On May 18th 1885, The Northern Echo newspapers reported the murder at Burn Hill farm. Seventeen year old Sarah Dunn stood in a special court in Bishop Auckland, accused of the murder of her illegitimate child.
After the murder took place on the 8th, Sarah Dunn, accompanied by her father Richard, went to Richmond in North Yorkshire, a town some sixteen miles to the southeast of the farm.
They were challenged by Mr Thomas Graham, the Chief Constable of Richmond, who demanded to know the whereabouts of the child in order to check on its welfare. Young Sarah Dunn burst into tears at this and was quoted as saying:
My Father behaved very mean to me since I had the child. What could I do? It would have been hungered to death and its had an easier death than thatSarah Dunn
Sarah was taken to the Police Station and charged with the wilful murder of her illegitimate child. The girl from Burn Hill farm remained silent when asked if she had anything to say.
Following her appearance at the Special Court, Sarah was taken to Durham Gaol. She would meet her fate at the quarterly Asizes.
It is a said end for both the child and the seventeen year old Sarah. Long before the days when post natal depression was recognised this young girl was taken advantage of and made pregnant. The father of the child was not identified in the trial.
Today, Burn Hill farm is a distant memory of the past. Today it is part of a housing estate. Thornton Close sits where the old farm house used. I can’t help but wonder if anyone living in those houses today, sometimes hear the plaintiff cry of a young child, or catch a glimpse of young Sarah as she goes about the farm.