Unknown But Guilty

Here we have the tragic story of the murder of a little girl from Seaham. The murderer may have got away with it, we simply do not know. However, the people of Seaham believe the murderer died on the coast. Therefore, we give this story the title of ‘Unknown But Guilty’.


The 3rd August 1889, was to be a sad day for the people of Seaham. They discovered the body of Seven year old Caroline Winter in a rock pool on the beach near Featherbed Rocks. She had been murdered and sexually assaulted after suffering severe head injuries. Her torn clothes and her blood-covered hat were in a cave nearby.

Unknown But Guilty - Featherbed Rocks Seaham

Featherbed Rocks, Seaham, County Durham

As the story of the murder reached the newspapers, large number of people went to the scene of the murder. A report in the Sunderland Echo said that nearly all were strangers to the town and had journeyed thither for the express purpose of viewing the scene of the tragedy. Indeed, not one went without a memento of some sort. They either took a chipping of the rock, a pebble or a stone from the cave. Some went as far as to take a sample of water from the pool where the girl was.

The night before, Caroline had been playing with seven year old Ann Cowell at half past nine, in Black North Terrace. Ann told how a man in a shabby coat had told Caroline he was a friend of her family and he would take her to buy half a shillings worth of sweets. Caroline had been smiling as she walked away hand in hand with the man. Ann followed, but as it got darker she became frightened. Then Ann shouted to Caroline she was going home and that Caroline should come with her.

Body Found

The next morning, walking along the beach, Henry Smith found Caroline’s battered body. A witness came forward and told police that he had seen a man that morning in the sea washing blood from his trousers. Then, with his and Ann’s help, the police got a description of the man. He was in his thirties, scruffy with a thick military moustache.

Caroline’s funeral took place at Christ Church. Many people lined the street from there to Caroline’s home. Reverend William Scott told the crowds an innocent, happy, intelligent, fair haired child had been killed and mutilated to satisfy one man’s fiendish lust. Her manner of death was a painful one indeed. But we hope the child gets her reward for the anguish and torture as she enters into the glory of Christ’s Kingdom.

Unknown But Guilty – Justice Served?

On the 12th August, washed ashore on the north side of Featherbed Rocks, was the body of a man. Indeed, the police could not identify him and never did. However, the police said he bore a striking resemblance to the description of the man wanted for the murder of Caroline.

When the people of Seaham heard this news it gave them a sense of peace. This is because they thought he was the murderer and he was dead. To this day, we still don’t who he was, if he was the murderer or how he actually died. But, just maybe, justice was done!


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2 Responses to Unknown But Guilty

  1. Lindsay Dawson says:

    Caroline was my great great Aunt. Very sad story

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  2. David Rowell says:

    My Gran had a cousin called Caroline she used to get called Carrie, my Gran was Joyce Peel daughter of Robert Peel from the Avenue Deneside. Awful story so sad.

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