1909: Shocking discovery in Cuckfield Park

Updated: Jun 4

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 28 December 1909


THE CUCKFIELD TRAGEDY


DEPRESSION-DRINK-SUICIDE


On Thursday afternoon, at the King’s Head Club Room, Cuckfield, the Coroner for East Sussex (Mr. G. Vere Benson) held an inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of James Cramp, of Coventry, who was found with a terrible gash in his throat in Cuckfield Park on the 20th inst. Mr. F. Hounsell was chosen foreman of the jury, and Superintendent Brooman and P.S. Huntley represented the police.

Cuckfield Park circa 1900

The first witness called was William Henry Cramp, of 13 Spon Street, Coventry, foreman at the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Works. He said he had identified the body as that of his brother, James Cramp. He was 35 years of age, a single man, and lived at home with his father (a retired publican) and mother. He followed no occupation and had independent means. He had no financial troubles. When he left Coventry he had about £30, and was wearing jewellery to that value also. About eighteen months ago he had a very serious attack of influenza, and had never been right since. He sat at home for days, and was quiet and gloomy. About a month ago he visited London, but returned home saying he felt no better. He then said he should to Brighton. Witness last saw him on the 8th December. He was then at home, and had a bad throat. He did not seek medical advice, and did not complain. He was always dozing, and wanted to be left alone.


The Coroner: That is often the beginning a state of mind which leads people to take their own lives. It is then necessary for them to be put in an asylum. Didn’t his friends think it right to call in a doctor?


Witness said they did not think it was as bad as that. He did not threaten to take his life in any way. He was very docile. He had no secret trouble.


The Coroner: Did he do any betting ?


Witness replied that he did a little occasionally. He did not think he had had bad luck in any way. He had never known his brother to take too much drink. He left home on the 9th, saying he was going to Brighton, and they never heard of him again. Witness heard that deceased was in Birmingham a fortnight last Thursday. He often went to Brighton. Witness identified the writing on a picture postcard of Cuckfield (produced) as that of his brother. The police had found that it was delivered in Brighton, addressed to the White Lion Hotel. It read “Mr. Scott is staying at Haywards Heath. Give my regards to the doctor,” The card was posted at Cuckfield on the 20th. Deceased had no financial troubles whatever, and he walked out with no young lady. He was very fond of billiards.


Miss Lizzie Hall, waitress at the King’s Head Hotel, Cuckfield, identified a photograph of deceased. She saw him about 2.35 p.m on Monday. He came in the private hotel entrance and went into the coffee room. He asked for a small drop of brandy, read a paper, and went out. In about ten minutes he came in again, and asked for glass of port wine. About twenty minutes to four he went into the smoke-room. He asked for some brandy and milk, and for the wine list. ordered a small bottle of champagne, which witness unwired. It was wrapped in paper, and deceased took it away with him. He stayed at the hotel until about ten minutes to five. He said “Good night” to her, and said he should probably see her again later on. He seemed very quiet, and talked simply about the weather and the quiet state of trade. He never said where he came from.


John Selsby, labourer, Ansty, said on Monday he was coming across Cuckfield Park, by the public footpath, about 5.15 p.m. He heard a loud snorting or gasping kind of noise, about 50 or 60 yards before he came to deceased, who was lying near the first clump of fir trees, about six or seven yards from the path. Witness went to him. The noise continued, but much fainter. Deceased was lying on his back, and made no movement. Neither did he speak. Witness waited six or seven minutes, when two young men came along. They struck a light, and then they saw that the throat of deceased was cut, and that he was covered with blood. One of the young men went for the police. Witness and the other man remained with deceased. He was dead before the doctor and police arrived.


P C. Day, Cuckfield, said that on receiving information of what had occurred he telephoned to Dr. King, and both went immediately. Deceased was in the Upper Park, about 100 yards from the gate. Between his legs witness found the bloodstained razor produced, and about 2ft, away he found the case. The razor was a new one, bought in Brighton. There was no sign of life. The body was conveyed to the King’s Head stables. Witness found on the body £1 14s. 8d. in money, a silver watch, gold chain and'a billiard handicap ticket. Next morning witness found the paper in which the champagne bottle had been wrapped, and also the bottle itself.


Superintendent Brooman produced a report of enquiries made by the Brighton police. They reported that deceased had been staying at the White Lion Hotel, Brighton, from 13th to 20th December, in the name of Scott. Among his possessions was found a bank book, with certificate, and pawn tickets for two diamond rings. He had paid his hotel account to the 25th December.


The Coroner: That looks as if he intended to go back! In summing up Mr. Benson said deceased seemed to have spent a good deal of money. There was no doubt about his taking his own life. He possessed himself of a razor with which to do the deed, but apparently gave no indication of his intention. He must have left the hotel and gone straight into the Park and killed himself. Influenza, unfortunately, left people in a depressed, miserable state of mind. Deceased apparently had no money difficulties. He spent a lot, but they had no evidence he had misspent it. He left no debts, so far they knew.


The jury thought £30 would soon be spent by a man travelling about from Coventry to Brighton. The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide while suffering from temporary insanity, brought on by depression following influenza.”

Illustrated Police News - Saturday 01 January 1910


A SUSSEX MYSTERY.

Body of a Well-Dressed Man Found In Cuckfield Park.

An unknown man was found dying condition in Cuckfleld Park, Haywards Heath, on the night of-December 20, by a workman named Selsby, who was on his way home. The man’s face covered with blood and razor was by his aide.


Although his throat was cut almost from ear ear he still breathed, and Selsby stayed by him, doing what he could, until another workman passed along. He sent him for help, and a doctor cycled over to the park without loss of time, but the man was dead when he arrived.


It is suggested that the man cut his throat while standing up, and that when he collapsed the razor fell from bis band and lay where it was found. In one of the man’s pockets was found a card giving the result of a draw for billiard handicap at the George Hotel, Brighton. It is stated that the man was in Brighton on the 20th ult. and visited two public houses, which consumed a good deal of brandy and milk. He bought a small bottle of' champagne, had the wires cut, and took it away with him. This is the last time he was seen alive.