Friday 30 September 2016

Burke blood letter going on display

Published 01/05/2015 | 12:06

The death mask and skeleton of mass murderer William Burke are on display in the Anatomy Museum at the University of Edinburgh
The death mask and skeleton of mass murderer William Burke are on display in the Anatomy Museum at the University of Edinburgh

A letter written in the blood of notorious body snatcher William Burke is to go on public display.

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The blood was taken from Burke after he was tried and executed for murder in Edinburgh in 1829.

Burke is infamous for the killing spree he undertook with William Hare to provide bodies for anatomy classes at the Edinburgh Medical School.

The letter, usually held in Edinburgh University's archives, will go on display for the first time in living memory at the institution as part of the city's One Last Fright weekend from May 15 to 17.

It reads: "This is written in the blood of William Burke, who was hanged at Edinburgh on 28 Jan 1829 for the murder of Mrs Campbell or Docherty. The blood was taken from his head on the 1 Feb 1829."

A petition from Edinburgh medical students demanding more bodies - written at the time Burke and Hare were supplying them - will also be showcased.

Joseph Marshall, head of special collections at Edinburgh University, said: "The story of Burke and Hare has captured people's imaginations for generations.

"We are pleased to offer this rare insight into this dark and fascinating tale in Edinburgh's history."

After his death, Burke was publicly dissected and his skeleton and death mask are exhibited in the university's Anatomical Museum.

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