Possibly two of Scotland's worst imports were the serial killers William Burke and William Hare. Burke and Hare originally from Northern Ireland, moved to Scotland to work as
labourers on the Union Canal. Ever aware of needs of the market, Burke and Hare set themselves up as procurers of human bodies to satisfy the demand of Edinburgh's medical schools.
Originally the two would dig up the graves of the recently departed in the dead of night, steal the body and then sell it for cash to a doctor for use during anatomy demonstrations. Tired of digging, the two entrepreneurs started murdering people in Edinburgh's old town and selling the bodies on an "ask no questions basis." They killed their victims by strangling them using a method they had perfected which left no obvious trace of foul play and little evidence of the murder.
The murder of their 16th victim led to
their arrest. Burke's mistress and Hare's wife were also
arrested. Because the courts had little evidence to
prosecute them successfully, the Lord Advocate, Sir
William Rae, offered Hare immunity from prosecution if he
would turn King's evidence.
28th January 1830, The evidence Hare and his wife provided
sent Burke to his death on the gallows while his mistress Helen MacDougall escaped when the
charges against her were found not proven.
William Hare is said to have died a penniless and blind pauper in London in 1859, having been a beggar in his last few years. Robert Knox - the doctor who willingly bought most of Burke and Hare's bodies was never prosecuted.
In a strange twist of fate, Burke’s body
was donated to the medical school for what they called
"useful dissection". His skeleton is still on display at
the University Medical School in Edinburgh,