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1914: A fatal jump

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

West Sussex Gazette - Thursday 29 January 1914


The East Sussex Coroner (Mr. G. Vere Benson) on Saturday evening inquired into a fatality at Cuckfield on Thursday, the deceased being a County Council workman named Percy Millen (35). He had lately been living at Burgess Hill.

—Alfred Solomon, of Bloomsbury, said that he had to go with the driver of a motor lorry, from the British Petroleum Company's Shell Wharf, Fulham, on Thursday. They met deceased near Cuckfield, and the driver pulled up and witness asked him where Burgess Hill was. Deceased told him.

The driver started his car off, and the deceased rode on the step, without any authority, for about • quarter of a mile. Deceased pointed to a gate where he wanted to alight, and though warned not to get off until the lorry eased up, jumped off.

Witness did not see what happened next, but heard the poor fellow cry out, and, looking round, saw him lying in the road. He did not know whether the wheel went over him. The car was very weighty, about five tons, there being 500 tins of petrol on it. The driver pulled up immediately. Witness and others went to the man's assistance. He was placed on rugs by the roadside, where he lay for some time. Witness went to a cottage to see if they would take him in. but they would not do so, and although temporary help was given by someone in a motor-car the use of the car to get the man to the hospital was not allowed.

A doctor eventually arrived, and Millen was removed to the Haywards Heath Cottage Hospital in a van. William Fennell. a brewer's drayman, of Gower road, Haywards Heath, said he saw deceased fall off the front of the lorry, a wheel of which appeared to twist him about and glide over some part of him. The lorry stopped within about four yards. It was not going at more than four or five miles an hour, and it appeared to be pulling up. Deceased turned over, screamed and groaned, and was quiet afterwards, probably becoming unconscious. The step was under the lorry, and he did not think anybody could jump clear of the wheel without going under.

Haywards Heath Cottage Hospital (circa 1910) where victim Millen was taken

—Dr. Wells, Cuckfield, said he found deceased in a state of collapse, and obviously seriously injured. He never rallied and died in the hospital. There were very serious injuries. Deceased gave witness the impression that he had been caught up and pushed along. A juryman said it seemed to him very inhuman to refuse to give a dying man shelter. He should like the point cleared up as to whether application was made at the cottage, as stated.

—The witness Solomon repeated his assertions

—The Coroner said that if what the witness stated was true, he was very sorry to hear of it, but they had no confirmation of it, and they could not censure persons who were not present to answer for themselves. It appeared to be an accident for which nobody was to blame.

The jury returned a verdict of death from misadventure.



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