Date Of Execution: 28 Jul 1914
Crime Location: Three Bridges, West Sussex
Execution Place: Lewes
Executioner: John Ellis
Herbert Brooker was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Ada Stone 29 and sentenced to death.
He stabbed her and cut her throat on a train near Three Bridges railway station, West Sussex on 25 April 1914.
Herbert Brooker had been until recently working as a lockman for the Port of London Authority. He had earlier served in the Royal Navy between 1897 and 1912 and left as a leading seaman with a very good character. He had also been wound on active service whilst in China.
He had been keeping company with Ada Stone since Christmas 1913. Ada Stone was married but had not seen her husband for five years. She had been employed as a waitress in a coffee house.
It was heard that Herbert Brooker had proposed advertising for Ada Stone's husband with the intention that they should marry if there was no answer, but it was also noted that it also seemed that Herbert Brooker had intended going to sea again.
On Monday 20 April 1914, Ada Stone stayed out late with Herbert Brooker and was locked out of her place at the coffee house and in consequence lost her place.
Following that it seemed that they spent the next few days together and then on Saturday 25 April 1914 they started out for a weekend trip to Brighton by train.
They got out of the train at Horley at about midday and spent the afternoon drinking and then at 8.16pm they took a train for Three Bridges. They were seen waiting for the train on the platform both singing and rather drunk.
When the train was nearing Three Bridges a man in the compartment next to the one that Herbert Brooker and Ada Stone were in heard a noise followed by a laugh and a long shriek. He said that when he then looked out of his window and into the next compartment he saw Ada Stone on the floor with Herbert Brooker standing over her with a knife raised in his hand.
The man then pulled the communication knob, but the guard let the train run into Three Bridges Station, which was about one and a half minutes away.
When the train arrived at the station, Herbert Brooker was stopped on the platform. He had made an effort to escape, but was seized and a sheath knife was knocked out of his hand. He was very violent and his hands and feet had to be tied up.
When the compartment was entered, Ada Stone was found sitting on a seat and it was said that Herbert Brooker must have placed her in it in such a way so that she would not attract attention and he could get away. He had also shut the carriage door when he had got out.
Ada Stone had a stab wound to her back that had severed her pulmonary artery, killing her. She also had a gash, although not very deep, in her throat and three other stab wounds on her body and a cut on her thumb that might have been caused as she had attempted to protect herself.
When Herbert Brooker was seized on the platform, he said, 'I hope I shall be strung up I deserve it. She was a good girl. I did what I wanted and am satisfied'. It was noted that there was a little interval between his sentences.
Later, when Herbert Brooker was removed to the waiting room, he said, 'Ask the woman of the British School Crawley to forgive me for what I have done. It was a mad frenzy. Is she dead. If she is dead I am satisfied. If not then I am not satisfied. Have they got the knife. I have the sheath in my pocket. She was a good gal but the b...... robbed (or wronged) me'.
Later, on the following Monday, whilst in his cell he said, 'I intended to do it but did not intend to do it in the train. We had both been drinking and dancing and were pretty well oiled up when something cropped up and I did the deed. If I had waited another quarter of an hour they would not have collared me, at least not so quick. I have been carrying the knife for this last week down my leg so that she could not see it, but shifted it the same day to my waist as it happened'.
At his trail his defence was that he had been too drunk to have formed intent and as such it was manslaughter. However, it was heard that there was no evidence of ny such degree of drunkenness and his conduct, both before and after the murder, showed that he was in a condition to know perfectly well what he was doing. It was also noted that his disposition of Ada Stone's body on the seat of the carriage and his attempt to escape from the station were also quite inconsistent with any theory of irresponsibility.
The police report noted that it was difficult to say what his motive was in murdering Ada Stone, but stated that there was no reason to disbelieve his statement to the effect that he had intended to murder her for some time and that he had been carrying the sheaf knife for that purpose.
Herbert Brooker was convicted of Ada Stone's murder and sentenced to death, but with a recommendation to mercy on account of his previous good character and service in the Navy. There was no interference in his sentence, and he was executed on 28 July 1914 at Lewes.
see Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 30 April 1914
see National Archives - HO 144-1322-253932