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Broadside entitled 'Extraordinary Occurrence, and Supposed Murder, &c.'


This sensationalist report begins: 'An Account of a most Extraordinary circumstance that took place on Friday night, the 31st October 1828, in a House in the West Port, Edinburgh, where an old Woman of the name of Campbell is supposed to have been Murdered, and her Body Sold to a Medical Doctor.' This broadside was printed in Edinburgh, on the 3rd of November, 1828 and sold for a penny.

This broadside provides an interesting contemporary report of the last murder committed by the infamous body-snatchers Burke and Hare. As it went to press, police had the men in detention and were beginning to uncover the awful extent of their crimes. This victim's name was Mary Campbell, but she was also known as Mary Docherty. Burke was hanged; the others involved escaped capital punishment.

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 published: 1828   shelfmark: F.3.a.14(47)
Broadside entitled 'Extraordinary Occurrence, and Supposed Murder, &c.'
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