This crime reports begins: 'An Account of the Trial and Sentence of John Douglas, who is to be Executed at Edinburgh on Wednesday the 28th of January, 1824. For Highway Robbery, between Portobello and Musselburgh on November last.'
John Douglas was convicted of robbing an acquaintance, John Anderson, of sixteen shillings and a silver watch, after knocking him to the ground and kneeling on his chest. Although highway robbery was a capital crime, the jury recommended mercy. Broadsides in the National Library of Scotland's collection report the same recommendation in other, similar cases. It appears that Scottish juries may have had more sympathy with highway robbers than with murderers.
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:
1823 shelfmark: F.3.a.14(2)
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