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1881: Murder suspect Percy Lefroy Mapleton appears in Cuckfield Courtroom

Lefroy Mapleton (centre) in the Court Room, above the Talbot Inn

Dundee Courier - Saturday 16 July 1881




Percy Lefroy Mapleton was taken from Lewes Prison to Cuckfield yesterday morning, arriving in the quiet little Sussex village at half-past seven o'clock. The prisoner was conveyed all the way in a carriage drawn by two horses. It is about sixteen miles from Lewes Prison to Cuckfield, and the time occupied on the journey was a little over two hours. Lefroy was informed on Thursday by his solicitor D. T. Dutton—he would be taken to Cuckfield, where the Magisterial examination would be held. The prisoner was awakened at half-past four yesterday morning, and after having washed and breakfasted he was led into the prison yard at five o'clock. The carriage was then in waiting, and Lefroy entered it in company with Superintendent Berry and three officers the Lewes Police. With the exception of the prison officials, the police, coachman, and representative of the press, not a soul was about, and the vehicle at once started for Cuckfield without attracting any attention. Hayward's Heath and other places, where considerable crowds had collected to see Lefroy, were thus avoided, and the prisoner was quietly driven to the police station. About a score of police witnessed his arrival; but there was no demonstration, and Lefroy jumped from the carriage and walked quietly into the station for the first time since his capture without being jeered or hissed. He looked well and strong, and had evidently lost none of his accustomed self-possession. At Lewes he greeted Superintendent Berry pleasantly, and wished his jailers there good morning ; and again at Cuckfield he quietly conversed with those who had him in custody.

On Thursday Lefroy's solicitor, Mr Dutton, spent several hours with him and listened to Lefroy's version of the tragedy, with which he expressed himself satisfied. Dutton also went over the whole scene of the crime, had a look at the cottage at Horsley from which the witness Brown saw a portion of the struggle in the train, and also closely inspected the railway carriage.

Mr Pollard, Solicitor to the Treasury, who at Cuckfield conducts the case for the prosecution, arrived on Thursday night. Mr Brewer, solicitor, for the London & Brighton Railway Company, also arrived on Thursday night.

Lefroy, after chatting for some time in the waiting-room with Superintendents Berry and Waghorn, of East Sussex Police, and Warder Boxhall, of Lewes Prison, who also accompanied the prisoner, was removed to one of the three cells fitted up in the unpretentious building which serves as dwelling house and police station.

Having partaken of coffee and sandwiches at Lewes, prisoner said he did not want anything more until after the proceedings in Court.

Whilst on the journey to Cuckfield and in the waiting-room Lefroy spoke about the weather, complaining of the heat, and saying he feared if it continued, there would be difficulty getting the harvest in.

Percy Lefroy Mapleton

On his arrival at Cuckfield Lefroy was at once taken into the Courtroom, which was densely packed, a large number of ladies being present. There was a full bench —Mr Norman, Chairman.

Mr Waugh, Magistrates' Clerk, called upon the prisoner, who rose and answered to his name.

The reading of evidence taken before the Coroner having been waived,

Mr Pollard said he was instructed to appear on behalf of the Treasury, and thereupon opened the case by giving a resume of the testimony given at the inquest.

During Mr Pollard's address, which lasted over half-an-hour, Lefroy, who was pale at first, became flushed. Beyond this he showed other signs of being conscious of what was taking place. He sat beside his solicitor, Mr Dutton, with his round, soft hat on his knee, his arms folded, and his eyes unwaveringly fixed on the table in front of him. He was much better dressed than when arrested at Stepney. He wore a dark green tweed suit, and had on clean collar and cuffs. He was unshaven, and his dark beard appears to have grown considerably since he was seen last in Brighton. Mr Pollard said it would be shown that Lefroy took a pistol out of pawn the day of the murder. Evidence was then offered, the first witness being Henry Creek, manager at Messrs Thomas Adams & Co.'s, pawnbrokers, 25 High Street, Borough. Mr Creek, after looking round the Court for him, pointed out Lefroy, who looked calmly at witness without moving a muscle.

Mr Creek testified - I believe I have seen prisoner several times at Adams' shop. He has pawned articles there in June last, on one occasion an overcoat and a dress suit. On 21st June last prisoner came with a revolver to pledge, It was loaded. I said we didn't usually take such things, but if he would unload it I would take it in. He then unloaded it, putting the cartridges in the cartridge box he had with him, in which were about fifty cartridges. He then put the cartridges in his pocket, and I gave him 5s on the pistol. I produce duplicate tickets of the articles pledged by the prisoner. On 27th June, prisoner returned to Mr Adams between eleven and twelve o'clock and took the revolver out, paying therefor 5s 1 1/2 d. Last Wednesday I was taken Lewes prison, and picked the prisoner out from among seven other men, who were all dressed like him in plain clothes. Prisoner gave his address, 9 Southampton Street, Peckham.

By Mr Dutton —The prisoner gave his address in Southampton Street, Peckham, and he believed he had several transactions with his firm. He did not know how he was dressed, but thought he was in dark clothes. He knew the prisoner by sight, and did not remember his name when he came on the 27th June. When saw prisoner drawn in line with other persons, he recognised him at once as the man he believed to be a customer, and who had redeemed the pistol.

By the Bench—'The revolver was of foreign make, and had no name upon it.

Harry Bolton Sewel, booking-clerk at London Bridge, said that on the 27th June he was booking for the two o'clock express train to Brighton. His books showed that issued three first-class single tickets by that train, and no returns. When he had handed over two tickets to a lady a tall man who stood behind her came up and took a first-class single. The prisoner, to the best of his belief, was the man.

By Mr Dutton —He recognised the prisoner by his general appearance. He wore a loose dark coat, unbuttoned; not an overcoat. He did not notice an overcoat. He believed the man wore a high hat. He told the Coroner did not notice his hat particularly. His general appearance was shabby. There had been three first-class ordinary tickets issued for Brighton by the twelve o'clock train, but no first-class express returns had been issued up to the two o'clock train. Return tickets were available for eight days.

Wm. Fred. Pranks, ticket collector London Bridge, said he knew Mr Gold as a season ticket holder. He held a ticket between Preston and London. He usually travelled by the two o'clock express down, and was on the platform which that train started from the June. Mr Gold appeared to be in good health and spirits, and took his seat in the train. He noticed the prisoner come hurriedly up along the train, and he opened the door for him to get into the compartment in which Gold was seated. Witnessed remained on the platform facing Mr Gold’s compartment until the train started, and there were Only Mr Gold and the prisoner in it. No one could have got in without his noticing it.

In answer to Mr Dutton, witness said he could not state positively, but believed prisoner was wearing a felt hat.

Sewell, recalled, said the ticket produced, which was taken from the prisoner, was the one which he issued to the man he had described, and whom he believed to be Lefroy.

Thomas Watson, guard of the train, spoke of seeing Mr Gold in the train at London Bridge and Croydon, but did not notice the other passenger. With the exception of a sudden check at Hassock's Gate for about two seconds they ran the journey at express speed. When the check came he looked along the train upon both sides, and he did not think anyone could have got out of it without his noticing it. The footboard was four or five feet above the level of the line. The witness detailed the circumstances which occurred on the arrival of the train at Preston, and said the inside of the carriage was covered and the prisoner completely smothered in blood. Prisoner complained of having been assaulted and robbed, and he removed from his shoe a gold watch with open face, with a short piece of chain attached to it. Prisoner said he knew nothing about it. Prisoner re-entered the compartment with Gibson, the ticket-collector, and the train went on to Brighton. On reaching there he found two Hanoverian flash sovereigns the floor. Prisoner said he had no sovereigns about him, and the witness had better keep them. He therefore handed them over to the Station Superintendent.

Sergeant Holmes having repeated the evidence given at the inquest, the case was adjourned until Tuesday morning next at ten o'clock.



Illustration: The Graphic 23 July 1881 'The Brighton railway tragedy - Percy Lefroy Mapleton before the magistrates at Cuckfield'



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