This trial report begins: 'Trial & Sentence Of JAMES BURTNEY before the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh, on Monday the 18th Nov. 1822, for violating the person of a Girl under nine years of age, at Prestwick, near Ayr, when he was sentenced to be Executed at Ayr, on Friday the 20th day of December next.' It was printed by John Muir of Glasgow and probably sold for one penny.
The victim of this particularly heinous crime was a young girl called Janet Anderson, who was the daughter of Burtney's neighbour, J. Anderson, 'wright at Prestwick toll'. It is reported that following the attack 'an incalculable number of people' were involved in the pursuit and apprehension of Burtney. People were shocked by this crime and upon sentencing no recommendation for mercy was offered by the jury.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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Date of publication:
1822 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(041)
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