History: Final words of a murderer to his Crawley friends


The FA Cup Final, murder and a hanging cast a shadow over one household in Crawley in 1914.

The murder of Ada Stone on a train travelling between Horley and Three Bridges on April 25 of that year, shocked not only the good people of Crawley but made national news.

Ada was killed by Herbert Brooker, a 32-year-old former Royal Navy gunner, shortly after the train left Horley.

The pair had been at the cup final, supporting Liverpool, who lost 1-0 to Burnley.

Alcohol and Brooker’s anger at the defeat were reported as leading to him pulling a knife on Ada.

He was hanged at Lewes Prison in July 1914. Reports in the Sussex and Surrey Courier, described how Brooker and Mrs Stone had intended to spend the weekend together in Crawley, where he was a frequent visitor.

And the paper printed a final letter from the murderer to his friends in Crawley the day before he was executed by renowned hangman Albert Pierrepoint.

The letter, to Mr and Mrs Mates, who lived in Post Office Road with Mr William Hide, read: “Dear Will, Mr and Mrs Mates, Just a final line in answer to your most kind and welcome letter I received just now.

“So sorry to hear your father is taken from you, and you have my deepest sympathy. I am very pleased to hear you got back allright on Saturday, for I was rather afraid for you both, as you seemed very much upset, although I don’t wonder at it, and I wish that you would not upset yourselves over me, for after all am I worth it? I think not.

“For after committing so awful a crime as I have done I think that I am not fit to look at decent and respectable people, for Ada was a good girl.

“There was nothing that was too much trouble to do for me; time after time when I was working nights she would send me down a drink, rain or shine, and then I killed her without the slightest reason to my knowledge, for we had no row or anything.

“The only thing that I can think of that caused me to do it was that I must have gone mad; any way I deserve the penalty that I have got, and as I have lived so I want to die.

“I have always tried to be as straight forward and square as a man should be, and I don’t think that I have taken a part of an underhanded action that would cause trouble to anybody else, and I hope to meet my death as a man should do. I don’t know whether I shall manage it or not. That remains to be seen.

“Now, dear Ma, I must thank you all for what you have done on my behalf, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have done everything possible that could be done to save my life and you all have my heart felt gratitude. I can’t express my thanks as I should like to, and I should like you to thank them all for me who subscribed towards my defence, and I must say that I always considered Post Office Road as my friends.

“Well, dear Ma, I think that I have told you all this time, so remember me to Bill. I close wishing you all good-bye, from yours, affectionate, H Brooker.”