A 76-year-old ‘Good Samaritan’ was battered to death ‘with her own walking stick’, while trying to help her neighbour, 32, as she was attacked in the street.
The elderly victim, named locally as Sandra Seagrave, is believed to have intervened to try and stop a man attacking the other woman on Hazel Way in Crawley Down, West Sussex, at around 10.20am yesterday.
Witnesses said they heard a man shout ‘I’m going to kill you’ before Ms Seagrave, known as Sandy, were both found dead on the street.
The man, 37, was found badly injured inside a house and arrested on suspicion of murder.
He is now in a ‘very unstable condition’ under guard at Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
Ms Seagrave’s heartbroken brother Dan Peckett, 84, said outside her house today: ‘I’m going to miss her so much. I adored her. I kept in touch with her all the time on the phone.’
Sandra Seagrave is believed to have intervened to try and stop the bloodbath that unfolded on Hazel Way in Crawley Down, West Sussex, at around 10.20am yesterday
Police today on Hazel Way in Crawley Down, West Sussex, where a horrific double murder happened yesterday
Mr Peckett, of the nearby village of Copthorne, added: ‘It’s a big shock at the moment.
‘I found out what happened on the telly. I haven’t been told anything yet.
‘The police have told me to go home and they’ll speak to me later.’
Grandfather Mr Peckett’s son Michael, 60, said Mrs Seagrave tried to help a woman who was being attacked by a man.
He claims the man then used a knife to slash his own throat.
Michael said: ‘Her sister Maureen said she’d gone to help the lady who was getting a hiding and he attacked her as well.
‘But the knife was only used to cut his throat. Maureen said she’d seen her walking past her house.
‘We didn’t even know where she was attacked. She used a crutch or walking stick, but Maureen said she didn’t have the crutch that day.
‘The guy’s cut his throat and he’s still alive. I’m absolutely gutted. How do you put it into words? It’s just mad. She helped anybody that woman.’
Shocked neighbours paid tribute to Sandra today and revealed that she was a widow whose husband had died five years ago.
Paramedics found the two dead women inside a house and a man seriously injured outside
Ian Pratt, 61, an engineer, told MailOnline: ‘Sandra was a bit abrupt but when you got to know her you realised she was a lovely woman.
‘Sadly her husband Frank passed away about five years ago so she was on her own.
‘She had had a dog which died. But she still liked to walk around a lot.’
Another neighbour who gave his name as Dennis added: ‘She was known as Sandy although her name was Sandra. It’s absolutely tragic.’
Mr Pratt, 61, said it was possible Ms Seagrave may have intervened while walking past the horrific incident.
The father-of-two, a stretch ceiling businessman, said today: ‘I only found out last night from my neighbour. He came round to ask me if I realised Sandy had been involved. We’re in complete shock.
‘I do know she’d been walking around the village everyday because she had a leg injury and had been trying to build up her strength. We did think that if she happened to be passing and saw an incident she would challenge them about what they’re doing.
Did you witness the incident or have any information about what happened?
‘She was very forthright and could be quite direct. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She obviously didn’t realise she was dealing with someone very irrational. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time – unless she knew the people.’
He described Ms Seagrave as a ‘great animal lover’, adding: ‘She was very much a community person, big-hearted and caring. She was an avid gardener.’
He added: ‘We were quite concerned initially because we’ve got friends who live in Hazel Way, but they were okay.
‘Then we were thinking it was no one we know, and my neighbour came round to tell me. It’s so sad.’
Retired milkman Tony Jones, 74, described the elderly victim as a ‘lovely lady and she did not deserve this’.
He recalled: ‘I used to go by on my float and she would say hello.’
A 70-year-old grandmother, who has lived in the area all her life but did not want to be named, said of the elderly lady who died: ‘It is just so sad. It feels like she was walking in the wrong place at the wrong time.
‘It has always been a friendly and safe area. I have never felt scared walking out at night.’
Initial reports suggested that a knife had been involved in the murders, but Sussex Police have told MailOnline that they strongly refuted this claim.
The attacker is understood to have beaten the two women before leaving them for dead in the street.
Police immediately set up a cordon around the house in Hazel Way, Crawley Down, West Sussex and drafted in forensic experts to begin a search for evidence.
White sheets covered both bodies which lay in the road where they fell and police threw up cordons either side of the horrific scene.
Initial reports suggested that a knife had been involved in the murders, but Sussex Police have told MailOnline that they strongly refuted this claim. Pictured: An officer at the scene today
Flowers on Hazel Way today, where officers continue to inspect the house to gather evidence
The force gave no further details about the arrested man, the cause of death or how the violence unfolded.
Another neighbour on Hazel Way, who asked not to be named, said: ‘This is a terrible scene – and so near Christmas. Those poor people, they must have been terrified in the moments before they died.
‘This is normally such a quiet place, nothing nasty ever happens here. We are just a nice ordinary estate with now trouble.
‘Everyone is really struggling to come to terms with what has happened. The paramedics were here really quickly and were brilliant but sadly there was nothing they could do for two of the stab victims.’
The seriously injured man has been taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton was later arrested on suspicion of murder. Pictured are flowers at the scene
Forensics officers from Sussex Police were seen examining the property in Crawley last night
An ex-police officer neighbour said his friend, who lives opposite the house where the attack occurred, heard shouting inside before people ran out.
‘The neighbour that I know heard shouting and swearing and heard ‘I’m going to kill you,’ he said.
‘There were three people involved – there a bloke, a woman and a do-gooder passerby.’
One witness told MailOnline that he watched police officers ferrying young children out of an address by the crime scene, holding up blankets between the children and the bodies on the road – which were themselves draped with sheets – to shield the view from the children.
A police statement said: ‘Detectives are investigating the murder of two women, aged 32 and 76, outside a house in Crawley Down on Sunday morning (December 22).
‘A 37-year-old man, who was found seriously injured inside the house in Hazel Way, is under arrest on suspicion of murder. He is in a very unstable condition at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.’
White sheets covered both bodies which lay in the road where they fell and police threw up cordons either side of the horrific scene
Detective Chief Inspector Alex Geldart, of Surrey and Sussex major crime team, is leading the investigation.
She said: ‘This is a tragic incident which has led to the death of two local women, one of whom was known to the suspect.
‘Members of the public, police and paramedics did all they could to help the victims but sadly the two women died at the scene.
‘I extend my heartfelt sympathies to their families, who are being supported by specialist trained officers. I ask that people respect their privacy at this distressing time.
‘Extensive enquiries are taking place along with a forensic examination, and any speculation by the media as to what has happened is unhelpful. This was not a knife attack. A cordon will remain in the area while we gather evidence and we appreciate the support and understanding of local residents.’
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