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1896: Brutal attack on train near Haywards Heath

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Morning Leader - Friday 17 July 1896

Railway crime

Brighton line mystery: a young lady attacked near Hayward's Heath, her story and her injuries tell of a brutal attack by a ruffian who, it seems, sprang out of the train travelling at full speed — a man was subsequently arrested on suspicion.

Since Lefroy murdered Mr. Gold, there has probably been no personal outrage on the Brighton line; if there has been, there has certainly not been one more cowardly brutal than that which was perpetrated on Miss Louise Clarke between Hayward’s ‘Heath and London yesterday.

Miss Clarke is a lady’s maid in service at 7, Second-avenue, Hove, Brighton, and she was on her way to London, in order to visit her parents in Suffolk, of which county she is a native. When she entered the train at Brighton the third-class compartment in which she travelled was empty; but at Hayward’s Heath a man of respectable appearance entered it. The train had not long renewed its journey before he began to threaten her.

The alarm of the defenceless young woman can be better imagined than described; and, finally, in answer to her inquiries, he, so it is said, roughly declared,’ ‘It is money I want, and it’s money I'll have.” Then he began a ruffianly attack upon her. The story is that he first moved up to her seat, and suddenly pulling a rope from his pocket,’ threw it over her head and attempted to strangle her. In this endeavour he apparently failed. At any rate, a desperate struggle followed. The brute after battering her with his fists flung her at last upon the carriage floor, and while she lay there he

Kicked her about the face and body

unmercifully, Strange as it may seem in the case of a woman, Miss Clarke did not lose consciousness, but continued her desperate struggle with her brutal assailant, until she at last succeeded in regaining her feet, and clutched feebly with the electric communication in the hope of stopping the train;

Haywards Heath Railway Station c1900

Then the strangest thing of all happened. While the unfortunate young woman’s hand was still on the communicator, the man opened the carriage door, and sprang into the six-foot way, escaping injury, marvellous to say, although the train was running at a high rate of speed. It is probable that Miss Clarke fainted at that moment; at any rate, the train ran on to London-bridge, where she was discovered in a pitiably exhausted condition.

She at once received all the kindness and attention that the offiiclals could render, Mr. Pierpoint, the station superintendent, himself conveying her to Guy’s Hospital in a cab. There Miss Clarke was admitted to the Sydney Ward, and it was found upon examination that several of her ribs were indented, and that her jaw-bone was broken, a number of her teeth being broken in the bone. She was also badly bruised about the body and arms, and the doctors do not think she will be in a fit state to leave the hospital

In less than a week

So far as the Brighton Company is concerned not a moment was lost in setting to work 'to trace the man who committed the outrage. Superintendent Turpin and Detective-Inspector Howland, of the company's police, travelled at once to Three Bridges and Crawley to make investigations on the spot, and information came to hand a little later to the effect that a man had been arrested at Crawley on suspicion of having been Miss Clarke's assailant. It is stated that in his hurry the man left his hat behind him; if so, a useful means of identification is probably in possession of the police.

The train by which Miss Clarke travelled was the 11.30 from Brighton due at London-bridge at 1.17 As soon after her discovery as possible information of the outrage was sent to Brighton, and at a later hour the young woman was visited by a fellow-servant at Guy's.

Further particulars supplied by the Central News say that the young woman was placed in charge of an official at Three Bridges, and so brought to London with as much comfort as possible under the circumstances. Immediately the train had left that station, search was made for the man, and traces were found which showed that he had jumped from the train near a wood, through which he walked into the small town of Crawley.

There the scent became strong. A man who was suspected was traced to the shop of a tradesman, where, it is alleged, he purchased a cap, and, it is further stated, told a thrilling story of how he had been robbed of £12 and thrown from a train near Earlswood. From the shop he went to a coffee-house, where, it is said, he related a similar tale. The proprietor of the coffeehouse took the fellow to the railway station, where he was immediately arrested on suspicion of being the man wanted for assaulting the young woman. He was taken to the police station, and will be brought before the East Grinstead Police-court this morning.

The man’s name is Alfred Locke, and he comes from Newchapel, near East Grinstead. The young woman was a lady's maid in the service of Lady Taylor, at Hove, and she was on her way to London en route to Suffolk.

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