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Broadside entitled 'Confessions made by William Burke'




William Burke,

New under Sentence of Death, in the Calton jail, for the Harrid
Murder of Mrs Campbell, frankly detailing several other atrocious
Murders, in which he was concerned along, with Hare....Extract-
ed from the Caledonian Mercury, 5th January, 1829.

AFTER some conversation of a religious nature he was asked
how   long he had been engaged in this murderous traffic.
To which he answered, from Christmas 1827 till the murder of the
woman Docherty in October last.    How many persons have you
murdered, or been concerned in murdering, during   that   time?
Were they thirty in all ?   No, not so many ; not so many, I assure
you.    How many ? He answered the question ; but the answer
was, for a reason satisfactory, not communicated to us, and reserved
for a different quarter.

Had you any accomplices ? None but Hare. We always took
cure, when we were going to commit a murder, that no one else
should be present...that no one else should swear he saw the deed
done. The women might suspect what we were about, but we always
put them out of the way when we were going to do it. They never
saw us commit any of the murders One of the murders was done
in Broggan's house, while he was out, but before he returned the
thing was finished, and the body put into a box. Broggan evidently
suspected something, for he appeared much agitated, and entreated
us ' to sake away that box,' which we accordingly did. But he was
not in any way concerned in it.

You have already told me that you were engaged in those atro-
cities from Christmas 1827 till the end of October 1828; Were you
associated with Mare during all that time ?....Yes We began
with selling to Di ??the body of a woman who had died a na-
tural death in Hare's house, We got ten pounds for it. After this
we began the murders, and all the rest of the bodies we sold to him
we murdeted. In what place were there murders generally com-
mitted ?....They were mostly committed in Hare's house, which was
very convenient for the purpose, as it consisted of a room and a
kitchen. Daft Jamie was murdered there. The story told of this
murder is incorrect, Hare began the struggle with him, and they
fell and rolled together on the ground ; then 1 went to Hare's assist-
ance, and we at length finished him, though with much difficulty.
I committed one murder in the country by myself. It was in last
harvest. All the rest were done in conjunction with Hare.

' By what means were these fearful atrocities perpetrated ?' ' By
suffocation. We made the persons drunk, and then suffocated
them by holding the nostrils and mouth, and getting on the body.
Sometimes I held the mouth and nose, while Hare went upon the
body ; and sometimes Hare held the mouth and nose, while I
placed myself on the body. Hare has perjured himself by what
he said at the trial about the murder of Docherty. He did not sit
by while I did it, as he says. He was on the body assisting me
with all his might, while I held the nostrils and mouth with one
hand, choked her under the throat with the other. We sometimes
used a pillow, but did not in this case. Now, Burke, answer me
this question?Were you tutored and instructed, or did you re-
ceive hints from any one as to the mode of committing murder ?
No, except from Hare. We often spoke about it, and we agreed
that suffocation was the best way. Hare said so, and I agreed
with him. We generally did it by suffocation. Did you receive
any encouragement to commit or persevere in committing these
atrocities ? Yes ; we were frequently told by Paterson that he
would take as many bodies as we could get for him. When we
got one, he always told us to get more. There was commonly
another person with him of the name of Falconer. They general-
ly pressed us to get more bodies for them. To whom were the
bodies so murdered sold ??To Dr ??. We took the bodies to
his rooms in??? ???, and then went to his house to re-
ceive the money for them. Sometimes he paid us himself; some-
times we were paid by his assistants. No questions were ever
asked as to the mode in which we had come by the bodies. We
had nothing to do but to leave a body at the rooms, and go and
get the money.

Did you ever, upon any occasion, sell a body or bodies to any
other lecturer in this place ? Never. We knew no other.

You have been a resurrectionist (as it is called) I understand ?
No.    Neither Hare nor myself ever got a body from a church-
yard.    All we sold were murdered save the first one, which was
that of the woman who died a natural death in Hare's house.    We
began with that: our crimes then commenced.    The victims we
selected were generally elderly persons.    They could be more
easily disposed of than persons in the vigour of health.


Confessions, & Reffections


WILLIAM         BURKE, late of Portsburgh, who is to
be Executed at Edinburgh, on the 28th January,
1829, for Murder, and his body given for Public

[The writer of the following Lines, at the solitary hour of
one o'clock the other morning, took a walk to the Calton Hill,
and laid himself down on the south side, opposite the Jail,
rolled up in hit mautle, reflecting on the vicissitudes of life,
and on the scene before him, when he heard, or imagined he
heard, the following Effusions from the cell at the wretched

" Good people all, both great and small,
I pray you lend an ear,
Unto these lines that I have penn'd,
Which quickly you shall hear.

O, if my days were to begin,
I to the world would show,
That I would shun the paths of sin,
Wherain destroyers go.

But ah ! these days are past and gone,
In fetters here I lie,
Confined in a dungeon strong,
By men condemned to die.

Because God's law I did transgress.
And would not walk therein,
But fled the paths of righteousness,
And trod the paths of sin,

These shocking murders harrass my soul,
Which cruelly I've committed,
For paltry gain, which ne'er lasts long,
With those who basely get it.

When first I began this wild career,
'Twas with the old pensioner,
Who died a natural death last year,
But did not obtain a sepulchre.

The body we brought to Surgeons Square
Soon got a ready market for't,
And encourag'd thus to bring some more,
The rest soon followed after it.

Four were chok'd in Broggan s house,
Though Broggan did not know,
And four were murder'd in my house,
Which caused my overthrow.

Six victims more in Hare's house,
Were suffocated too;
Besides two other victims in his stable,
Which I most sincerely rue.

My sentence, therefore, must be just,
For God's commandment says,
He that sheddeth another's blood,   
His blood must it appease.

O, therefore, holy son of God,
Do thou my soul relieve,
From God's wrath and afflicting rod,
That now my soul doth grieve ;

On thy redemption I depend,
O, cast me not away ;
But shield my soul, and me defend
Against the evil day.


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Likely date of publication: 1829   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.6(029)
Broadside entitled 'Confessions made by William Burke'
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