing about the murder. I apprehended Weller at Piddinghoe on the same day, and charged him with being implicated in the murder, and he also denied it.

Both prisoners now denied all knowledge of the I murder, and said they were beastly drunk on Sunday morning at the beer-shop.

Edwards volunteered a statement that Pettit, on the Monday or Tuesday after, when “solid and sober,” told him that the other prisoner knew all about the murder, and could point the place out.

Superintendent Pocock applied for a remand, as expected to able to furnish further evidence,

The prisoners were then remanded to Lewes Gaol till Monday next, an application from Weller to be admitted to bail being refused.



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