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1938: Haywards Heath Inquest into railway death

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 22 November 1938


Verdict of “Misadventure” at Haywards Heath Inquest

The story of how a Southern Railway labourer met his death while leaning out of a carriage window of moving train was told to the East Sussex Coroner (Dr. E. F. Hoare) at Haywards Heath Police Court on Wednesday, when he conducted an inquest on the body of Charles Richardson, aged 31, of 5 Rusbridge Cottages, Lewes. Richardson was found fatally injured in a carriage when the 10.28 p.m. train from Brighton arrived at Haywards Heath shortly before 11 o’clock on the previous Monday evening.

The Coroner sat with a jury, of which Mr. F. J. Comer was elected foreman. Mr. H. W. A. Repard represented the Southern Railway Company.

Haywards Heath Railway Station c1940

Evidence of identification was given by Harold Richardson, of High Street, Lewes, deceased’s brother. Witness last saw his brother on November 12th, when he appeared to be in normal health. He was employed on the Southern Railway as a temporary labourer, and at the time of the accident was on his way to Merstham tunnel, where he was engaged on night work. As far as witness knew, his brother had no troubles of any kind.

Dr. C. D. Killpack, of Haywards Heath, said he was called to Haywards Heath Station at 11 p.rn. on November 14th. He examined the dead man and found he had sustained comminuted fracture of the vault the skull. Death was due to lacerations of the brain tissues caused by the fracture. There were no injuries to the body, but at the back of the head he found three small cuts. The fracture was caused by a blow of great violence, and in his opinion the man struck his head against a rounded surface like a telegraph pole. The injuries were not consistent with the head having come into contact with the sharp edge of railway tunnel, and he did not think they could have been caused by human force.

Mr. Repard : Were you able to form any opinion as the position of the head when the blow was struck?

Dr. Killpack: The position of the three cuts together with the nature of the fracture led me to believe that the head was on its side in a horizontal manner, pointed straight in the direction in which the train was travelling.

The Coroner was informed that the telegraph poles along the railway track were never nearer than six feet to the trains.

Richard Stace, of 41 Bentswood Road, Haywards Heath, Southern Railway' employee Haywards Heath Station, said he


of a third-class compartment on the near side of the train. The window of the compartment was down. He opened the door and saw a man lying on the floor. He was severely injured. The man’s right leg was on the rear seat and his right arm on the forward seat. His left leg was bent under him.

William Ferris, ticket collector, of Ingwood Crescent, Brighton, said he was on duty at Brighton Station on the night November 14th. He made a remark about the weather to a man who was leaning out of the window of one of the front carriages of the train which was due out of Brighton at 10.28. A young man and woman were seated on the engine side of the compartment immediately in front of that occupied by the man. Witness did not know the man, but he was dressed similarly to the one who was found dead at Haywards Heath.

Benjamin Mitchell, of 137 Mill Road, Burgess Hill, a Southern Railway porter, said he was on duty at Burgess Hill Station when the 10.28 train from Brighton arrived. noticed what he thought were blood marks on the side of third-class compartment, and telephoned the information to Haywards Heath.

Arthur Ernest Booker, Southern Railway ganger, of 2 Tunnel Cottages, Pyecombe, said that on November 15th he found a man’s cap in Patcham tunnel, 87 yards from the south entrance. He also found a mark on the wall of the tunnel stretching 18 inches from the entrance, about eight feet up from the ground.

Norman Richards, a detective employed at Brighton Station, said he examined the entrance to Patcham tunnel on November 15th, and 9ft. 1in. from the ground he found a fresh chip mark on the stonework. From the mark a smear ran along the wall of the tunnel for distance of 18 inches. The mark was approximately the same height as a lowered window of a train. The rim of the tunnel entrance was of smooth stone with a bevelled edge, and there was a clearance of 1ft. 7in. between the brickwork and the railway carriages.

A scale plan of the spot was produced.

Summing up, the Coroner said they had heard Dr. Killpack’s opinion to the cause of the man’s injuries, but there was no doubt that his head struck the bevelled stonework of Patcham tunnel. That was borne out the marks on the stonework. There was no evidence of sickness which caused people to lean out the windows of moving trains, but the jury had no need to concern themselves with the reason why the man had his head out of the window. It had been suggested that there was a young man and woman in the next compartment and that the man might have been unduly interested in their movements, but there was no evidence to support it.

The jury returned verdict of “Death by misadventure,” adding that it was through leaning out of the carriage window for a reason that was not known.



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