Lidley was the only station on the local commuter line running west to Brighton, but it's days were numbered and the events of the 3rd of October that year, were to seal it's fate for ever.
It was a Thursday and, as per usual, the last train arrived from Brighton that evening at 10.25pm. The ticket collector at Lidley station, Albert Drummond, remembered it as 'an unusual evening', as that night there were nine passengers waiting to board the train for the last run into Brighton. Normally the train would return empty.
When the train pulled into Lidley, three passengers got off; Roger Morton ( a local salesman ), Mrs Jean Cummins ( a hotel chamber maid ) and John Sturrock (railway employee).
Mr Drummond ushered the nine passengers onto the two carriage train and made sure all the doors were closed then waved his flag and blew his whistle.
Drummond recalled how the engine driver and his fireman, George Ridley and Eddie Peaks, shouted "See you to morrow, mate" above the sounds of the train as it pulled out of the station.
After it was gone, Drummond locked up. He said he was home by 11.15pm that evening, a fact verified by his wife.
The run from Lidley to Brighton takes approximately 25 minutes at an average speed of 30 miles per hour.
On this evening, Albert Drummond and the three passengers who alighted at Lidley, swear the train was 'running dead on time'. "In more ways than one" it was later commented.
Chief Inspector Noel Hedges said "The journey seems to have only taken 9 minutes. Someone must have been wrong about the trains arrival time in Lidley or it's arrival time back in Brighton. I have been assured that it is physically impossible for a steam train to travel that distance in nine minutes. I doubt if one of those new diesel trains could do it!"
The signalman in Brighton,who was waiting to knock off work after the Lidley trains arrival, logged the train as passing his signal box at 10.39pm ... "According to my railway clock, sir" he told police. "It's never wrong!"
He also noted that the train was doing the appropriate speed for entering Brighton station, but that he did not notice anyone in the cab of the engine, stating that normally they would wave to him as they passed.
The Lidley train pulled into platform three as normal and came to a halt.
Lionel Preston, the duty porter on that platform said "It stopped at the buffers just as usual, but none of the doors opened, so I thought there was no one on board. That was it's normally like".
But he also said that neither George Ridley or Eddie Peaks got off and that one of them always got off straight away because, as it was their last run, they wanted to get the engine put to bed and get off home.
Preston noticed something trapped in one of the carriage doors and went over to remove it.
As he opened the door, the body of a young woman fell towards him.
The police were quickly on the scene and discovered thirteen bodies in total in the two carriages. The bodies of George Ridley, Eddie Peaks and Paul Clarke (the ticket collector) were in the first carriage.
The others were Marjorie and Terry Edwards, Joan Saddler, Tom and Linda Lewis, Patrick Cotter, Andrew Coombes, Len and Mary Whitehead and Raymond Smart.
Autopsies carried out on all the dead reported no injuries, bruising, breaks or cuts on any of the victims. All of the dead had their eyes wide open and a look of absolute terror on their faces.
Every single person on that train appeared to have been frightened to death!
In the hand of one of the dead women a piece of paper was found on which had been written "They are killing everyone ..." in lipstick.
Months of detective work turned up nothing but more questions;
- How did the train enter the station without an engine crew?
- How were thirteen people killed in exactly the same manner?
- Who were "they"?
- Why did the journey only last 9 minutes?
And many, many more.
This was investigated for almost two years, without progress, before the Lidley line, along with the investigation, was closed.
It has never been satisfactorily explained and no one has ever been arrested for any crime.
It is still an open case to this day.
Police are still looking for a Pearl in a haystack ...
... and that mysterious flying pig!
(copy of an email sent to Pearl)
(copy of an email sent to Pearl)