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"I Am JTR...I Do Not Mean Any Harm"-- Havant Murder

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  • #16

    David, I don't want you to give away any secrets but do you know what happened to Husband?
    As someone else who lives near, and works even nearer, Havant, I certainly haven't (sorry!) a clue...ooohh come on David!

    All the best



    • #17
      Originally posted by David Green View Post
      For years I’ve been promising myself I would properly research the unsolved murder of schoolboy Percy Searle in Havant in 1888. I first read about the case more than forty years ago in Farson’s book. I live very close to Havant, and on January 3rd this year I began my research in earnest. I hope to publish a short book on the subject in late 2014 or more likely in early 2015. It’s an interesting case with numerous Jack the Ripper associations. As a book indexer by profession, it makes a nice change to actually write my own words rather than index someone else’s!

      Earlier in this thread, Debs posted images of Percy Searle and the older child, Robert Husband, who was tried and acquitted of his murder at Winchester Assizes. Both images were copyrighted by Samuel Whitbread, a noted Havant photographer, whose seven-year-old daughter Ethel actually testified at the magistrate’s and coroner’s courts and at Husband’s trial. Whitbread also took several crime scene photographs, but these have long since vanished. Willie Mathews, who later went on to prosecute Seweryn Kłosowski (George Chapman), handled the boy’s defence with magnificent assurance.

      Back in 1999 a retired police inspector Gavin Maidment began looking into the case but ill-health prevented him from continuing and sadly he died in 2010. With the support of his family I now have access to all his research papers. A few weeks ago I met with a descendant of the Searle family and we visited the murder scene and walked round several places associated with Percy’s life. A fortnight ago I met a direct descendant of the Husband family living in Southsea. I have also acquired an extraordinarily rare photograph of Percy Searle’s family home, studio portraits of Robert Husband’s parents, his stepmother, and several of his brothers.

      A couple of weeks ago I was in the Havant Arts & Heritage Centre: there’s a research room there used by residents researching local Hampshire history. I got talking to the lady sitting opposite me, and I mentioned to her I was researching the Percy Searle case and its Ripper associations. Her name is Christine Russell, and she told me her 3 x grandmother was Elizabeth Perrott, who was residing at 50 Berner Street when she died on 22 July, 1889.

      I’m treating that as a propitious omen.

      Hi David

      I am fascinated to hear that you intend to publish a book on the Percy Searle murder, carrying on with the research begun by the late retired police inspector Gavin Maidment. I had known about Mr. Maidment's interest in the case and have long wondered what had happened with his intention to write a book. Good that you were able to get his family to give you access to his research papers. I will look forward to the appearance of your book, David.

      All the best

      Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical" Hear sample song at

      Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
      Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at


      • #18
        Thanks everyone for your interest in my Percy Searle book. Besides researching in Havant itself, I am currently spending large amounts of time (or as much time as I can spare) in the Record Offices at Portsmouth and Chichester and at the Hampshire archives in Winchester.

        I have unearthed some very interesting information about Robert Husband’s whereabouts and activities after he was acquitted of murder. Clearly, for reasons I will make clear in my book, he wished to ‘disappear’ and there is no trace of him in any Census from 1891 onwards.

        One aspect of the case that greatly interests me is the way the Victorian criminal justice system dealt with children and juveniles charged with capital offences. I will be drawing a few parallels with contemporary cases such as the James Bulger case in 1993 and the Silje Redegård case in Norway in 1994.

        I am in discussion with the Havant borough council regards sponsoring a memorial plaque or a commemorative bench to Percy in the Pallant where the murder took place. Descendants of the Searle and Husband families have both indicated they would be willing to attend any such commemorative ceremony. All proceeds from my book will go towards financing this project.

        In memory of Percy Searle, 1880-1888

        Thanks again for your interest and I’m sure in the weeks and months ahead I will be seeking assistance and guidance from the knowledgeable Ripper community.



        • #19
          Book Announcement: THE HAVANT BOY RIPPER by David Green

          New book announcement:


          by David Green

          On this day 138 years ago - 11th April 1880 - Percy Knight Searle was born in Havant, near Portsmouth.

          Eight years later, at just after six o'clock on the evening of 26 November, he was brutally stabbed to death in the centre of the town.

          The crime provoked hysteria in the town, igniting fears that Jack the Ripper had switched hunting grounds from London’s East End to the Hampshire coast. But as the murder investigation unfolded, evidence increasingly pointed to another young boy as the culprit ‒ 11-year-old Robert Husband, the son of a coal yard keeper. He was duly arrested and sent for trial at Winchester.

          Yet the murder of Percy Searle is a complex and ambiguous case, and the truth is not easily discerned, even when the facts seem clear. Havant was full of secrets, and several witnesses were obviously lying. What really happened on that dark, dismal evening all those years ago?

          THE HAVANT BOY RIPPER is the first full-length study of the Percy Searle murder case. Meticulously researched, it contains all the ingredients of a classic Victorian whodunit: a dead body, a blood-stained knife, a floundering police chief, and a cast of enigmatic and fallible characters caught up in tragic events. But importantly, it is also a book about the aftershocks of child murder, and the damage caused by blame, punishment and loss.


          Attached Files

          It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.