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19 January 2010

Burke & Hare

The Westport Muders (also known as the Burke & Hare Murders) were perpetrated in Edinburgh, Scotland from November 1827 to the 31st of October 1828. Between those dates William Burke and William Hare killed approximately seventen people. They were assisted in the murders by Burke's girlfriend Helen McDougal and Hare's wife Margaret. Margaret ran a lodging house adn Hare claimed that the first body he and Burke sold was that of a tenant who had died of natural causes. Instead of buring the body the pair took it to Edingurgh University and sold it to anatomist Dr. John Knox for seven pounds, ten shillings. The first victim to be murdered was Joseph the Miller, a sick tenant whom they intoxicated and then smothered. When they exhausted their supply of sick tenants they started luring people into the house out of the street. In February 1828 they lured Abigail Simpson odd the street and killed her in the same manner as Joseph. They received ten pounds for her corpse. After killing approximately twelve more people Burke lured a woman by the name of Marjory Campbell Docherty into the house on the pertense that his mother was a Docherty to. However he had to wait to murder her because a couple, James and Ann Gray were lodging there. Apparently there was quite a struggle with the last victim because the neighbors reported hearing a commotion that night after the Grays left. The next morning Mrs. Gray became suspicious because Burke would not let her approach a bed where she had left her stockings. That evening when everyone was out of the house the Grays looked under the bed and found Docherty's body. On their way to the police the Grays bumped into McDougal who offered them ten pounds a week for their silence. The Grays declined the offer. Burke and Hare quicly removed the body, but on questioning Burke claimed that Docherty had left at seven o'clock in the morning, whereas McDougal claimed she had left in the evening. The police arrested them and an anonymous tip led them to Dr. Knox's dissecting rooms where Mr. Gray identified Docherty's corpse. William and Margaret Hare were arrested soon after. There horrible murder spree that had lasted a year was over. Hare agreed to testify against Burke for immunity. On January 28th William Burke was hanged and his body publicly dissected at Edinburgh Medical College.His death mask, skeleton, and items made from his tanned skin are on display at the college's museum. McDougal was released as her part in the murders could not be proved. Dr. Knox also was not prosecuted despite public outrage. Hare had estified that Knox had not known how the bodies were procured. due to the method of murder used by Burke and Hare the term"burking" which is to smother and compress the schest of a victim is widely used today.
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