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Brutal murder: body found in Newbury Pond

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Sheerness Times Guardian - Saturday 09 September 1871


About the middle of November, 1869, a man named James Greenhead was brutally murdered at Cuckfield, and his body afterwards thrown into Newbury Pond at the side of Cuckfield Church. At the coroner's inquest on the body, it was proved that the deceased had been killed by wounds inflicted on his head, and the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. The Government then offered a reward of £200 for the apprehension of the murderer.

Newbury Pond where the murder victim was found

Deceased was supposed to have been implicated in a large jewel robbery at North End, Croydon, in conjunction with a man named Rowland, who was sentenced at Croydon assizes to one year's imprisonment for the robbery.

The only clue to the murderers was the discovery near the body of a lantern and an iron crowbar. The crowbar was one used by burglars, and it was evidently the weapon that had been used in killing Greenhead.

Two men have now been arrested for the murder, and on Tuesday morning they were taken before the local magistrates, in the custody of Superintendent Pocock of the police, and were charged with being concerned in it. They gave their names as Trayton Waller*, aged 45, a painter, and William Pettit, a labourer.

James Edwards, the first witness called, said he was a beer-house keeper, residing at Newhaven. On the 20th inst., between 7 and 8 o'clock at night, both the prisoners came into his house. Waller said to the other prisoner, ”Jack, don't you know me; do you know where the gold ring is?; you knew it belonged to me, and you have got it,"

Jack Pettit said, “I know nothing about it; what gold ring do you mean?"

Waller replied, "If you don't give it up, I'll split and get the reward."

These were the only words he remembered passed, and left the house.

On Saturday night, about half-past 7 o'clock, Pettit again came to the house and said to witness, “Jem, I never committed the murder, but I saw it done at the back of Cuckfield Church. He was hit on the head with an iron bar, and afterwards thrown into a ditch."

Afterwards he said to witness, "Jem, you are a fool if you don't get the reward," and, looking down to his feet, said, “If I had any hay hook my hand, I would chop your head off, and then it would be settled."

Witness had seen both the prisoners before, and knew them both. Superintendent Pocock said he saw Pettit, and asked him if he knew Waller. He said he did, and had been in his company twice—once in Cuckfield, about the time of the murder, and, then correcting himself, said, "I don't know exactly when the time was, that I saw him there. I went to in the Ship Tavern, a little way out of the town, with a man I fell in with at Brighton. We left there about 10.30 at night and went to a house opposite Cuckfield Park, and slept there for the night." Witness then arrested him, and told him the charge.

He said he knew nothing about the murder. He also arrested Waller the same day on the charge of being concerned in the murder. He denied it. Both prisoners here denied the charge, and said they were drunk on Sunday at the beer house. Edwards said he saw Pettit at his house on Monday. He was then perfectly sober, and said Waller knew all about the murder, and could point to the spot where it was committed.

Superintendent Pocock asked for a remand to get further evidence. Both prisoners were remanded for a week, and removed to gaol in custody.

to be continued....

* No relation to other persons named Waller who are mentioned elsewhere on this site



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