Unsolved Murders

Elsie Douglas

Age: 19

Sex: female

Date: 10 Oct 1932

Place: Roker Pier, Sunderland

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Elsie Douglas was found drowned off of the Roker Pier.

She was the daughter of a railway shunter and had lived in Laws Street in Sunderland.

A verdict of found drowned was returned. Her father said that she was healthy and had no cause for worry so far as he knew.

She was seen shortly after 1am on 10 October 1932 with a man by some fishermen that were throwing their nets from the pier. The fishermen said that they warned them as they were passing that waves were breaking over the end of the pier and that it was dangerous to proceed further. They said that the girl was ten yards ahead of the man and neither of them spoke. The pier was enshrouded in mist and rain and they were said then to have passed on into the darkness.

Then, about ten minutes later one of the fishermen said that he heard an eerie scream at the end of the pier near the lighthouse but said that he attributed it to a seagull.

The fishermen said that the young man then returned along the pier alone. They said that he stopped and spoke to one of them and asked them for a light for his cigarette and then went away.

Then, soon after, one of the fishermen saw the body of Elsie Douglas floating in the water. They pulled her out and tried artificial respiration for three quarters of an hour but failed to revive her.

Another fisherman later said that he had been fishing on the pier with his brother when he had seen Elsie Douglas walk past alone. He said that he thought it was queer that she should be alone there at so late an hour and decided to keep an eye on her. He said that he heard another fisherman warn her of the danger.

During the investigation a note was put in The Sunderland Echo asking for the young man that had been seen in the company of Elsie Douglas earlier on to come forward and a young man later came forward.

He was 18 years old and said that he and his brother had only known Elsie Douglas for about a fortnight and had been with her about four or five times altogether at Roker.

He said that they met her at about 8pm on the Sunday and that the three of them where in each other's company until about 9pm.

He said that he saw Elsie Douglas later at about 10pm on the promenade and that the other brother then went home and that he remained on the promenade talking to her until shortly after 11pm when he decided it was time to go home.

When two other brothers went down to the pier one of them asked Elsie Douglas's companion for a match and Elsie Douglas then asked for the time and was told that it was 11.25pm. Elsie Douglas and the youth that she was with at the time then walked up the steps from the promenade and the youth was said to have then left Elsie Douglas and that was the last that he saw of her.

The brother that had been fishing with his other brother on the pier at the time said that he had seen Elsie Douglas on the lower promenade with a young man and said that he then saw her later go onto the pier at about midnight alone. He said that he had no matches and wanted a light for his cigarette and so he told his brother that he thought that he would walk along and get one from one of the other fellows and said that when he got beside the other men he saw Elsie Douglas still farther along, walking.

He said that one of them men told Elsie Douglas not to go any farther as it was not safe because waves were washing over. He said that Elsie Douglas seemed to hesitate slightly but went on. He said that he got the light for his cigarette from a young fellow and passed a remark that it was funny that a girl should be going along the pier at that time of night. He said that the fellow agreed and so he thought that he should keep an eye on her seeing that she had disregarded the warning. He said that he walked on quickly and overtook her and stood at the railings and that she then passed him and that as she did so she said, 'It is chilly, isn't it'. He said that he replied that it was and added that if she was not careful she would get a ducking for the waves were coming over the pier.

He said that she stopped for a while and then turned and walked back again saying 'I think I 'll go farther along'. The brother said that thinking everything was all right he walked back along the pier to his brother. He said that he had just got back to them when he heard a man shout, and said that he and his brother both left their rods and ran along the pier. He said that a young man then came dashing along and asked if he had seen anyone go off the pier and that he said that he hadn't, and said that the man told him that a girl was in the water. He said that when he got there he could see some fishermen trying to hook Elsie Douglas's clothing and that he could see a dull shape in the water.

He said that he didn't wait to see her pulled out of the water.

When asked, he said that he thought that it was quite possible for one of the waves to have washed her off of the pier.

He said that there was only one way onto the pier and that that was to climb over some railings that were about five feet tall.

Another fisherman said that he saw a young woman coming along the pier alone going towards the lighthouse. He said that an old fisherman warned her not to go farther and said that she seemed to falter a bit but then went onwards towards the lighthouse. He said that he passed a remark to his friend that he had better go and see what the girl was up to since it was so dangerous along the pier and that as he went along the pier he heard a faint shout for help twice. He said that it sounded very faint as if it was from the water and that when he got a few more yards along he noticed a coat lying on the pier.

He said that there was no one else ahead of him other than the girl on the pier and that when he looked he saw a dim form in the water and that then a great sea came over and they all grabbed the rails and held on and that when he looked again the coat was gone and that he then ran for the police thinking that there was a chance to save her.

He said that when he returned with the police he found that a man had Elsie Douglas in a fishing line and was towing her towards the beach.

He said that then several policemen waded into the sea and brought Elsie Douglas ashore and applied artificial respiration but said that it was useless as she was dead.


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


see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Wednesday 12 October 1932

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 11 October 1932

see Edinburgh Evening News - Tuesday 11 October 1932