Private Horace Beresford Gordon’s nickname was “Happy.” Always smiling, he was a 28-year-old Jamaican serving with a Canadian Army unit at Godalming, and he even looked happy in the dock at Surrey Assizes when he was tried for murder.

In the early evening of Thursday, SEPTEMBER 7th, 1944, Mrs. Dorothy Hillman, 18, had set out from her home in Bramley to walk the mile to the Leathern Bottle Inn on the A281 between Bramley and Horsham.

About 45 minutes later two RAF men found her lying at the roadside. She had 11 stab wounds, and she told the police she had been attacked by a black man who approached her on a lady’s bicycle. Although she was heavily pregnant, the man had asked her for sex. When she refused he had tried to rape her, and make her give him oral sex. Then he had knifed her and cycled away.

Within two hours of the attack Private Gordon was spotted riding a woman’s bicycle hear Hascombe. Asked to account for his movements and blood on his uniform, he admitted stopping and speaking to a young woman near Bramley earlier that evening. He denied assaulting her, saying he had merely had asked her for directions, and had then gone on his way.

On being told that he was to take part in an identification parade, he changed his story. He now said he had found the girl lying injured beside the road, and he had been on his way to fetch help when he was stopped by the police.

He was then informed that the victim had told detectives that her assailant was a black serviceman who did not have an American accent. Gordon was the only black serviceman stationed locally, it was pointed out to him, and he didn’t speak like an American because he was Jamaican.

He now claimed that his knife had cut the young woman accidentally. They’d had a misunderstanding, he said. She had racially abused him, the knife had dropped from his pocket in the course of a scuffle, and she had fallen on it.

Dorothy Hillman died in hospital at Guildford on September 22nd after giving birth to a still-born child, and at Gordon’s trial for her murder the prosecution said he attacked her because his unwanted lust was rejected. Dorothy’s wounds were so serious that it was a miracle she had not died at the roadside, and the prosecution claimed he had undoubtedly intended to kill her.

After 90 minutes’ deliberation the jury found Gordon guilty, and he was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on Wednesday, January 9th, 1945.