Unsolved Murders

Uriah Winter

Age: 38

Sex: male

Date: 2 Oct 1905

Place: River Exe, Topsham, Exeter

Uriah Winter met his death under mysterious circumstances.

He was an able seaman on the barge Ada from Gloucester, that had been lying at Langdale's Wharf in Topsham. He was from Highbridge.

He was found dead in the River exe about 40 yards from Topsham Pier at about 4.30pm. when he was found he was fully dressed with the exception of his hat.

When his body was examined, he was found to have had a small abrasion above and below his eye and marks about his lips. The doctor that carried out his post-mortem stated that he had no doubt that his injuries were caused before his death.

He said that his injuries might have been caused by a blow to the head or by him falling on some hard stones. When he was asked whether he thought that it was likely that his injury could have been caused by him falling on the stone steps at the pier he said that it was improbable but not impossible.

Another doctor that also examined Uriah Winter's body said that he noticed that he had a cut above his left ear that could not have been caused by a fist but could have been caused by a stick.

He said that he was satisfied that Uriah Winter had drowned, but said that his injuries, which occurred before, might have caused insensibility.

A mate on board the barge, also described as a ketch, said that he last saw Uriah Winter on the morning of 2 October 1905 after breakfast in the Steam Packet public house saying that he left soon after 10am saying that he knew where he could, 'hang up for a few pints'.

The landlady of the Steam Packet Inn said that Uriah Winter was in her house at about noon on 2 October 1905. He said that he was alone and was not there more than ten minutes and only had half a pint of beer and then left alone.

She noted that the Captain had left a bundle with her on the morning of 2 October 1905 when he first came in saying that he was going to Exmouth and that Uriah Winter later called for it on behalf of the Captain and she gave it to him. He daughter said that it was about 6pm or 7pm that Uriah Winter collected the bundle. The landlady said that when Uriah Winter came into the inn he said, 'The Captains across the way, and sent me for it', and added that by, 'across the way', she understood that he meant that the Captain was in the Lighter Inn.

She said that Uriah Winter came in again between 5pm and 6pm and enquired for the mate and another seaman but said that when he was told that they had left he went away, without having anything to drink.

She said that she saw nothing more of Uriah Winter that evening but saw the Captain and his brother come in at about 8pm but could not say how long they were there as there were many sailors in the pub that night as there were several ships in. She said that the Captain and his brother kept going in and out of her house but said that she was confident that they had left a considerable time before the hour of closing.

She added that it was quite possible that Uriah Winter had been in the pub without her having noticed him.

She added that there was no disturbance in the Inn that night.

An old man said that he had been in the Steam Packet Inn and had had a drink with the Captain just after 9pm noting that there were two men with the Captain but that he didn't know who they were.

He said that he later met the Captain and the two other men out on the quay at which time the Captain had a bundle of clothes with him. He said that the Captain was sober and that the other two men were walking steadily.

When the old man gave his evidence, the coroner questioned him asking him whether he had said that they had left the Inn because the Captains brother had had too much to drink, but the old man said 'No'. It was then asked whether he had made his mark on a manuscript, presumably his statement in which it might have indicated such, and he agreed that it was his mark. He then admitted putting his mark on the paper but sad that he did not recollect having said what was contained on it.

A fisherman said that he remembered seeing three men going from the Quay towards town at about 11pm on 2 October 1905, but could not identify them, saying that he was about 7 or 8 yards from them.

A seaman from Topsham said that he put the mate of the Ada aboard the ketch noting that when he did that there was no other boat alongside.

Another fisherman said that he remembered seeing two men come across in a boat belonging to another man at about 6am, saying that one of them was the mate.

The Captain of the Ada and his brother were called to the inquest but the Captain was late and his brother didn't show up.

When the Captain turned up late at the inquest the coroner asked him why had not shown up earlier and the Captain said that he didn't know what time the inquest was and that he had had to go to Exeter in the morning.

He said that he last saw Uriah Winter at about 9.30pm on the evening of 2 October 1905 on the pier. He said that he tried to get someone to take him to the Ada but that he altered his mind and left the pier and that he last saw Uriah Winter going up the road towards the Steam Packet public house and that he saw nothing of him after that and that both he and his brother were back on the Ada by about 10.30pm or 11pm.

He denied that he had had an argument with Uriah Winter at any time and said that they had been good friends.

When the Captain was questioned by the coroner he asked him whether Uriah Winter had been under the influence when he last saw him and the Captain said that it was difficult to say but that judging from his speech that he had had some.

He said that he asked Uriah Winter if he was going to the ship and said that Uriah Winter told him that 'he wasn’t'.

He said that he and his brother had a pint of beer in the Stream Packet public house and then went on board using their own boat. The coroner then noted that a mate on the ship had earlier said that he had gone across in another boat and asked the Captain how that could be so and the Captain said that a stranger put him aboard and that he must have taken his boat back to the pier again. He said that he paid the man and sent the boat back with the idea that Uriah Winter would then be able to use it to come back aboard.

When the coroner asked the Captain where his brother was, the Captain told him that he had gone to Exmouth.

After the Captain gave his evidence on 6 October 1905 the inquest was adjourned. However, when it resumed on Friday 13 October 1905 neither the Captain nor his brother attended. After it was determined that they were not going to attend the coroner dispatched men to the railway station and elsewhere, but they could not be traced.  The coroner then said, 'The Captain and his brother, as they all knew, had been warned to be present. It would be necessary to have their evidence at the inquiry. They had been guilty of contempt of Court and would have to be arrested'.

The Captain and his brother were arrested soon after and brought by train to the inquest on 17 October 1905.

When the Captain was questioned, the coroner asked him whether when he was last seen at 9.30pm on the night in question, whether he or his brother had had the bundle with them and he said that he had had it and said that it had contained clothes.

He added that he could not however account for the other man's boat being along side his barge that morning.

The coroner then asked the Captain to stand up and read over the evidence that he had given when he had previously attended the inquest and then told him that he was going to ask him soe questions. However, the Captain replied, 'You need not ask any questions at all. I shan't answer them'.

The coroner then said, 'Before I ask these questions it is my duty to inform you that if you answer any questions that are liable to incriminate you you may refuse to answer. If you do, they will be taken down in evidence against you'.

The Captain then said 'I shan't answer any questions. The evidence I gave you last time is enough.'

When the Captain was cross-examined however, he said that he had seen Uriah Winter at about 9.30pm and that they had gone to the Jubilee Pier with a view to going aboard and that Uriah Winter had not entered the Steam Packet Inn with him and that the third person with them was another person that his brother had picked up in the street.

His brother said that he did not remember seeing Uriah Winter after the morning of 2 October 1905. He said that he went all over town during the day and could not remember going aboard.

After the Captain and his brother gave evidence a policeman said hat he had been unable to get any further clues, in particular that he could find nothing about the strange man that was stated to have rowed the Captain aboard.

When the coroner summed up he said that it was a very difficult inquiry, adding that it had been made all the more difficult by the conduct of the Captain and his brother. He said that one would have thought that having regard to the relationship between the Captain and Uriah Winter that he would have taken some interest in the matter and would have rendered all the assistance he possibly could in clearing up the mystery surrounding his death.

The coroner described the evidence of the Captain and his brother as most unreliable but that there was no evidence to justify them returning a verdict that anyone was responsible for Uriah Winter's death. In particular he said that there was no evidence to show who the three men were who were seen together.

The inquest concluded by stating that Uriah Winter drowned but that there was not sufficient evidence to prove under what circumstances and an open verdict was returned.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Western Times - Tuesday 17 October 1905

see Western Times - Friday 06 October 1905

see Weston Mercury - Saturday 21 October 1905