Chapter 6–5. October 9, 1868 — Murder

Total darkness, about 7pm, Friday 9th October 1868 — Murder

Brown hid in the furze bushes close to the track, about 450 yards from Baldy’s cottage, just out of its sight. Just as Baldy was coming near, Brown called out, “Who is that?” Seeing no one silhouetted against the sky in front of him, Baldy turned round to look back, presuming it be a person approaching him from behind. Not waiting for an answer, Brown stepped out and went close up to him, with his gun at the charge, and fired from the hip, shooting him in the back. Baldy fell back, directly towards his murderer, face upwards, with his head towards the cottage. Then, with what appeared to be devilish and malignant cruelty, Brown proceeded to smash the face of the dying or already dead old man with the stock of the gun. This he did with such force as to cause it to break, leaving a piece of the stock of the gun and the trigger and guard lying near Baldy’s dead body, out of sight in the dark. There was not the least struggle on the part of the deceased, for his overcoat was found the next morning folded under his arm, exactly as he was carrying it when walking homewards.

It was about seven o’clock that the dog barked violently at Newmarket Cottage, and the music stopped for a short time, as the lodger, Hollands, went out to quiet the animal. No report or noise had been heard by those inside.

Meanwhile, Brown left the scene in the direction of the Newmarket Tavern by way of Newmarket Plantation, and under the railway arch that carried the train from Brighton to Lewes. He disposed of the remaining parts of his gun in both Newmarket Plantation and by the railway embankment just before the arch 20, yards along the fence, on the left hand side. He then continued his return to Kingston, by way of Lewes, via the Brighton to Lewes toll road.

9:20pm, Friday 9th October 1868 — Lodgings

Brown returned to his lodgings at twenty-minutes past nine. He had his short coat on when he came back, and had the long coat on his arm, which he had worn when he went out. He was greeted by his landlady: “Halloa, Harry; I thought you were not coming back till Saturday.” He said “I have done my business quicker than I thought I should and I was soon enough to take the train to Lewes.”

She noticed nothing in particular in his appearance when he came back that Friday night. The lodger of the name of Coleman noticed that he had not his gun with him, and asked him what he had done with it? He answered, “Oh, I left it at my brother’s, in Brighton, and came home by train.”

He went to bed at the usual time, with his fellow lodger, who observed that he put some money into a box.

The other lodger, Richard Goodwin, supported this: “We went to bed together on Friday night after he came back, and I saw the gun was gone. I said, “Where’s your gun then, Harry?” and he said, “I have taken it to my brother’s.” He did not say his brother’s name. He did not say why he had come back so soon. He took some money out of his pocket in the bedroom and put it in the chest in the room.

He then said, “I have not much tonight”, and took it and put it in his box. I was laid in bed then and could not see whether it was gold or silver.”

About 10 pm, Friday 9th October 1868 — Bed

The Baldy family and their lodger went to bed, thinking that the old man had stayed in the village, – probably too tired to attempt the ascent of the hill in the dark. He had sometimes been away from home all night, especially when he had been into Lewes, which his family guessed he may have done, to get some salve for his bad leg.

Twilight, about 5:45am, Saturday 10th October 1868 — Discovery

The next morning the boys got up sometime before six o’clock and started for work. Having walked 450 yards, shortly before the turn-off to Balsdean, and just out of sight of Newmarket Cottage, they saw something lying in the Kingstone track which looked like a dead body.

The youngest, who was about 11 years old, became rather frightened and would not go on any further, the other possessed more courage and went on. He was horrified at beholding his father lying on his back with his head towards the cottage. Seeing some shocking wounds on the face of the deceased, he ran back crying, and together with his brother, told his mother and the lodger, Joseph Hollands.

On returning to their father’s body they met William Tuppen, a farm labourer and son of the old shepherd of Kingston, with whom Brown had argued, on his way to work from Kingston to Bevingdean. Tuppen had a few words with Joseph Hollands before continuing on his way to work.

With the prevalent idea in their minds that a dead body thus found should not be moved till seen by the police, the family (after the lodger had covered the face with the coat) left the body lying on the hill top, while they ran in different directions to give the alarm. The wife, Harriet, and Hollands went down to Kingstone.

Meanwhile, down in Kingston, Brown got up and went to work as usual.

Sunrise, 6:30am, Saturday 10th October 1868 — Help

In Kingston, Mrs Harriet Baldy and Hollands were received by Mr John Hodson, the grandson of the proprietor of the farm; he was just 20 years of age, son of James Hodson’s eldest son, Anthony William who had died when John was just 3 years old. As soon as he received the intelligence, he dispatched a young man to inform the police at Lewes, and rode himself to Falmer to procure the assistance of Police Constable Billingshurst. That officer, accompanied by a man named Tuppen, went to the spot. They removed the body to the cottage.

In the meantime, Supt. Jenner, of Lewes, Sargt. Mansbridge, and P. C. Tucker, on receiving information, procured a conveyance and were almost immediately on their way to the cottage.

Meanwhile, when the news of the murder reached the village, of course, the excitement was very great, but nothing particular was noticed in the appearance of Brown. Wickham, (one of his landlady’s sons, probably the sixteen year old Charles Wickham) it seems, said to him during the morning, more by way of a joke than anything else, – “What did you want to rob old Baldy for?” Brown hesitated a few seconds, and then said, “I didn’t rob him; I came home from Brighton by train.”

8:50am Saturday 10th October 1868 — Examination

An examination of the body showed that deceased had been shot in the back with a gun loaded with one large bullet and two small ones, and the position in which he was lying proved that the attack must have been totally unexpected on his part.

Dr Smythe, of Lewes, who was called in by the police to examine the body extracted the second small bullet, which was just under the skin. He determined that: “The large bullet had been roughly cast; the small ones were better made and are such as are used for six-barrelled revolvers.”

At first the police thought the deed had been done by poachers; but on the bullets being found that idea was dismissed. Poachers do not use such ammunition. Deceased had evidently been robbed, as well as murdered, for the money he had received the previous night was gone. The supposition, therefore, was that the crime was premeditated and had been committed by some one who knew the habits of the deceased. A piece of the stock of the gun and the trigger and guard had been broken off by the blows on deceased’s face and these being found close to the body were held as clues by the police. The widow had, however, left the cottage to come into Brighton and considerable time was lost before an indication could be gained by the police. At last their attention was fixed upon the man named Henry Brown, a labourer, who had formerly lodged with the deceased.

Evening, Saturday 10th October 1868 — Whispers

Whispers, however, about the missing gun went round the village. In the evening of Saturday it was determined to communicate with the police, and Wickham and Coleman started to Lewes to give information. However, they stopped in the road, at two or three places, and talked of their suspicions to various people; who of course, spread the news further and further.

Meanwhile, Brown had left his lodgings. He went to Lewes and got some meat, and groceries, and so on, for Sunday and the following week, at the request, it may be presumed, of his landlady.

About 6:45pm, Saturday 10th October 1868 — Escape

He came back in three-quarters of an hour, when he appeared pale and confused, and had a pint of beer and a bottle of ginger beer. He drunk that and told his landlady that he meant to have bought two new shirts but had forgotten them. He then left the house again and went in the direction of Lewes. He could not have been in the house at that time more than five minutes.

Meanwhile, as soon as Supt. Jenner was told of the suspicion by Wickham and his fellows, he at once set off for Kingstone; his information was that the man had no suspicion as to what was afoot, and would in all probability be found at home when the police got there. Police officers were sent to the railway station, and distributed about at different places. It need hardly be said, that by the time Superintendent Jenner reached Kingstone, Brown had absconded. He had passed the police in the darkness and had come straight into Lewes, escaping apprehension there in a very singular manner.

Superintendent Ellis and several constables were at the Railway Station with some men who knew Brown, but nothing was seen of him till just as the train started to Newhaven, when one of the men saw him in a carriage. The guard had not yet shut his door, and the man had time to tell him that the murderer was in the train. The person who had seen Brown in the train told a police officer, who was standing not far off, of the fact, and telegrams were at once dispatched to Newhaven and Seaford. The office, however, was closed at Newhaven, and the guard, who now says that he thought he was being hoaxed, took no further notice of the matter. The suspected man got out at Newhaven town station, instead of at the wharf. It was thought by the police that he intended to take the boat across to France, but he did not present himself at the ticket office, and so was able to leave no trace by which the police could follow.

8:00am Sunday 11th October 1868 — Belongings

About eight o’clock on Sunday morning Police Constable Jonathan Beck, of the East Sussex force went to Kingston to Mr Wickham’s and was shown a box pointed out as Brown’s. Police constable Green and William Wickham was present when it was searched. Amongst a quantity of wearing apparel, in the pocket of the reefing jacket was found a six barrelled revolver. Five barrels were loaded. In the pocket was also found some paper stained with blood; also another piece of paper representing a man shooting another man in the back. (This was a rough drawn sketch of a burly soldier dressed in a fanciful uniform, and wearing two swords, firing a revolver pistol at two lesser-sized men in front of him. In the corner under the two were these words “Let me load; I will have a spat at you.”) There was also a canister of powder, a quantity of bullets, corresponding with those which had passed through the body of the deceased, a formidable home-made “life-preserver,” heavily loaded with lead, twenty-six pawnbroker’s duplicates, several photographs of young women, and many other articles, including a soldier’s manual or book of instruction, which contains a statement of enlistment and personal description. The box which was removed to the police station at Lewes.

Meanwhile, the fugitive Brown had made his way to Maidstone on the Sunday after the murder, dressed in a white smock, corded trousers, braces with a distinctive pattern, and a felt hat.

Previous: Chapter 6–4. End August 1868 — Newmarket to Kingston

Table of Contents

Next: Chapter 6–6. October 12, 1868 — Coroner’s Inquest

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