When I was 18 I had a girlfriend who lived 20 miles away at Park Gate. To get to, and from there I regularly used the train from Cosham to Swanwick station. To get home on this particular Sunday evening, I arrived at 11:00 pm on Swanwick station. It is a fairly remote and dingy station and it was unusual for anybody else to be there at this hour, but a lady in her late 40's or early 50's was seated waiting for the last train. She was about 5ft 4 inches tall, of plump build, with permed hair, and was wearing a "camel" coat and was carrying a very large canvas shopping bag, which had a tartan pattern on.
I sat down to wait for the train (which were frequently late). After a few minutes the lady asked if there was a train as she "had to get back to Portsmouth". I told her that I was also waiting for the same train and that it should be along soon. Several times she asked the same question and reinforced that she "must get back to Portsmouth". When the train eventually did arrive, she remained seated but became very agitated and began to cry. I told her that this was the last train, but several times between sobs she repeated: "I can't go back". I asked if I could help, and suggested that if she got on the train that perhaps we could talk about any problems she had. But again she said "I can't go back". Meanwhile the guard had got off of the train to point out that this was the last train on that night and that if I was getting on I should hurry (from his angle he probably couldn't see the lady). Reluctantly I got on the train, and as it pulled out of the station I could see her sobbing.
On the journey home I felt guilty about leaving her, as she was obviously very upset about something. On arriving home at Cosham I telephoned the Police at Park Gate and briefly related the story and asked if perhaps somebody could visit the railway station and see if she was ok. I gave a description of her height, dress, and the bag she was carrying. I assumed that perhaps some domestic dispute was the cause of her distress.
On arriving home from work the next evening (Monday) my mother drew my attention to an article in the local paper, "The Evening News". She knew that I caught the train from Swanwick and this article was appealing for witnesses to an accident near that station. I immediately recognized the photograph included in the article as the lady from the previous evening, the description of her clothing, height, dress and bag also matched perfectly. The article was appealing for witnesses to an accident where the lady had been killed whilst walking along the railway lines.... ON THE SATURDAY EVENING.
I telephoned the newspaper and suggested that they had confused the dates, and that I had spoken to the lady, they checked and to my surprise insisted that the accident had been on Saturday. I then telephoned the police who listened to my story, and indeed confirmed that I had reported the incident on Sunday evening, however were adamant that the incident had occurred on Saturday.
In a subsequent article in the local paper I learned that the lady was called Maureen Hampton, she was a patient in a local mental hospital (Coldeast). She had been allowed out on the Saturday and had been to Portsmouth. Returning in the evening she had missed the station at Swanwick and got off of the train at the next stop (Bursledon), not being familiar with the area she had decided to walk the short distance back to Swanwick along the lines, and been struck by a train.
Now, I wish I had remained or touched her!!! However, I caught the bus after this!
Contributed by Peter McKechnie