Letter in killer William Burke’s blood to be shown

Notorious Scottish murderer William Burke as he looked when he appeared in court in 1829. Picture: Getty Images
Notorious Scottish murderer William Burke as he looked when he appeared in court in 1829. Picture: Getty Images
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A LETTER written in the blood of one of Britain’s most notorious killers is to go on public display for the first time at a Scottish university.

The blood was taken from William Burke after he was tried and executed for murder on 28 January 1829.

The letter is usually held in Edinburgh University’s archives but it will be displayed over the weekend of 15-17 May, as part of the university’s “One Last Fright Night.”

Burke is best known for the killing spree he undertook with William Hare in 1827-28 to provide bodies for anatomy classes in the Edinburgh Medical School.

At that time, the demand for cadavers could not be met through legal means, so Burke and Hare provided bodies from 17 victims for which they received payment.

The letter in blood 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.”

The events of this particular weekend - part of the Scotland-wide Festival of Museums - aim to unearth sinister stories from the capital’s history with the help of the University’s archives and special collections.

Joseph Marshall, Head of Special Collections at the University of Edinburgh 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.

His skeleton and death mask are still exhibited in the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum.

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