A body was found on a train yesterday, sparking as murder manhunt. However, as Emily Flanagan discovered, the crime dated almost 100 years and the detectives were more youthful than usual.

THERE was no smoking gun, but there was a body, an empty station waiting room and 46 young Sherlock Holmes keen to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It's not often you go on a school trip and are confronted with a murder to solve, but this is Beamish Museum's latest initiative to help pupils learn about Victorian life.

First at the scene of the crime were 46 pupils from Village Primary School, in Thornaby, Teesside, who set about finding clues.

A slip of paper found inside a packet of cigarettes had the victim's Co-op number on, sending one group of young supersleuths to the store, to find his name in the dividends book.

A message in another pocket, telling him that his bicycle would be repaired and ready to pick up from Beamish garage provided another lead.

Costumed characters at the museum provided the young detectives with vital clues and gave them an insight into life in an industrial town in 1913.

The murder mystery activity for school children run at Beamish is the brainchild of Simon Woolley, keeper of education at the museum, who based it on the real-life murder of John Nisbet, on a train from Newcastle to Morpeth, in 1910.

He designed the scheme to encourage children to use problem-solving skills and team work as they pooled information gleaned from their investigations to find the identity of the killer.

It also helps Key Stage 2 children, aged between seven and 11, to actively learn about the Victorian way of life.

Mr Woolley said it took him three months to complete the mystery trail, and then he was faced with the problem of finding a "body", which was eventually provided by Durham fire brigade.

He said: "It took me ages to figure it all out. I went up a number of blind allies, but I used the resources that Beamish has and researched it using artefacts and interpreting them for a murder mystery."

The murder mystery activity is available to schools throughout winter on a pre-booked basis. For further information, call the museum on 0191-370 4011 or 0191-370 4012.