1869 Cuckfield Murder - two years on: new unexpected leads and the saga comes to a sudden end

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Interest in the murder was suddenly reignited after two 'quiet' years when a couple of drunken men were overheard discussing the 1869 jewellery theft in a Newhaven Beerhouse.....

The inquest soon resumed and a range of witnesses were questioned; below is just the testimony of the Beerhouse Landlord and the response of the accused......


Chichester Express and West Sussex Journal - Tuesday 29 August 1871


THE CUCKFIELD MURDER OF 1869


It will be in the recollection of our readers that in the month of November, 1869, it was discovered that a man had been brutally murdered, his body being found in a ditch near the church. An inquest was held, and, after an adjournment, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. A reward of £200 was offered for the apprehension and conviction of the murderer or murderers. The body was identified as that of James Greenhead, who was supposed to have been implicated in a jewel robbery at Croydon in conjunction with a man named Rowland, who was sentenced in April, 1870, at the Surrey Assizes to a years imprisonment for the robbery. Suspicion was directed at the time towards Rowland as being guilty of the murder, but the evidence against him did not warrant action being taken in the matter.


Since that date the affair has been shrouded in mystery, the only clue to the murderer being the discovery of a dark lantern and a small iron crowbar. The first was found in Bedlam Pond, on the road to Haywards Heath station and was proved to have been in the possession of Greenhead. The crowbar, which was of the kind used by burglars, was supposed to have been the weapon used by the murderers to commit their heinous crime. It was found in the Newbury pond, about 200 yards from where the body was discovered.


Yesterday morning, two men, who gave their names and ages, as being Treyton Waller, 45, and William Pettit, 55, the former describing himself as a painter of East Hoathly, and the latter as a labourer of Jevington, were brought before Capt Sergison in the custody of superintendent Pocock, at the residence of W. W. Burrell, Esq. High Sheriff of the county, charged on the suspicion of being concerned in the murder. During the hearing of the case, the court was crowded.


James Edwards deposed -

I am a landlord of the Newport Tavern beer shop, Newhaven, and both prisoners were in my house on the 20th instant, between seven and 8 o’clock. Waller asked the other prisoner about a gold ring, saying it belonged to him. The other prisoner, Pettit, said he knew nothing about it and asked what gold ring he meant. Waller then made a threat, saying he would split on Pettit and claim the £300 reward if he did not return the ring. That was all that passed and Waller left. On Saturday night last, between seven and 8 o’clock, Pettit was in the house again and said to me that he had not done the murder, but he had seen it done at the back of Cuckfield Church. He said the victim was smashed on the head with an iron bar, and thrown into a ditch.

When in his liquor, he said I would be a fool not to tell the police and claim the reward - but also that if he could, he would kill me to settle the matter and stop it from going any further.

I have seen both prisoners before and know them.


Pettit said he knew nothing about it, and knew nothing of what had passed. Waller also gave an unqualified denial of the statement. Witness admitted in answer to Waller, that he had sold him two or three pints of beer and some tobacco on the Sunday morning.


Superintendent Pocock deposed -

Yesterday I saw Pettit at Newhaven. I asked him if he knew “Chickabiddy”, the name Waller is known by. He replied that he did and had been in his company twice; once at Cuckfield about the time of the murder, and then correcting himself said

“I don't know exactly when the time was, but I saw him there. I went to the Ship, a little way out of town with a man I fell in with at Brighton. We left there at about ten thirty at night and went to a hovel opposite Cuckfield Park and slept".

I took him into custody shortly after and told him the charge. He said that he knew nothing about the murder. I apprehended Waller at Piddinghoe on the same day and charged him with being implicated in the murder and he also denied it.


Both prisoners now denied all knowledge of the murder, and said they were beastly drunk on Sunday morning at the beer shop.


Edwards volunteered a statement that Pettit, on the Monday or Tuesday after, when “solid and sober” told him that the other prisoner knew all about the murder and could point to the place out.


Superintendent Pocock applied for a remand as he expected to be able to furnish further evidence.

The prisoners were then remanded to Lewes Jail till Monday next, an application from Waller to be admitted to bail being refused.




Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst and Steyning Express - Tuesday 12 September 1871


THE CUCKFIELD MURDER


Yesterday, at the Cuckfield bench, the two men, William Pettit 55, a native of Jevington, and Trayton Waller, 45 a native of East Hoathly, were again brought up charged with the murder of James Greenhead, painter, of Croydon, on the 29th of November 1869, near the town of Cuckfield. The magistrates present were J. M. Norman, Esq., (chairman) Colonel Holden Rose, J.A.Hankey, esq., B.A.Hankey, Esq.



The Chairman (addressing the prisoners) said –

You were remanded on Monday last, on the application of superintendent Pocock, on the expectation that he would be able to bring fresh evidence against you. (to the superintendent) Are you prepared with any further evidence?

The Cuckfield bench on the first floor of the Talbot

Superintendent Pocock:

No sir, I have no more witnesses. I have made every enquiry since the last hearing, and cannot get any further evidence to connect them with murder; therefore I beg to apply that they may be discharged.


The chairman, in discharging the prisoners, reminded them that they had been brought into this trouble through their own drunkenness and intemperate talk indulged in a upon a matter concerning which it is the duty of the police of this county to endeavour to find out the truth. If they have been exposed to travel and inconvenience, it entirely arose from their own conduct and drunken conversation. They would be discharged now, but he must remind them that if any further came to light to connect them with the murder they would be liable to be re-apprehended.


Waller:

Well, the police know where I am to be found at any time if they want me.

They were then discharged.


The final judgement was:

It was established beyond reasonable doubt that Greenwood, along with Rowley, took part in the 1869 jewellery robbery and that one month later Greenwood was bludgeoned to death and thrown into Newbury Pond by person or persons unknown.

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