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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No. 1862, Sunday, December 11, 1831

Discovery of a Female Without Head or Arms.

Tuesday, about four o'clock, a person residing at Brighton, who had gone out to shoot sea-gulls, discovered upon the fall of the beach beyond Hove the body a female, without head or arms. The bone from each shoulder to the elbow was bare of flesh, but the body did not appear otherwise mutilated. No marks of violent were discernible, nor had the body any appearance of having been the prey of fish. There were upon it a pair of stays and a chemise, with black cotton stockings and white tape garters on the legs, which were not at a bruised or mutilated. The person who discovered the body informed Mr. Fuller, of Portslade, who directed his men to take it to a barn on his farm, situated in the parish of Aldington, where it was placed to await the inquest. As soon as the circumstance became known, hundreds of persons went to see the remains, but most of them returned disappointed; the barn, which is a little beyond Hove, and some distance from the sea, being kept locked till the arrival of the coroner.


An inquest was held on Wednesday at the Crown Copperas-gap. The jury assembled at three o'clock, an went to view the body, which was deposited in a coffin placed in a slsed opposite the house, where it had been removed from time barn. The jury then adjourned to the public-house, and proceeded to examine the witnesses.

Samuel Wickham deposed–I am a mariner, and live at 10, Frederick-place, Brighton. As I was walking to the beach Tuesday afternoon, about four o'clock, I found, a human body about three parts below the fall of the beach from the water, a little to the westward of Wish Post. The body was lying on the face. I observed black stockings on the legs, but, it being nearly dark, I could not discern how the body was dressed. I went to the turnpike-road to give information, and I met a person named William Taylor, whom I told of what I had seen He proceeded to the body, and I went to Hove watch-house, and from thence to Copperas-gap, where the landlord advised me to go to Mr. Fuller, of Portalade. I saw the body at the same spot in the evening, about seven o'clock, accompanied by William Taylor and two of Mr. Fuller's men. We placed it on a hurdle, put it nearly to high-water mark, and afterwards removed the body to the Wish-barn. I have since examined the body; it was that of a female, and had on a pair of white stays, a shift, and black stockings, as before described. It had neither head nor arms; the flesh was bare from the shoulders to the elbows; the lower joints of the arms were quite gone. The body did not appear to be swollen; it was tolerably fresh. I saw some gulls feeding on it before I could discern what it was.

W. Taylor, a fisherman, assisted in removing the body to the barn.

The Coroner here inquired if any one could identify the body. One or two persons stepped forward, and said that a relation of theirs had been missing, but there was no mark upon the linen or stays by which they could identify the body.

R. Boorman–I live at 12, Frederick Gardens, Brighton. I knew a young woman named Anna Hobbs, living with her brother, Edward Hobbs, 12, Union-street, in the Lanes, who is missing. She was 18 or 19 years old, very stout, and I think rather more than five feet high. She has been missing since Saturday week. I have seen the body. From the shape I believe it to be that of Anna Hobbs, but I cannot swear to it, as there are no marks upon the clothes which I can identify her. I have no doubt, however, in my own mind, that it is her. The mark upon the shift worn by the deceased appears to be torn off. She was servant in her brother's house.

Mr. Hobbs, brother of the female missing, said, I am a tinman, and live at 12, Union-street, Lanes. My sister left my house, I believe, between nine and ten in the morning of Saturday week; it was in consequence of some trifling misunderstanding with her mistress. I have had some bills printed, and tried other means to find her. Having heard last night that the body of a female had been found I went to the place about nine o'clock last night, but could not then see it. I have seen the body of a female this afternoon. I think it is that of my sister: she wore black worsted stockings, like those on the deceased. The body appears about the same height. I breakfasted with my sister the morning she went away. She had on dark-coloured gown, with a blue diamond spot, a white straw bonnet trimmed with red riband, a drab shawl, and shoes. She left of her own accord. My wife suspected she was at work as usual. We did not miss her for an hour and a half subsequently to the altercation.

Mr. Seabrook deposed–I am a surgeon practising at Brighton. I examined the body of a female this afternoon. The head and arms were gone. We took the clothes off the body; there were no marks of external violence like a wound; there were some marks, occasioned no doubt by the birds having pecked it. From the appearance of the edge of the skin on the neck I should think it was done by a knife or some other sharp instrument. The skin was divided at the lower part of the neck, and was jagged; the arms were taken off at the elbow joint, apparently in the same way, the skin and the integuments were divided at the shoulder.

Mr. Richardson, a surgeon at Brighton, corroborated the evidence of the last witness.

Here the medical gentlemen, at the request of the jury, went to open the body, with the view of ascertaining whether it was pregnant. They were absent about an hour. In the mean time,

Mary Jeffery deposed–I am living with Mr. J. Mills, at Hove; saw a woman go past my master's house about 11 on Saturday 26th of November (the day Ann Hobbs was missing). she had a dark gown on, and a drab shawl. She was going towards Shoreham. A foot soldier was walking by her side, but not arm in arm. It was a dark spotted gown. She wore a white straw bonnet, trimmed with red; she was a decent-looking woman about my height–about five feet two.

On the return of the medical gentlemen, Mr. Seabrook stated, that there was nothing to show the cause of death, and they could not discover any signs of pregnancy; all the viscera were perfectly healthy; the stomach was nearly empty; it contained about two ounces of fluid, but no food. There was no mark of violence on the body the ribs were not fractured. It was their opinion that the body had not been long in the water, and that it was impossible the head and arms could have been separated from the body but by violent means.

Mr. Richardson and Mr. Sutton, who assisted Mr. Seabrook in opening the body, merely corroborated the evidence of the last witness.

The examination of the witnesses lasted until 7, when the inquest was adjourned till Sunday afternoon.

(No. 1862, Sunday, December 11, 1831)

The inquest on the body of the unfortunate women found on the Beach at Brighton was resumed on Saturday afternoon. No additional evidence was adduced, so as to lead to a discovery of the perpetrator of this inhuman murder; but the Jury returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against some person or persons unknown.

(No.1863, Sunday, December 18, 1831)

See also the following Brighton pages:

A Whale at Brighton.

Important to Travellers and Inn Keepers.

Zoological Garden.