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Haywards Heath labourer makes horrible discovery...

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 03 October 1882



On Sunday morning, as a man named Albert Curd, living at Station-place, Haywards Heath, was walking through the River’s Wood, Ardingly, he suddenly came across the decayed body of a man, with scarcely any flesh on his bones, and a quantity of shoemaker’s tools lying rusty amongst the autumn leaves. The clothes—a dark tweed suit—were also rotten, but there was blood about. Curd immediately communicated with the police, and P.C. H. Stevens (Haywards Heath) was quickly on the spot, and had the body conveyed to the Burrell Arms, Haywards Heath, where yesterday (Monday) afternoon


was held before Mr. W. E. Baxter, coroner, Mr. D. Warnett being foreman of the jury.—The body such as it was, being nothing but a mass of muddy bones, matted hair, and decayed clothing—having been viewed in the coach-house, the first witness called was Albert Curd, labourer, Haywards Heath, who said: On Sunday morning, about 11.30, he was in River’s Wood, Ardingly, and saw an object lying amongst the leaves. Went up to it, and found it to be the body of a man lying on its stomach.

River's Wood Ardingly where the decomposing body was found

On close examination found that the head was away from the body, but not at a very great distance. Turned the head over, but could not recognise any features. then at once came to Haywards Heath for the policeman. —

Dr. A. H. Newth, Haywards Heath, stated that he had examined the body of deceased, and found that the flesh had entirely disappeared. Had carefully examined the bones of the body and head, which were all perfectly sound. There were no signs of bleeding on the clothes or ground on which deceased had been found. The body must have been there between four and six months —perhaps longer. He must have been between 40 and 50 years of age, judging from the hair, and formation of the bones. His theory was that he must have been taken with pain in the bowels, and fell forward on his face as found. It was well known that shoemakers were subject to colic, and it was possible he might have fallen in a fainting fit.—

P.C. Henry Stevens, Haywards Heath, said that he was called about 1.30 on Sunday afternoon, by Albert Curd, to River’s Wood, and found the body in the position described by that witness—lying on its face. By his side there was a red-and-white cotton kerchief, 17 awls— 10 with handles, and 7 without—one rule, one hammer, and other tools, a coloured shirt, tobacco-box, and pair of spectacles, but no money. He knew a man named Frederick Brown, a shoemaker, who resided at Haywards Heath, and also left some seven months ago, but could not identify the deceased as Brown —either his features or clothes. He had the remains conveyed to that house.—

By the Foreman: The body was lying some yards from the public road; the nearest path or road was 35 yards from the body.—

Mr. Thomas Packham, boot and shoe maker, Lindfield, said the man Brown alluded to worked for him as a shoemaker up to the 4th March last, and then went away, taking his tools with him. He had seen the body, but could not identify the remains as those of Brown. The clothes and boots were quite different, and Brown did not wear spectacles. Brown was 44 years of age. —

Edwin Harris Steere, gasman, Cuckfield, said that he had seen the body and the tools. He had seen them before—the hammer especially. He saw them all on the 18th July last, at the Cuckfield Gas Works, when an application was made by a journeyman shoemaker for a job. Had not seen him before, nor since. He seemed to be between 50 and 60 years of age, as nearly as he could tell. He (witness) was by himself in the works, and deceased stated that he had a wife and seven children. He also asked the way to Ardingly, and said that he was much exhausted through want of food. Witness offered relief, but would not accept it unless could work it out. He told him had work for him, but he had not the means to pay him at the time. He stated that he came from Chailey that day. (Witness now identified the hammer produced). Deceased then left by way of Horsgate Farm, and witness saw no more of him until he had seen the remains that day. Was quite sure the remains were those of the man had seen on the 18th July. —The Coroner then briefly summed up, and an open verdict of “Found Dead” was returned.


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