While renowned as a place of culture, fun, and tourism, the town of Brighton, England has a dark side—and a shockingly well-deserved reputation as a hotbed of crime.
Robbery, violence, murder, and every type of vice have flourished in this seaside town. And in this compelling book, the author records in graphic detail two centuries of this criminal history in all its morbid variety.
Using a convenient A to Z format, crimes against people and property are documented, including murders, assaults, rapes, thefts, and cases of arson. The subterranean world of vice is revealed as well including prostitution—of course—but also public immorality of all kinds such as intimidation, racketeering, blackmail, official corruption involving both politicians and the police, and the entire sordid world of drugs.
This unique guide to Brighton’s underworld will be an essential work of reference for readers who want to learn about the town’s hidden history and for those who are fascinated by the circumstances and the psychology of crime.
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ABATAN, JAY (victim)
On 14 June 2000, Michael Abatan, supported by his family, lit a candle outside Brighton police station to mark the 500th day since his elder brother, Jay, a black father of two, was murdered. The gesture was also intended to reinforce his appeal to the public for help in bringing his killers to justice. 42-year-old Jay, from Eastbourne, died in hospital five days after sustaining severe head injuries when he was attacked by a gang outside the Ocean Rooms nightclub in Morley Street, Brighton, following an argument about a taxi on 24 January 1999. When the attack was over the men simply drove away in the disputed taxi.
His brother Michael and a friend, who had been out celebrating Jay's promotion, were also attacked. Michael was beaten and kicked and sustained a cut and black eye in the assault. Although two men were arrested after Jay's death, they were eventually only charged with affray and actual bodily harm to Michael by the time of the trial due to a lack of witnesses. In 2000, they were cleared of assaulting him – and laughed at him as they left court. The jury had not been allowed to hear of Jay's death as the judge ruled that this would prejudice the trial.
The 'Justice for Jay' campaign was subsequently launched by Michael, Jay's partner Tanya Haynes and MP Peter Bottomley.
Despite new witnesses coming forward following an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme in May 2000 and the £75,000 reward put up by Sussex Police and Jay's family, the investigation has been dogged by problems and setbacks. Crucial information lost in the first hours and days after the assault was irretrievable, while Sussex Police's investigation was mishandled. A report on that aspect of the case has been carried out by Avon and Somerset Constabulary but it has taken the Abatan family three years of fighting to get a copy – only to find some parts omitted. The last straw is being told by Sussex's Chief Constable that there will not be an inquest for Jay. The family therefore now have another fight on their hands for a jury inquest. This they find unbelievable.
No one has yet been tried for Jay's murder and Michael and his supporters continue to campaign for justice for his brother.
Abduction is so often the prelude to murder. The victim may escape, only to die later as a direct or indirect result of his/her ordeal (see TAYLOR, WEAVER AND DONOVAN).
Russell Bishop, a father of three, was handed down a life term for the abduction and attempted murder in 1990 of a 7-year-old Whitehawk schoolgirl at the beauty spot north of Brighton called Devil's Dyke. He grabbed the child, who had been roller-skating near her home, and forced her into the boot of his car. She was choked, sexually assaulted and left for dead in dense undergrowth. (For a previous charge against Bishop, for murder, see the BABES IN THE WOOD case).
In another case, Katie Archer, 18, a former heroin addict of Birdham Road, Brighton, snatched six-month-old George Tipping from a cafeéé in Brighton in October 1999 and took him to her boyfriend's mother, Sue Appleby, in Hampshire pretending the child was hers. Mrs Appleby grew suspicious and called the police. Archer was arrested and baby George was returned to his mother, having been missing for 11 hours. The teenager was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to abduction.
Also in October 1999, a 2-year-old girl underwent a three-hour abduction ordeal at the hands of two 12-year-old girls. The pair, one from Brighton and one from Hove, were arrested at the Marina on suspicion of child abduction after little Lois Grenham was snatched from outside her home in Hove where she had been playing. She was taken by bus to Brighton seafront and was discovered in Marine Drive following a massive search by police and neighbours.
No statutes relating to abortion existed before the nineteenth century. As long as a foetus had not reached the stage of 'quickening' (the point in pregnancy when the movement of the foetus was felt), killing it was not considered a crime. Although killing a child in the womb after that point during pregnancy was considered an offence, very few prosecutions were brought.
The first abortion statute, enacted in 1803, provided for the death penalty for a person performing an abortion after quickening and a sentence of up to 14 years' deportation or lashing with a whip for a person performing an abortion before quickening. In 1837 the law was amended, but it was not until the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 that statutory abortion law took the form that it would keep for over a century. Under the Act, anyone intending to procure the miscarriage of a woman and unlawfully administering any noxious thing or using any means was liable to 14 years' imprisonment. The same penalty applied to a pregnant woman who undertook the same act or consented to its performance.
The Infant Life (Preservation) Act of 1929 introduced the offence of 'child destruction', the killing of a child capable of being born alive (gestation age of 28 weeks or more) unless the act that caused the death of the child was done in good faith for the sole purpose of preserving the life of the mother.
In 1967, the Abortion Act legalised abortion in Britain in extremely limited cases. A 24-week legal time limit for terminations, other than in cases of severe abnormalities or where the mother's life was in danger, was introduced in 1990. A Bill to reduce this period to 21 weeks was voted against by MPs on 31 October 2006.
The tragedy of Emily Hockley, 1878
A case heard at the Summer Assizes of the South-Eastern Circuit on 10 July 1878 before Lord Justice Thesiger revealed a sordid trade in back-street abortion being conducted in Brighton by a trio of perpetrators. Before the judge were Robert Charles Moon, surgeon, Henry Charles Darley, chemist, and a woman named Julia Brown, 46, described as a 'herbalist'.
They had been indicted for the murder of Emily Hockley at Brighton on 9 April. Moon had also been indicted for using an instrument with intent to procure her miscarriage and Darley for administering a noxious thing for the same purpose. The charge against Julia Brown was the same as that against Darley, she having caused the miscarriages of Eliza Hollands in January 1878 and Emma Jones in November 1877.
Hockley, who had been in service, had found herself pregnant. Fearing exposure and having heard of Darley, she had gone to him for assistance. In return for a considerable sum, he gave her some liquid but it failed to work. He then sent her to a friend 'who never failed'. This was Moon. What he did was not known, for the woman would not say. She afterwards became unwell and, supposedly suffering from typhoid fever, was admitted to hospital. There she had a miscarriage, which she somehow managed to conceal from the staff with the assistance of her friends. Ten days later, however, she died, and a post-mortem revealed the truth. Bottles were then found in her box, the contents of which were analysed. The cause was found to be inflammation, but it was uncertain, on the medical evidence, whether this inflammation was caused by the drugs or by an instrument, or by both.
Nevertheless, the coroner's jury found Moon and Darley guilty of murder and they were tried. The difficulty facing the Assize court was as to proof, a difficulty increased by Hockley's reticence up to the time of her death. On the two respective defence counsels declaring they could not offer a defence on the charge of administering a noxious drug with the intent charged, his lordship directed the jury to acquit both the accused of the charge of murder.
Moon and Darley did, however, plead guilty to the charge of administering noxious drugs with intent to procure abortion. The case against Julia Brown in regard to Emma Jones was on the same charges that the professional men had faced. Jones was married and had had four children. Finding herself pregnant, she had gone to Brown but the drug she was given failed to work and the child was delivered at full term. However, the case broke down for lack of evidence. Indeed, Jones was criminally liable on the charge of using the drug with the intent to procure abortion.
As there was no evidence to corroborate Jones' case and as she was in law an accomplice, Brown had to be acquitted. She was also acquitted on the other charge in relation to Eliza Hollands, who was too ill to attend and there was not sufficient evidence without her.
The Lord Justice, in passing sentence on Moon and Darley, spoke severely about the nature of their crime. From the wretched women who resorted to them, they wrung every shilling they could by the promise of remedies which were either delusive or injurious. Such crimes were, he declared, far too common and were of the utmost mischief to society. As there was often difficulty as to proof, any sentences had to be exemplary. The conduct of Moon, who was a surgeon and a member of an honourable profession, was therefore all the more criminal and the sentence was 15 years' penal servitude. In Darley's case, it was ten.
An unreferenced printed document in Brighton Local History Centre relates to the Hockley case. Among its badly-written verses are these lines lamenting what the prosecution described as 'a detestable traffic':
A sad tale, I'll tell if you'll pay attention The Brighton disclosure I now will relate, Of poor Emily Hockley her death I will mention, At Pelham Street, Brighton, she there met her fate, Committed for trial, that inhuman surgeon, And Darley the chemist as you may all read For causing the death of that wretched female, If guilty they'll suffer for that cruel deed.
No thought of her fate crossed the mind of their victim, As she straight to Dr Morris's house did repair To take his advice never dreaming of danger Or that she poor creature would die in despair, [...]
So young girls give heed to these words I have penned, or perhaps when too late you may think of this caution And repent when at last you are meeting your end.
ABSCONDING – see also THEFT (1837)
On the east side of Church Hill (now Dyke Road), on a site roughly opposite the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, a new workhouse, replacing Brighton's establishment in Bartholomews, was erected in 1821.
On 16 November 1836, John Hedgecock, a boy of about 14, was charged with absconding. Samuel Thorncroft, the Overseer, said he did not wish to press charges against him as he was not so sharp as he might be and had a greater propensity to evil than to good. The following exchange took place between the notorious David Scott (see MAGISTRATES) and the escapee:
Scott: 'Why did you leave the Workhouse?'
JH: 'Cos, I don't like it. I want to go to sea. That would do me good.'
Scott: 'Well, I dare say Mr Thorncroft would be very glad if he could find you a berth.'
JH: 'Aye, that Workhouse won't do me any good.'
Scott: 'And you won't do it much good.'
JH: 'If I go to sea, I could do a good deal of good. I'm sharp enough to get over anybody' (laughter).
Scott: 'Aye, you're not such a fool as you're taken for.'
JH: 'No, that I b'aint.'
Scott: 'You're sharp enough to get over walls.'
JH: 'Yes' (laughter).
Scott: 'You wouldn't be sharp enough to get over the House of Correction walls.'
JH: 'I don't know.'
Scott: '21 days' House of Correction and there you'll learn to pump water against you go to sea' (laughter).
The editor of the Brighton Guardian commented:
The constant straining of witticisms at the expense of unfortunate persons manifests a very common-place understanding and great want of feeling in those who so indulge.
Just over a century later, a 15-year-old boy who had escaped three weeks earlier from an approved school in Ware, Herts, broke into Brighton bedrooms at night and on one occasion searched a man's trouser pockets while he was asleep. At the town's Juvenile Court on 13 July 1938, he was charged with breaking and entering a house and stealing a purse, keys and £2 10s and also with stealing biscuits and cigarettes.
On one occasion, he hid beneath a bed while the woman lay terrorised all night. He had been in the house when he heard someone coming upstairs. He got under a bed and an elderly lady came in, undressed and got into bed. She knew there was someone under the bed but was too terrified to move or scream. The boy meanwhile, calmly went to sleep. She saw him when he woke up in the morning and when the police interviewed her later she was in 'a very distressed condition'.
The boy had escaped seven times from approved schools and had stolen on nearly every occasion. He was unsettled, unstable and a source of trouble. He pleaded guilty to seven additional charges of stealing. He was ordered back to the school, the other charges against him being adjourned sine die. He was anxious not to go back, no doubt fearing ridicule from those who had helped him abscond.
ABUSE OF POSITION
It was not long before Brighton's new Workhouse was beset by scandal. The first was in 1824, when the Directors and Guardians were severely criticised and a committee of the Vestry was appointed to examine their conduct. This body reported that about 13% of the poor-rate assessed remained uncollected, although the Assistant Overseer considered this inevitable. Due economy had not been observed, however, concerning the prices of some articles supplied to the institution but, worst of all, officers of the parish had in some cases themselves supplied articles to the workhouse (no names were mentioned), had benefited from such transactions and had themselves subsequently passed the accounts.
Towards the end of 1836 considerable irregularities were discovered in the accounts of the Directors and Guardians of the Poor. Their Clerk, Frederick Cooper, was being paid at the rate of £500 a year as against the £300 voted him by the Vestry. In addition, the two Surgeons of the workhouse were receiving £125 a year instead of £100. Moreover, in the two preceding quarters the sums of £34 3s. and £22 7s. respectively had been spent on brandy, gin, port and sherry. The Vestry concluded this had been 'consumed otherwise than for the sustenance of the Poor to which alone it appears to them that it should be applied'. Local historian Antony Dale records that two years later, a worse case occurred:
In February another committee of the Vestry was appointed to investigate affairs at the workhouse and reported that some of the Directors and Guardians of the Poor were accustomed to dine twice a week at the workhouse at the expense of the parish, and ordered expensive dishes of fish and other articles for the purpose, as well as dish-covers for their table. A summerhouse in the garden had been fitted up for these repasts. Wines were sent in from outside at the expense of the Directors and Guardians, but in addition 'a considerable quantity of brandy', as well as tea and coffee 'in which brandy was infused', and cigars, were consumed at the expense of the parish. 'Some of the members of the body became affected by the Spirituous liquors consumed by them.' The expenditure involved amounted to £139 3s 1d. Bartlett, the Governor of the workhouse, only gave evidence to the committee reluctantly for fear of victimisation, but what he said was confirmed by other employees. The committee roundly condemned the whole practice but did not try to enforce restitution of the money spent as they admitted that the practice did not originate with the existing body of Directors and Guardians. They were of the opinion that the evils resulted from the removal of the relief of the poor from the Town Hall to the workhouse, which was far away up Church Hill.
As late as 1862, these scandals were remembered by Erredge. In his History, he provides even more details than the Vestry books, noting that the Guardians
pampered their appetites with john-dorees, salmon, lobsters, Norfolk squab pie and joints in profusion; red and white wines by the dozen and spirits by the gallon; cigars by the box, and snuff by the pound; with a handsome snuff-box too.
Blacking was also ordered and a Guardian whom he named as Paul Hewitt – presumably by then dead – sent his boots to the workhouse to be cleaned. Another named Storrer sent his dog to be kept there when it was inconvenient to have it at home.
Today, adultery is well established as a ground for divorce. However, the principle was only established for women in 1923 under the Matrimonial Causes Act, when the ground became the same for both sexes. Formerly, a husband's adultery was a sin but it did not affect the validity of the marriage, while a wife's adultery was both a sin and an offence against the husband's property rights. It was the latter fact which justified the divorce.
The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937 took matters to a new level by allowing divorce without requiring proof of adultery.
In The Brighton Metropole, local historian Judy Middleton mentions the hotel's role as a place to provide evidence of adultery in divorce cases. Nothing was advertised and everything was done discreetly (the other large hotels at Brighton were also familiar with the routine). She notes:
If the couple wanted their marriage to end, and if the husband had not in fact committed adultery, the practice was for him to hire a woman and take her for a weekend on a trip to an expensive hotel at the seaside. All that was required of the woman was to be seen in the same bed as the man when the maid brought in the early morning tea. This was then known as a 'hotel bill case' because the hotel bill or the evidence of a chambermaid could be cited as evidence in court.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Brighton Crime and Vice 1800–2000"
Copyright © 2007 Douglas d'Enno.
Excerpted by permission of Pen and Sword Books Ltd.
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