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Broadside regarding the trial and sentence of William Burke and Helen McDougall


This crime report begins: 'A Full and Particular Account of the Trial and Sentence of WILLIAM BURKE and HELEN M'DOUGALL, his reputed wife, who were tried before the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 24th December, 1828'.

William Burke and his partner Helen MacDougall, worked with two accomplices, William Hare and his wife, to lure people to their death. They then sold the body on to medical practitioners for dissection. They had committed sixteen murders when they were caught, mainly of vulnerable people. Burke was eventually convicted and ordered to hang, but only because his accomplice turned King's Evidence and therefore survived. The accusation against MacDougall was not proven.

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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Probable date published: 1829   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.6(011)
Broadside regarding the trial and sentence of William Burke and Helen McDougall
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