William Burke & William Hare
The Body Snatchers

William Burke & William Hare
AKAThe Body Snatchers
DOBBoth 1792
Kill Total16 +
Kill PlaceEdinburgh
Kill Date1827 - 1828
William Hare, originally from Northern Ireland, moved to Scotland to work as labourers on the Union Canal he also ran a lodging house. Willliam Burke came over from County Tyrone in 1815, also to work on the canal, this is probably where they met.  Ever aware of the 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 their trademark method of suffocation which would later become known as ‘Burking', leaving no trace of foul play.

The murder of their 16th victim led to their arrest after a body was found under the bed of William Burke. A bribe of £10 per week was attempted to keep the witness quiet but they refused, and called the police.
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.

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