Both the report in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper and the memorial tile in Postman's Park treat this story as straightforward. Richard Farris dived into the Surrey Canal to save Eliza Arlott, who jumped in when distressed by something her sweetheart had said. However, one wonders why he 'accosted' the witness but did not try to prevent her jumping or seek help from passers-by.
It appeared from the evidence of a young man, named Thomas Charles Hodgson, of 29, Stanton-street, Commercial-road, that on Monday night last, as he was about to cross Globe-bridge, which spans the Surrey canal between Peckham and Camberwell, he was accosted by Farris, with whom he was acquainted. Farris pointed to a girl who was leaning on the parapet of the bridge, with her face buried in her hands, and said to the witness that if she (meaning the girl) went into the water, he would go in after her. The witness (Hodgson) noticed the girl, but saying nothing, passed over the bridge, and entered the Surrey View public-house. Five minutes afterwards he heard an alarm of somebody being in the water, and rushed to procure the drags. The young woman had been greatly distressed about something her sweetheart had said to her. The jury returned a verdict, “That Farris had been accidentally drowned whilst humanely endeavouring to save the life of Eliza Arlott, who had committed suicide while in a state of temporary insanity.”
RICHARD FARRIS, LABOURER, WAS DROWNED IN ATTEMPTING TO SAVE A POOR GIRL WHO HAD THROWN HERSELF INTO THE CANAL AT GLOBE BRIDGE, PECKHAM, MAY 20 1878.