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1906: Strange Case of alleged Highway Robbery at Brook Street

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Sussex Agricultural Express - Saturday 20 October 1906



No little consternation was created in the old coaching town of Cuckfield, which is about two miles from Haywards Heath, on Saturday evening, by a report that a very daring highway robbery had taken place on the road between Balcombe and Cuckfield. Women were afraid to go out shopping in consequence of the sensational stories circulated, and men were hunting everywhere for two navvies, who were said have been concerned in the outrage.

The story given to the police by Raymond Cook, who is a butcher's assistant, in the employ of Mr. Raymond, butcher, of Haywards Heath, was to the effect that he was driving down Brook-street, when he was asked by two navvies on the road for some coppers. He told them he hadn't any. The men then asked for silver, and Cook said, "I cannot give you any. It belongs to my master." He then whipped up his horse and drove to farmhouse in Pilstye, where he had to deliver meat.

Brook Street in 1900

On returning to the highway Cook says he was mounting his cart when the two navvies dashed out of the hedge and attacked him. He was struck a heavy blow on the head and became unconscious. When he came found a tramping labourer was standing over him. Cook felt his pockets and found that purse containing £7 in gold and silver was missing.

The tramp's name is James Williams, and is now in the Cuckfield Workhouse. His statement is that as he was walking from Balcombe from Cuckfield he heard a horse galloping behind him. He looked round, and, seeing no driver, he stopped the animal and took it back in the direction from whence it came. After he had gone about 100 yards he came across Cook lying in the road unconscious and covered with blood. He subsequently took him to a cottage, where his wounds were attended to. Cook a little later on went into Cuckfield to inform the police of his experiences. The, ascertained that two nayvies had been seen in the neighbourhood, but their whereabouts here not been traced.


On Monday morning a warrant was issued for the arrest of Cook, and at one o'clock was in custody. An hour later he was charged at the Police Court, before Mr. Bannister, with feloniously embezzling and stealing 10s on July 19th, and on divers other dates, divers other sums of money amounting to £5, received by him and on account of his master, Mr. Raymond.—Supt. Brooman said prisoner had only just been arrested. It was necessary to have some time prepare the case as other charges besides those mentioned in the warrant would be preferred against prisoner.—A week's remand was granted.



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