Burke and Hare murders

Perhaps the most infamous character ever to come from Newry (it is said) in the past two centuries is William Hare.

The Burke and Hare murders (also known as the West Port murders) were serial murders perpetrated in Edinburgh, Scotland, from November 1827 to 31 October 1828. The killings were attributed to Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses of their 16 victims (and the 17th, the tenant said to have died of natural causes) to provide material for dissection.

Their purchaser was Doctor Robert Knox, a private anatomy lecturer whose students were drawn from Edinburgh Medical College.  Their accomplices included Burke’s mistress, Helen M’Dougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret Laird.  From their infamous method of killing their victims – the burly Burke sat on the victim’s chest while Hare covered the mouth with his hands – has come the word “burking”, meaning to purposefully smother and compress the chest of a victim.

Before 1832, there were insufficient cadavers legitimately available for the study and teaching of anatomy in British medical schools. The University of Edinburgh was an institution universally renowned for medical sciences. As medical science began to flourish in the early 19th century, demand rose sharply, but at the same time, the only legal supply of cadavers

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