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1890: Burgess Hill suspects quizzed about Cuckfield Robbery

Sussex Agricultural Express - Saturday 25 January 1890



Before T. T. Cunliffe Lister, Esq., at Hayward’s Heath,

James Beany, bricklayer; Eli Denman, bricklayer’s labourer; Alfred Jones, marine-store dealer; and Jane Jones, his wife, all of Burgess Hill, were charged, on remand, with stealing various articles, the property of Harriett Gibson, at Cuckfield, on Jan. 18th or 19th.

Harriett Gibson deposed that she was a widow, residing at Pear Tree Cottage, Cuckfield. She fastened up her house about five o’clock on the evening of the 18th Jan., and then went away for the night to look after Mrs. Scott's house, which was opposite.

When she returned about ten o’clock the following morning, she found the scullery window had been broken sufficient unfasten the catch inside. The staple of the door laid also been broken off, which would enable the door to be opened. Inside, everything was in state of confusion in two rooms, drawers and boxes having been broken open. She missed various articles of clothing, and she identified those now produced, including jackets, dresses, dress material, chemises, handkerchiefs, curtains, etc. These had been taken from the drawers and boxes in her house.

Pear Tree Cottage

P.C. Trevett, of the Brighton Police Force, deposed that on Monday afternoon, about quarter-past one, he was called to Messrs. Dell and Wicks, pawnbrokers. He there saw the female prisoner offering to pledge the shawl and some dress materials. In reply to a question she said that a man who was in the public-house opposite had asked her to pledge them.

Witness asked her to the public-house, and she pointed out the prisoner Beany, who admitted giving the things to the woman pledge, and added that they were his wife’s property. Witness apprehended Beany and t him the Town Hall, where he said he found the things St. John’s. The other two male prisoners were in the public house when he arrested Beany.

Sergt. Stevens, stationed at Burgess Hill, stated that on Monday afternoon he saw Beany at the Brighton Town Hall, and (prisoner) told him that he found articles he had previously mentioned at Burgess Hill that morning in the road about seven o’clock. They were tied up in a bundle the same as they were then. Beany added that there was a shawl, a piece of serge, and a dress in the bundle. Witness told him there was no silk dress in the parcel, and Beany replied that he thought there was; if there was not one there then there was not when he found it. Witness then charged him with the robbery, and he replied that did not steal them. He found them all right, and “Darky” and ”Curly ‘could prove that. The prisoner Denman was known as “Curly,” but “Darky” was not one the prisoners. Witness brought Beany to Burgess Hill, and then went to the Watermill Inn and found the prisoner Denman there. He said, in reply to witness, that he lived in the house down the lane, over the fields, from which he gathered that he meant Ditchling Lane. He said he lived there with his mate, “Soldier” (Beany).

In reply to further questions, Denman admitted that he had been to Brighton that day. He did not walk all the way. He met Beany on the road, but he had no parcel with him, nor did he see him give one to a woman to pawn. Witness then searched the house and found several of the articles produced, and which had been identified by Harriett Gibson as her property. Witness then charged Denman with being concerned in the robbery, and both men were taken to the lock-up.

Witness, in company with Sergeant Willett, then proceeded to the house occupied by the prisoner Jones and his wife. This was about one am. The man said he had been to Brighton that day, and his wife admitted that she was the woman who tried to pawn the articles in question, but added that she did not know what the parcel contained. Both Jones and his wife said they had had nothing given them by Beany, but the man said he had told Beany his wife was willing to pawn some articles for him if they could make shilling or two. Sergeant Willett then told the woman she must get up (she being in bed at the time), and be taken into custody for being concerned with Beany in breaking into a house at Cuckfield. He also said if they had got anything they had better hand them over, they would search the house. The woman then said Beany gave her two chemises. The man and his wife having dressed, Sergt. Willett pulled back the bed and found the piece of grey damask under the pillow, where the man had slept. In the same and another room, amongst lot rags, they found a silk petticoat and other articles. Jones was then also charged. Witness added that whilst he was at the Town Hall, Brighton, he was handed a letter, written by Beany, and asked to deliver it to the man known as “Darky'.”

In the letter “Dear Darky” was asked to “come and give evidence for Beany, and say where he picked up the parcel. You know where I picked it up; do not forget, there’s a good chap. I told them I picked it up between the Royal George and the railway station, and if you say that you will get me off, you need not be afraid; they cannot do anything to you.”

Witness did not deliver the letter, but saw the man personally. He said he did not know anything about it, and should not come.

Abraham Gaston, gardener to Mr. Pathan Bethune, stated that on Wednesday afternoon he found a parcel covered with leaves under holly bush, about 20 yards from the high road. The parcel was in a wood, and must have been placed there. It contained the black silk skirt and bodice, and the blue serge produced. The wood was on the road to Brighton, and several miles from Pear Tree Cottage.

In reply to the usual questions, Beany said he would reserve his defence. The others said they knew nothing about the matter, and Beany added that the articles found in possession of the prisoners Jones were given to them by him.

Prisoners were all committed to take their trial at the next Assizes.

The men Beany and Denman were also committed for trial for stealing various articles of clothing and food, the property of W. Beale, at Scaynes Hill, on January 15th, and stealing a leather girth, value 5s., the property of George Wilmshurst, at Burgess Hill.



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