Hello again Readers, almost time for my new book, just a few more days. Herewith some information and this time it gets serious. In the last blog I detailed how robbers took to the rails and how some went armed. It would only be a matter of time before a robbery went wrong and this happened in 1864 with the murder of Mr Briggs, the first ever railway murder. Sadly he was not the last and in almost all cases the assailant had entered a carriage intent on robbery, not planning just to kill someone. By 1881 it was common knowledge that those travelling in a first class carriage were the most like to be carrying large sums of money. This attracted robbers to stations to seek out a likely victim, then slip into their compartment just before the train departed. They would then threaten violence, rob their victim and often then thrown them out to their death on the tracks. Occasionally things did not always go to plan. Here is an excerpt from chapter 7 of my new book,
“On Monday June 27th 1881, Richard Gibson, a ticket collector was on duty at Preston Park Station near Brighton. The 2.00pm down train from London Bridge had just arrived and he saw a man leave a first class carriage covered in blood and walking unsteadily. The man had no collar and tie or hat and was very distressed. Ticket collector Stark was nearest to the man and approached him. He noticed a piece of watch chain was hanging from his boot. The man claimed he had put it there for safety. Watson the guard was standing by the man and pulled the chain from his shoe. There was a watch attached to the chain. The guard gave the watch and chain back to the man. The man spoke, “I am faint and I want some water.” The station master arrived and ordered Gibson to get into the carriage and go on to Brighton with the man. Gibson found a high silk hat in the carriage and passed it to the man who put it on. He asked for his ticket which he produced, a first class single ticket from London Bridge to Brighton. He then asked for his name and address which he gave as “Mr Arthur Lefroy, 4 Cath Cart Road, Wallington.” The man took off his hat to show a wound on his head. “I have been fired at three times and struck on the head with a pistol”. The ticket collector asked by who. “By a countryman” he replied. He explained the man had got out on the road. There was also an old gentleman in the carriage and he too got out on the road. This puzzled the ticket collector as he knew this train was an express. The man kept asking for a doctor. On arrival at Brighton he took the man to the Superintendent’s office. A clerk summoned police constable Martin and he took them both to the Town Hall. Here the ticket collector provided a statement for the police, taken down by Mr Thompson. The man called Lefroy also gave a statement explaining his business in Brighton, claiming he had an appointment to see the proprietor of a Brighton theatre. He kept complaining about needing to see a doctor.”
There was a really serious problem with this account. It was a tissue of lies. The man pretending to be the victim of the robbery proved to be the robber and even worse….. a murderer! Almost every word he uttered was a lie. Despite some serious misgivings the Brighton Police let this man go not once but twice. Eventually there was a nation-wide hunt for the murderer of the old man mentioned in the account above. It is an amazing true crime story and you can read the full details in my new book. No-one has every previously printed the full details of “The Brighton Railway Murderer” before but it will soon be available to read in my upcoming book.