Seaham Cafe Owner Fears Serial Killer Mary Ann Cotton Haunts Her Business

When Janice Brown decided to open her own business, she was hoping for a warm welcome from customers.

But the former nurse believes she and her staff at the Featherbed Rock cafe, Seaham, been visited by a more mysterious guest – the ghost of murderer Mary Ann Cotton.

Considered to be Britain's first female serial killer, one-time Seaham resident Cotton was convicted of killing one of her stepsons and is thought to have murdered many more.

Janice and her three staff believe items found in the North Terrace building relate to the killer. They include a baby's shawl, an oven and a postcard.

Janice, a 40-year-old mother-of-two, said: "There have been some odd goings-on.

"Things have been moved that I've left out, there have been bangs in the kitchen and somebody whispered in my ear when I was here.

"I thought it was my daughter, but she wasn't even in earshot. I couldn't really make out what was said – 'Jane' or 'Joanne'.

"When we tell people, they are quite fascinated."

The cafe, which takes its name from coastal rocks a short distance from the shop, has been contacted by a group interested in the paranormal. Members may visit the business to investigate.

The venture has transformed a disused building on the seafront into a popular haunt for its live customers – serving hot and healthy meals, light lunches, cakes and fancies and hot, cold and alcoholic drinks from Tuesday to Sunday.

It is also making celebration cakes to order and offers take-outs, using locally sourced produce whenever possible.

Mrs Brown, who lives in Sunderland, formerly worked for Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust as a health visitor and nurse.

She decided to launch the cafe after the death of her brother Leslie Ahmed, 48, when he was involved in a helicopter crash off the coast off Morecambe.

Rig engineer Mr Ahmed had been working for Centrica on its gas field and was heading home to South Shields to join his wife and two sons when the accident happened in December 2006.

Mrs Brown, mother to daughters Lena, 11, and Sophie, 19, said: "People have seen what job I did before and I changed it because of the death on the family.

"My brother was in the crash, and after that I decided to do something else."

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