The Morning Chronicle, Friday, 28 February 1834
HORRID MURDER AND HIGHWAY ROBBERY
An extraordinary sensation of horror and alarm has been produced at Epsom, Banstead and Ewell, and has extended itself far and wide, in consequence of a daring and deliberate murder committed about half-past six o'clock on Wednesday evening, upon the person of Mr. John Richardson, steward to John Perkins, Esq., of Bletchingly, Surrey. The unfortunate deceased had come over in the morning from Bletchingly to attend Epsom Corn market, as had been his almost invariable practice since the establishment of this market, about a year back. He put up, as usual, at the King's Head; and he is known in the course of the day to have received a sum of £23.3s. off Mr. Stokes, of Ewell This money, it was ascertained in the course of yesterday, by Mr. Stokes coming forward and making a deposition before the Magistrates, consisted of a £10 note and two £5, Bank of England notes, three sovereigns and three shillings. Of these notes, Mr. Stokes is only enabled to give the number of one, and that is a £5 note, the number of which is 39,583. It does not appear, as far as can be ascertained at present, that the deceased received any other moneys. After the market was over he returned to the King's Head, and there dined at the ordinary, but left soon after to meet a gentleman at the Spread Eagle, with whom, however, he only took a single glass of wine; and returning thence to the King's Head. He ordered out his gig, and started for Bletchingly about six o'clock. The spot where the foul assassins were lying in wait for him, is about midway between Epsom and Banstead, and distant about half a mile North-east from the Grand Racing Stand. The deceased had safely passed along the cross road which runs along the Northern skirt of the Epsom Downs, and had entered a narrow lane, in which before proceedings more than 300 yards he comes to a deep hollow, known as Purcell's Gap. The ascent from this is by a remarkably steep although short hill, and it is near the brow of this hill that the foul deed was perpetrated. A spot more secluded, or better adapted in every respect for the perpetration of a deadly crime, could hardly be imagined. There is no house in any direction nearer than a mile, and the country all around being remarkably open, consisting for the most part of downs and sheep-walks, the facilities for escape are very great. The deceased must necessarily have walked his horse up the hill leading from out the hollow towards Banstead - a circumstance which, no doubt, led to the selection by the assassins of that particular part of the lane. It was very near the brow of the hill that the murder was committed.
It is supposed that one of the two men (for that there were two is proved beyond doubt) seized hold of the horse's head, while the other came up to the side of the gig, and demanded the deceased's money. The deceased always traveled with loaded pistols, and it is believed he replied to the demand by firing at one or other of the villains, but missed his aim, and that the ruffian by the side of the chaise instantly fired his pistol, which unhappily took a fatal effect. That the pistol was fired by the villain who stood on the near side of the chaise is evident from the direction the ball took, it having grazed the left arm, and passing sideway through the body missed the heart, but perforated the lungs, and the ball was found lodged against the blade bone of the right shoulder. Death must have been almost instantaneous. Mr. West, carrier between London, Ewell, and Banstead was approaching the spot at the time, and distinctly heard the reports of the two pistols, and heard the deceased utter an exclamation. He also saw the two men, who at first were approaching towards him; but on seeing him, ran off in a different direction. The deceased breathed his last, just as he got up, and he placed him in his cart and carried him to the sign of the Surrey Yeoman, at Banstead. Information was instantly sent off by express of the occurrence to Messrs. Everest and Harding, Solicitors, at Epsom, and also Clerks to the Magistrates acting for that division of the county. A Meeting of the neighbouring Magistrates was convened instanter, and it was simultaneously agreed that a reward of £100 should be immediately offered. The intelligence of the melancholy event spread rapidly, and produced one common feeling, in every class, of deep regret for the loss of one so generally and deservedly respected, and desire for the apprehension of the perpetrators of this dreadful murder.
At nine o'clock at night Mr. Gosse, a resident Magistrate, accompanied by Mr. Harding, of the firm of Messrs. Everest and Harding, went in a post chaise over to Banstead, to view the spot where the murder was committed, and to investigate its circumstances. Late as it was, they examined six witnesses that evening, and yesterday 14 more were examined before Messrs. Goss, Northey, and Trotter, Magistrates for the county. The evidence thus taken, it is thought prudent to keep secret, for the present; but thus much may be stated, that it points directly to the two individuals originally suspected; and as the county is being scoured in every direction, sanguine hopes are entertained that not many, even if one day should elapse, before the murderers are apprehended. Five men were apprehended in the course of yesterday, on suspicion; and of these, after an examination before Messrs. Gosse, Northey and Trotter, four were discharged; and the fifth is detained - not on suspicion of being implicated in the murder - but as a rogue and vagabond, and on suspicion of having stolen property in his possession. He is at present in Epsom Cage, but will be sent in the course of the day to Horsemonger Lane Gaol. Besides the original reward of £100 offered by the Magistrates, John Perkins, Esq., yesterday communicated to Mr. Everest his wish, that an additional £100 should be offered in his name. Baron Tessier, who is Chairman of the Magistrates for the division of the county, yesterday came up to London, for the purpose of seeing the Home Secretary on the subject; but the result of the interview was not known, when the Reporter left Epsom at eight o'clock last evening. It is a most extraordinary circumstance connected with the dreadful case, that the deceased himself saw, in passing over Walton Heath on the morning of the day, on his way to the market, the very two men who are strongly suspected to be the murderers. The taller of the two had a smock frock on, and the wind blowing strongly at the time, pressed the frock so closely against the body of the man, that the deceased, who had a suspicion of their characters, saw, or fancied he saw, the clear outline of a horse pistol. He mentioned the circumstance to the too-taker, at the Tadworth Gate, and advised him to keep a sharp look-out after the fellows, as he thought they were after no good. The toll-gate keeper has been examined before the magistrates, and states that he did so notice the men, that he should be able to identify them the instant he saw them. His description of the men tallies with that given by West, the carrier. The deceased, it appeared from the evidence taken before the Magistrates, likewise mentioned the circumstance at Epsom to Mr. Butcher, a builder and auctioneer, and also to his brother, and made use, in the hearing of both, to the remarkable expression, "If you hear of my being robbed or murdered, you will know who did it."
Of the two pistols which the deceased had in his possession when he left Epsom, one is missing, and is supposed to have been carried off by the murderers. The other was found loaded in his coat pocket. Mr. Butcher says the deceased had repeatedly said he would never suffer himself to be robbed by two men, and that he always traveled at dark with a loaded pistol in one hand, and the reins in the other. At the entrance of the lane, where the murder was committed, and distant from the spot only about 300 yards, Mr. Hart, solicitor, of Reigate, was, about three months back, stopped in his gig by four armed men wearing smock frocks, and robbed of a considerable sum of money. The deceased was a remarkably fine florid complexioned man, about 40 years old, and has left a wife and sic children, and his wife advanced in pregnancy.
At two o'clock yesterday afternoon, Mr. Carter, of Kingston, one of the Coroners of the County, arrived at Banstead, and a respectable Jury, principally consisting of farmers, having been impaneled at the Surrey Yeoman's Arms, the following brief evidence was taken touching the death of the unfortunate deceased:- The body was lying in an upper room of the house, where it was viewed by the Jury.
James West, carrier, of Banstead, deposed, that on Wednesday evening, about half-past six o'clock, he was coming from Ewell to Banstead, in his cart, having Mr. Batchelor riding with him in front; when half-way up the hill leading towards Banstead, on the Ewell road, he heard the report of two pistols, and almost immediately afterwards saw two men in the field to the left of the road, and behind which field, at a distance of about 100 yards from the road, is a small coppice wood, known as the "Rose Bushes." When first he saw them, they were coming from the Banstead and Epsom road towards him; At that moment he heard a faint cry of "Lord have mercy upon me." He instantly jumped out of the cart, and ran towards the men, who instantly turned and ran off along the Rose Bushes Wood, towards Epsom, and before he could get to the brow of the hill, they were out of sight. One was about 5 feet 10 or 11 inches high, and the other half a head shorter. Upon going to the place where he heard the exclamation, he found a horse and gig standing still near the top of the hill, and by the near side the deceased was lying on his back, with his head towards the descent of the hill. The deceased, on his attempting to raise him, heaved a deep sign, and immediately expired. He placed him in his cart, and had him conveyed to the place where the body now lies.
The precise spot where the murder was committed has been marked out by the villagers, they having cut away the turf of the embankment on that side of the road which separates the carriage road from the foot-way, so as to form a rude cross.
Mr. Peake, surgeon, of Epsom, proved that the lungs had been perforated by a pistol ball, which ball had rested against the bone of the right shoulder, and that the wound thus inflicted was the cause of death.
The Coroner briefly addressed the Jury, stating the he thought, as the Magistrates of the vicinity were searching into the matter with the greatest diligence, it would be better for the ends of justice that he should pursue the investigation no further, but leave it to the Jury to return, as they safely might do on the evidence adduced, a verdict that the deceased was murdered by two men, whose names were unknown.
The Jury coincided in the view taken by the Coroner, and returned a verdict accordingly.