28/01/2018
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Bodysnatcher William Burke was executed - On this day in history

3e36e702-3f78-4a12-b442-d13054eee554

Bodysnatcher and murderer William Burke, one half of the notorious criminal duo 'Burke and Hare' was executed on 28 January 1829.

William Burke and William Hare, who emigrated to Scotland from Ireland, supplied the corpses of their sixteen murder victims to anatonomy lecturer Doctor Robert Knox, assisted by accomplices including Burke's mistress and Hare's wife. The Edinburgh Medical School was at this time renowned for its medical sciences however the number of legally available corpses was limited, leading some students to turn to grave robbers.

The trial of William Burke

Although contemporary sources suggest that Burke was the more intelligent of the pair, it was Hare who was persuaded to turn king's evidence and accuse his partner in crime, so escaping execution himself. Burke's trial took place on 24 December 1828 with Burke convicted of 'atrocious murder' on Christmas Day.

William Burke's execution

Burke was hanged in front of a crowd of around 20,000 people with nearby householders charging members of the public for seats with the best views. Burke's body was publicly dissected at Old College in Edinburgh, during which a disturbance broke out due to the number of people who wished to view the spectacle.

Hare later fled to Dumfries, where he was forced out of town by an angry crowd and fled to England.

Read about the death of Robert Knox, the surgeon to whom Burke and Hare supplied their victims.

Back to "On this day in history" Category

28/01/2018 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

New Highland Games Centre in Braemar to be completed by September 2018

Work is continuing on a new Highland Games Centre at the site of the Braemar Gathering, which will chart the ...


Free lunchtime lectures - Friends of Dundee City Archives

Enjoy a free history lecture on the first Thursday of the month, at Dundee City Archives. ...


What tartan can I wear?

Find out which tartan you can wear and discover which tartan is linked to your family name or the region ...


Moray student awarded scholarship for ground-breaking archaeology research

A Moray student is to undertake new research into the fate of farms which were set up on marginal land after ...


Other Articles

Two Scottish visitor attractions pass 2 million visitors landmark

Two of Scotland's most popular visitor attractions each welcomed more than 2 millions visitors during 2017, ...


The Tempest Database - exploring five centuries of extreme weather in Scotland

A new website which allows users to browse five centuries of weather data for Scotland and the rest of the UK ...


When is Tartan Day?

Find out when Tartan Day is, and how this special day is celebrated in Scotland, the original home of tartan, ...


Artefacts recovered from the Castle Midden and Back Walk in Stirling - Scottish archaeology news

A range of artefacts recovered from two sites on the edge of the medieval burgh and castle at Stirling sheds ...