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The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh

Overview

Body snatchers and grave robbers were the stuff of Victorian lore, but two real-life culprits took the crimes out of shadowy cemeteries and into criminal court. William Burke and William Hare aided Scottish surgeons competing for anatomical breakthroughs by experimenting on human corpses. As the duo evolved from petty theft to premeditated murder, they unwittingly brought attention to the medical practices of the era, leading to Burke's death by hanging. This account not only explores the work of the ...

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The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh

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Overview

Body snatchers and grave robbers were the stuff of Victorian lore, but two real-life culprits took the crimes out of shadowy cemeteries and into criminal court. William Burke and William Hare aided Scottish surgeons competing for anatomical breakthroughs by experimenting on human corpses. As the duo evolved from petty theft to premeditated murder, they unwittingly brought attention to the medical practices of the era, leading to Burke's death by hanging. This account not only explores the work of the resurrectionists, it reflects the nature of serial killers, 1820s criminal law, and Edinburgh's early role as a seat of European medical research. Readers interested in the legal aspects of these crimes will find the trial testimony included to be a valuable resource.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786444038
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/26/2009
  • Pages: 273
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

R. Michael Gordon is the author of several books, and has written extensively on Victorian London and the Ripper phenomenon. He lives in Long Beach, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I The Field and the Players

1 Of Supply and Demand in Old Edinburgh 5

2 Of Medical Men and Resurrectionists 19

II The Many Works of Burke and Hare

3 The Merchandise of "John and William" 37

4 The Risky Murder of Mary Paterson 48

5 The Pace Increases 55

6 The Murders of "Daft Jamie" and Mary Docherty 67

7 Rumors of Murder as the Investigation Begins 76

III The Legal System Does Its Work

8 A Trial for Burke, But Not for Hare 95

9 Into the Night as the Testimony Continues 112

10 The Testimony of a Serial Killer 133

11 The King's Justice for a Serial Killer 145

IV - A Postscript for Resurrectionists

12 It Was a Hanging Affair- January 28, 1829 161

13 The Press Takes Center Stage 178

14 The Aftermath of Serial Murder 191

App. 1 Witness List for the Trial of William Burke and Helen McDougal 217

App. 2 The Complete Testimony of William Hare 221

App. 3 Report of the Committee of Investigations as to the Dealings of Dr. Knox with the West Port Murderers 237

App. 4 A Chronology of Serial Murder 240

App. 5 The Caledonian Mercury - January 1, 1829 242

App. 6 The Word on the Street - January 28, 1829 248

App. 7 Broadsheet on Burke's Execution - January 28, 1829 251

Chapter Notes 253

Bibliography 261

Index 263

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