Sgt Capelin and the bandits!


ONE of the most rewarding things about Historic Crawley is the phone calls the Obby receives out of the blue about Crawley people now long gone but still alive in the memories of their families.

One such call came from Jill Bracken, of Merstham, who spotted her grandmother Sarah Capelin in a picture of the Crawley WI, taken in East Park c1927.

Sarah – known to her friends as Sally – lived in Crawley for more than 40 years and was the wife of Crawley police officer Sgt Stephen Capelin.

Sally, pictured right, served on the management committee of the Crawley and District Co-operative Society from 1923-1951 and never missed a meeting.

She was also on the Co-operative Education Committee and was secretary of the Co-operative Women’s Guild. She served on the parish council and was vice-president of the WI.

During the Second World War she assisted with food control and was very well known as an organiser of whist drives.

She died in 1959 at the home of her daughter in Beruit.

As for Sgt Capelin, he appeared to have been a no-nonsense type of officer.

A quick browse of the internet turned up this little gem relating to him.

It was printed in Australian newspapers the Barrier Miner on Wednesday January 11 1933 published and was taken from an article published in the London Evening News the week before.

It read: “A police Sergeant who ought to know – in fact, he has been called: Britain’s champion bandit catcher – says that nine times out of ten motor bandits are cowards at heart.

This police sergeant, Stephen Capelin, is , an officer six feet tall, and is known as the Sergeant of Crawley Level Crossing.

He has just retired after having been in charge of Crawley police station since 1914; altogether he has been 33 years in the police.

Twice he has arrested five motor bandits at a time. On three other occasions he has laid the net which resulted in the capture of five motor bandits – 15 in all.

His total ‘bag’ of bandits and car thieves must be nearly 100 and at least half-a-dozen times he has been commended by magistrates in different parts of Sussex on his captures.

Sergeant Capelin, talking about the bandits he has caught, said: “They are mostly cowards. Nine times out of ten they show no fight at all when you get them in a tight corner. They just give in.”

Sergeant Capelin thinks the motor bandit problem is the most difficult with which the police have to deal.

“Close co-operation between police forces, rapid communication of crime news, and quick actions once you get the news are the only ways of stamping out these people,” he said.

“And always remember that nine times out of ten the motor bandit is a coward.”

The Barrier Miner was printed in the New South Wales town of Broken Hill and went out of publication in 1974 before a brief resurgance between 2005 and 2008 – so quite why the actions of a village copper from sleepy Sussex were of interest is anyone’s guess.

Sgt Capelin’s son George also joined the police and went on to serve with the Surrey Constabulary.