Unsolved Murders

Sidney John Dunn

Age: 36

Sex: male

Date: 8 Dec 1957

Place: Moorland, Durham

Sidney John Dunn was found shot dead on a moorland road on 8 December 1957.

His body was found about 150 yards from his taxi which was abandoned on the moorland road.

Sidney Dunn had earlier picked up a fare from Newcastle Central Railway Station for Edmundbyers at about 4.30am, about 16 hours before his body was found on the moors.

When he was found he was lying face down in the heather, shot in the head and there were said to have been bloodstains on the driving seat of the taxi. During their immediate search the police said that they found several objects from Sidney Dunn's pockets not far from his body.

The police said that the motive for his murder was not clear.

Five commercial artists helped to produce the final sketch of the man that Sidney Dunn was seen to go off with in his taxi based on descriptions given by two taximen that had been at Newcastle Station when Sidney Dunn picked the man up. It was said that many attempts were rejected before both of the taxi-men agreed with the likeness of the final effort being a good likeness of the passenger.

One of the taxi drivers described the man that he had seen Sidney Dunn pick up as being:

  • About 24 years-old.
  • Dark-haired.

The other taxi driver said that two men had asked to hire his taxi at the station, one wanting to go to Newburn and the other to Edmundbyers. He said that he was about to take them both when Sidney Dunn arrived and agreed to take the man for Edmundbyers and then drove off with the man in that direction. He described the man as:

  • Dark hair, parted at the side.
  • Wearing a dark suit and possibly no overcoat.
  • Medium build.
  • Local accent.
  • No luggage.

On 23 December 1957 it was reported that 30 members of a women's fellowship that had been having a meeting at a Methodist Church hall kitchen in Gosforth said that they recalled seeing a slim dark young man wearing a fawn raincoat walk in and ask for a cup of tea. They said that  the man said, 'I need money to get home to Edinburgh. Please help me'. It was reported that the women had thought that he had seemed like such a nice young man that they had taken him to their hearts and said, 'Sit down, love, and have a cup of tea'. It was further said that the Reverend had also given the man 10s to help him on his way, but it was later thought that the man had been Sidney Dunn's murderer. It was reported that when the Reverend was shown some photographs of men that he had been able to pick out the man that had called at the church hall for tea from them.

On 24 December 1957 a man that had been charged with theft told a magistrate that he thought that he had murdered Sidney Dunn. The man was a 29-year-old artist that had lived in Walsall Road in Great Barr, Birmingham and had been charged with theft at Hexham on 23 December 1957. At his hearing he pleaded guilty but insane to stealing a handbag from a Hexham church and asked for nine other thefts, seven of them from churches, to be taken into consideration. He said that he had been in prison for the previous ten years and had just completed a five-year sentence. He said that when he came out of prison that the Birmingham Education Authority gave him a studio and commissioned him to paint pictures but that that instead he left home and wandered all over the country committing small offences. Following his hearing he was committed to Durham Prison until 7 January 1958 for a medical examination. The court was told that the man had been in Borstal and had been convicted on 228 charges of housebreaking, false pretences and theft. It was noted that he had been certified insane in 1949 whilst serving a prison sentence. Nothing more is known about the man's claims that he might have murdered Sidney Dunn.

It was later said that Sidney Dunn had been murdered by Peter Manuel, a convicted serial killer who was executed, although he was never tried for the murder. An inquest into Sidney Dunn's murder stated that a button was found in his taxi that matched buttons on a coat owned by Peter Manuel, but the finding was also disputed by some parties who suggested that his murderer might have been a local person or am Irishman who had just come off an Irish boat train. It was further noted that two witnesses identified Peter Manuel as the person that they had seen, but one of them had said that the person they saw had a local accent and then said that it was an Irish accent, it being noted that Peter Manuel had a Scottish accent. It was further said that whilst it was certain that Peter Manuel had been in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a job interview two days before Sidney Dunn's murder, it was not known for certain whether he had hung about in Newcastle after.

Peter Manuel was charged with Sidney Dunn's murder on Wednesday 29 January 1958 by the Durham County Police.

During their investigation, the police were looking for anyone who travelled by taxi from Newcastle to the Edmonbyers-Stanhope area as well as anyone who was near Newcastle central railway station between 2am and 6am on the day.

Additionally the police said that they were looking for anyone that had got off the Bristol to Carlisle trains that had arrived in Newcastle between 4am and 5am to come forward. The police said that they did not necessarily think that Sidney Dunn's murderer had come off a train, but said that they thought that the murderer might have been there long enough to have 'registered' with someone.

Following the discovery of Sidney Dunn's body, 30 soldiers from the 24th Independent Infantry Brigade from Barnard Castle equipped with 25 mine detectors joined the police in the search of the moorland around where his body was found in the hope of finding some object that might help lead them to identifying the murderer. It was said that the army were also making a section of the Battle-Area Clearance Unit at the disposal of the police. It was additionally said that thirteen soldiers to operate the mine detectors would be sent from the 1st Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Durham Light Infantry. It was noted that the Battle-Area Clearance Unit was formed mainly from Hungarian volunteers and that it was very experienced in that type of work.

It was said that including the 25 detectives that were pursuing their inquiries mainly in the Stanhope area that there were about a total of 60 policemen busy on the case.

The police also said that they were carrying out house to house inquiries around Stanhope and that they believed that someone had been shielding the killer by withholding vital information. On Friday 13 December 1957 the police reported that they had spoken to between 200 and 300 people. They said, 'It's all routine work requiring patience. It's a matter of interviewing and questioning people, and then sifting and sifting'.

On 23 January 1958 the police said that they were fairly confident that they knew who had shot Sidney Dunn but that they were still trying to trace his movements between Scotland and Newcastle between 5 and 9 December 1957.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see find.galegroup.com

see National Archives - DPP 2/2779

see Wikipedia

see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 10 Dec. 1957: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 28 May 2016.

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 29 January 1958

see Belfast Telegraph - Tuesday 10 December 1957

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 24 December 1957

see Daily Herald - Thursday 23 January 1958

see Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 08 January 1958

see Shields Daily News - Thursday 23 January 1958

see Shields Daily News - Friday 13 December 1957

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Friday 13 December 1957

see Shields Daily News - Tuesday 10 December 1957