A young woman has gone missing. Elsie Cameron left her home in London to visit her fiance Norman Thorne in Crowborough. She caught the train to Crowborough and walked towards where he was living. This was the last time she was seen alive.
After losing his job as an engineer, Norman, using money loaned to him by his father, moved to Crowborough and set up a chicken farm at the junction of Luxford Lane and Luxford Road. With little money, he also was sleeping in the little hut he’d built, living in primitive conditions, trying in vain to build his business.
Elsie was pressing for marriage, telling Norman that she was pregnant. But she had fallen in love with another girl, and wanted to break things off between him and Elsie.
The police started investigating the case. Three witnesses came forward saying they had seen Elsie heading towards the farm on the night in question. Thorne was taken into custody, and police started searching his place. The events of Elsie’s death were beginning to unfold.
Norman Thorne was convicted of Elsie’s murder and hanged – BUT he went to his death still swearing his innocence.
90 years later, the fascinating story which captivated the nation sparked the interest of a film student from Crowborough.
When set the challenge of producing a documentary about murder and mystery, Kate Brown, 17, who is studying BTEC Film and TV Production at Sussex Downs College, decided to tell the story of the ‘Chicken Run Murder’.
The story was particularly poignant to Kate as her home in Crowborough is near to the where the murder took place.
Kate told CrowboroughLife:
In the research for this story, I was looking into local murders in Crowborough. My house is the oldest farm house in Crowborough, so I automatically assumed it was my house that it happened in and I have chickens which got me thinking even more.
As I looked into it I found it was a few roads up from me but it’s still a bit strange and spooked me a bit, as I thought I was living on an historic crime scene.
I decided I would use the story and adapt it in my own ways to create my final piece.
Katie and her fellow students researched and prepared their films at Lewes Library. Last week the library hosted a cinema-style premiere attended by students, their families, friends and other invited guests.
Other films included a profile by 17-year-old Jack Carter, from Brighton, about his cousin, former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Kerry Mayo, and a film by 16-year-old Katie Beard, from Burgess Hill, probing her grandfather’s links to a historic East Sussex rail crash.
Daniel Ford, curriculum leader for media at Sussex Downs Lewes College, said:
Taking on real projects is essential for young creative film makers.
Working with the library was a fantastic opportunity to investigate stories right under our noses and breathe fresh life into them.
We hope they are enjoyed and inspire a closer look at the strange and startling stories that are available in the wonderful library.
More about Elsie Cameron’s murder
There is a dramatised version of the story by the famous crime writer Minette Walters called Chickenfeed.
Links to archive images –
1. Norman Thorne boards a train at Crowborough Station
2. Police dig for evidence
The case was explored as part of the BBC TV series Murder, Mystery and My Family.
The other films produced as part of the scheme are:
Jack Me If You Can
Was there a connection between Jack the Ripper and Edwin Baxter’s to a spate of killings in Lewes? By Zak Comyns 16, from Brighton.
A personal perspective of Lewes Bonfire night from a Commercial Square smuggler. By Cameron Vincent 16, from Lewes.
The tragic death of visionary writer Virgina Woolf in the River Ouse.
By Leila-Mae Rummery 16, from Lewes.
Dragon’s Bane Pie
How the legendary Knucker Dragon of Sussex was defeated by a pie.
By Marcus Long 16, from Brighton.