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At the inquest at Lewes on Thursday on the body of Ernest Walter George Small, aged 20, of Ranscombe Cottage, Lewes [actually then in the parish of South Malling Without and now in the parish of Glynde – web editor], who was killed by being knocked down by a motor cycle driven by a young man named Cyril Winter, of the Barley Mow, Selmeston, on the night of January 12th, the jury returned a verdict of 'Death by misadventure', and Winter was censured for carrying a pillion rider with a push bicycle on his back. The Coroner was Dr E F Hoare.
Mr A V Porter represented the driver of the motor cycle, and Mr H M Blaker appeared for the relatives, while Superintendent A Waghorn watched the inquiry on behalf of the police.
Dr J W McK Nicholl stated that he arrived at the scene of the accident just before eleven o'clock and found the deceased lying in the road. He was dead. The cause of death was a fracture of the skull. He thought the fracture was caused by a severe impact with the hard road. George Leslie Sayers and Cyril Winter were also under his care. Sayers had a fracture of the base of the skull and Winter was suffering very badly from concussion. He thought they were now well enough to give evidence.
The Coroner – Is it a fact they might not have much recollection about this?
Witness – They had no recollection of it in the hospital, so I should not think they had any now.
By Mr Porter – The lack of recollection was consistent with their injuries.
Answering the foreman of the jury, witness said they were not straggling across the road. The night was dark, and witness did not notice any beam of light such as might have come from the headlight of a motor cycle. The motor car that was overtaking them was going in the same direction as the motor cycle.
Answering Mr Porter, witness said deceased was not quite in the middle of the road at the time of the accident.
The next thing he saw was deceased being thrown across the road. A few seconds later he saw a motor bicycle lying some ten yards farther down the road. The motor car stopped within three or four inches of the deceased's head. Witness saw that deceased was very badly injured, and he stayed with him until he died.
Replying to Mr Porter, witness said he did not actually see the motor bicycle strike the deceased, and answering a question of Superintendent Waghorn, he said he was certain it was not the car that struck deceased.
Hilda Lilian Preston, wife of the last witness, stated that she was walking in the rear with deceased, who was on her right. Something hit her on the side of the head and threw her onto the bank. She saw one or two figures lying on the bank, and another in the road. She did not see deceased hit; she simply heard someone say 'Oh!'
By the jury – Deceased was pushing his bicycle with his right hand. She was wearing a light overcoat.
Arthur Bell, Ranscombe Farm, said he was one of the party walking down the road, being in the middle of the front three, Harry Preston and James Small being the others. Mrs Preston and deceased were behind. Something came behind and struck him on the side of the right leg. He next saw the two men who had been on the motor bicycle lying on the bank, about ten yards farther down the road. He saw deceased lying on the ground on the right hand side of the road. Witness did not hear any sound of anything coming behind.
Replying to the jury, witness said it was a very dark night, and he did not see the other people as they had dark clothes.
George Leslie Sayers, of 1 Council Cottages, Selmeston, gave evidence that at 9.40 pm he was going home along South Street and met Cyril Winter. They went into the Snowdrop Inn and had one glass of wine. They left at ten o'clock and talked until 10.20, when he asked Winter if there was any chance of a ride home. He said there was if he could carry his bicycle. Witness put the bicycle on his right shoulder, and got on the pillion seat. The bicycle did not inconvenience either of them. The last thing he remembered was going round the double corner at Ranscombe Hill, and he knew nothing more until he woke up in hospital.
Replying to the jury, witness said the bicycle did not interfere with the steering, and they went round the double corner all right.
In reply to Superintendent Waghorn witness said Winter was sober and the lights were all right. This was not the first time Winter had had him on his machine with the bicycle.
Cyril Winter of the Barley Mow, Selmeston, who aid he wished to give evidence, stated that Sayers and he left the Snowdrop Inn at ten o'clock. He agreed to give Sayers a lift if he could carry his bicycle. Sayers put it on his shoulder, the front wheel being alongside witness's hip. He had previously given him a similar lift. He had been riding about two and a half years. He remembered getting to the top of Ranscombe Hill, but nothing more until he woke up in hospital.
Replying to the Coroner, witness said he was not inconvenienced by the bicycle being pressed alongside his hip.
In reply to Superintendent Waghorn, witness said he now appreciated that it was extremely dangerous to give another person with a bicycle a ride.
The jury returned a verdict of 'Death from misadventure', and said there was no evidence to show any particular negligence, but they felt that Winter should be censured for carrying a pillion rider with a pedal bicycle on his back.
The Coroner (addressing Winter) – In my opinion the jury have been very lenient, and you are very fortunate not to stand in a far worse position. You have heard what the jury have said about this matter. I am sure you realise now that this is a dangerous practice. You have done it before, but I hope you will not do it again.
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