The Gold Room was filled to near capacity as 162 Friends gathered to listen to retired British Transport Police Officer and local historian, Kevin Gordon, entertain them with the history of policing in Eastbourne and some tales of the shocking and notorious murder cases around the town.

Kevin Gordon

In an age when law enforcement is a given, it is hard to believe that the concept of a policing as it is carried out today is a relatively new one.  Kevin began with a brief history of how policing developed in the UK from feudal times and then covered the establishment of Eastbourne’s own police force in 1891 as a result of public pressure – largely brought about by the Salvation Army!   This newly formed organisation had insisted on marching through the town on Sundays – bands playing and flags waving in contravention of the laws of the time – and the disgruntled people of Eastbourne took to the streets in their thousands to protest and bar their way!

As the title of Kevin’s talk would suggest, Eastbourne had its fair share of shocking murders in the twentieth century!  The first surrounded an attempted burglary in 1912 at the home of Countess Flora Sztaray in South Cliff Avenue which resulted in the shooting dead of Inspector Arthur Walls and the conviction and execution of John Williams for his murder.  Perhaps the most grisly murders were known jointly as “The Crumbles Murders”.  In 1920 the body of a young woman, Irene Munroe, was found buried in the shingle in the area of Eastbourne now better known as Sovereign Harbour.  Four years later the dismembered body of a second young woman, Emily Kaye, was found in a cottage in the same area.  The two cases were unconnected and the perpetrators were brought to trial and found guilty.   The most notorious murder case in Eastbourne, was undoubtedly that of Dr Bodkin Adams, an Eastbourne GP accused of the murder of a number of his patients. Although somewhat unbelievably in 1957 he was acquitted of the two counts of murder he was charged with, there is much suspicion surrounding the trial and its outcome.

Kevin’s talk had been full of interesting facts and figures: for instance, in 1891 just before the formation of the Eastbourne force, the East Sussex Police Force had consisted of 2 inspectors, 6 sergeants and 29 constables – who were paid £1 per week!

The Eastbourne Police Force was finally amalgamated into the East Sussex Constabulary in 1967.

After these tales of murder, the Friends settled down to enjoy a tea of sandwiches and shortbread!

Drawing the raffle

The raffle held that afternoon raised the princely sum of £222.