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Broadside account of the trial and sentence of William Burke, 1828


A full account of the Trial and Sentence
of William Burke this day, the
West Fort Murderers. who is to be
Executed on Wednesday the 28th

This day, Wednesday 24th Dec. came on the Trial of William
Burke and Helen McDougal his wife, accused of three different
Murders, the first in the beginning of April last, in the house of
Constantine Burke, scavenger, Gibb's Close Canongate, on the
body of Mary Paterson or Mitchell, while she was lying in a state-
of intoxication, by covering her mouth and nose, and compressing
her throat. The second in the month of October last, within a
house in Tanner's Close, West Port, occupied by William Hare,
labourer, on the body of James Wilson or Daft Jamie, by forcibly,
throwing him down, and compressing his mouth, nose, and throat
till he was suffocated. And the third on the 31st October last,
within a house in the West Port occupied by the Prisoners, on the
body of Margery Campbell or Docherty, by keeping her mouth
and nose covered which produced suffocation, and afterwards sel-
ling the bodies to Lecturers on Anatomy.

The Prisoners pled not Guilty. The Jury were then sworn and
encl sed. when the trial proceeded on the third charge.

David Patereou, keeper of Dr Knox's Museum, Burke sent
for him on the 8st Oct. last and pointing to the bed, said he had
something for the Dr was desired by the Dr. to receive any pack-
age which they might bring, was in the way about 7 next night,
when Burke, Hare, and M culloch a porter came with an old tea
chest, it was put into the cellar. Got L5 from Dr Knox, which
he divided betwixt Burke and Hare. the balance was to be paid
when the Dr saw the subject. On the sunday morning Lieut.
Paterson and Sergeant major Fisher called on him, he opened the
cellar and gave the package, the box was opened and saw the
body of a female whose appearance in his opinion indictated suf-
focation or strangulation.

John Broggan was in Burke's house on the night of Halloween
saw an old woman there, left the house at 7 night returned at 2
next morning. left again and returned in the afternoon ; heard
some one ask what had become of Mrs Docherty, and the female
prisoner answered that she had became troublesome. and had put
her out; saw Burke take whisky and throw it up to the roof,
and creep below the bed with a cup and some spirits in his hand
and as be thought things looked suspicious be left the house,

One witness who lived adjoining to Burkes heard on the night
of the 30th Oct. cries of murder proceed from Burke's house, and
other strange sounds as if an animal was suffocating.

Mrs Gray was in the house on the 31st, she asked what was
become of the old woman, they said she had put her out, witness
thought all seemed not right, she lifted up some bed clothes and
saw a body with its face to he wall lifted up the head by the
hair, knew it to be that of the old woman, the Face was a little
soiled with blood, and the nostr ls black, she told her husband and
they departed, met the female prisoner in the passage, and men-
tioned what she had seen, the prisoner said she did not care as
nobody could prove any thing, the prisoner afterwards attempted
to bribe witness with a few shiltings, and said that if she could
keep a secret she would make L4 a week; witness exclaimed
'Good God how could you do it.' After a little altercation wit-
ness and her husband want away.

The Lord Advocate addressed the Court at great length, and
was ably answered by the   prisoners council;   The Lord   Justice
Clerk summed up the evidence in the clearest manner, when the
jury retired, and unanimously gave in their verdict of guilty.
against Burke    Mrs Burke will be tried on a new indictment.

The Lord Justice Clerk i n passing sentence on the prisoner,
made observation on the heiniousness and great enormity of these
horrid crimes, and begged him to prepare for his ignominous
end. He then sentenced him to be executed at Edinburgh on
the 28 th day of Jaunary 1829. And body given over for Dis-ssection.

The Prisoners arrived at the Court by 4 o'clock in the morning
in coaches ;--Strong parties of police were stationed at the door.
of the Court, no person was admitted without a ticket, previously
i sued. Immense crowds continued in the Square during the day


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Date of publication: 1828   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.6(012)
Broadside account of the trial and sentence of William Burke, 1828
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