Mystery of body on the beach

Photo:Finding a body on the beach

Finding a body on the beach

Drawing by David Sawyers, North Laine resident

From the Brighton Gazette, 8th December 1831

On the afternoon of 6th November 1831, Samuel Wickham, a sailor from No 10 Frederick Place, was walking along the beach when he saw gulls feeding off a body near to Wish Post, Hove. It was a woman wearing white stays, a shift and black stockings.

Taylor was told about the discovery

Wickham ran to the turnpike road and, on the way, met a fisherman named Taylor, whom he told about the macabre discovery. Taylor went to view the body and Wickham went to the Hove watch-house and from there to Copperas Gap, where the landlord sent him to Mr Fuller, the Portslade constable.

Identified by a resident of Frederick Gardens

The body was placed on a hurdle and taken to the Wish Barn. It had neither head nor arms. At the inquest, Richard Boorman, of 12 Frederick Gardens, said he knew a girl of about 19 years old named Hannah Hobbs. She lived at 12 Union Street in the Lanes and had been missing for about a week. He identified the body as hers.

The body had been cut up

Mr Seabrook, the surgeon, said the body had been cut up with a sharp knife. There was no sign of pregnancy. At 7pm the court adjourned until the next day when, among other witnesses, Thomas Ovatt, a pauper, said he had found a blue petticoat on a groyne near the Chain Pier. Relatives of the girl identified it as hers.

KIller never discovered

The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder by some person or persons unknown". The government offered a reward of £100 for the discovery of the murderer. Edward Hobbs, the father, offered another £25. But the killer of young Hannah Hobbs was never discovered.

Two witnesses from North Laine

The fact that one witness lived in Frederick Place, the other in Frederick Gardens, remains curious…


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 58, November/December 1985 and republished in No 206, September/October 2010.]

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