The Burke and Hare Murders

L0019663 Burke and Hare suffocating Mrs Docherty for sale to Dr. Knox Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Burke and Hare suffocating Mrs Docherty for sale to Dr. Knox; satirizing Wellington and Peel extinguishing the Constitution for Catholic Emancipation. Coloured etching 1829 By: William HeathPublished: April 1829Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

William Burke along with William Hare (men from northern Ireland) were famous grave robbers in Scotland.

One day, an old man they knew died and to cover his outstanding debt to them, they decided to sell his body for medical science.
Edinburgh university gave them 7 pounds and 10 shillings – a handsome sum on those days. With that, they were hooked.

When another associate fell ill, they couldn’t even wait to see if he would die and suffocated him in his bed. Again, they sold his body for money. The killing spree began, the pair murdered and sold bodies almost as their full-time jobs. They killed an old grandmother with an overdose of painkillers. Hare even killed his blind grandson by breaking his back across his knee. Eventually, though, their whole operation was discovered when they got too sloppy.

William Burke was hanged in front of a cheering crowd of over 25,000.  Fittingly, after being put on public display, his body was donated to the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh Medical School.

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