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A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year? Not for Mr. Burke!

A Scottish media company investigates the crimes and conviction of one of Scotland’s most notorious serial killers.


For most people, Christmas-time is a magical period in the year, a time for merriment, gift-giving and a time that ought to be spent in the company of friends and loved ones. And of course, the week following Christmas is a time to welcome in the New Year, a time to resolve old differences and to look ahead with anticipation at what the year ahead may bring.

But for one man, the Christmas of 1828 and the New Year of 1829 was a time of terror and dread. That man was William Burke, one half of the notorious Scottish duo, Burke and Hare, who was found guilty of the murder of many of his fellow citizens in order to sell their bodies for profit and thus ensuring that, almost two centuries on, their names are still spoken with fear and loathing.

Although popularly referred to as grave robbers, the evidence suggests that Burke and Hare were actually opportunistic, callous murderers who sold the bodies of their victims simply for money. At that time, the law forbade all but the bodies of convicted criminals for dissection, leading to a huge demand for fresh cadavers in order that surgeons and anatomists could teach the ever –growing numbers of new medical students. Burke and Hare saw this as their opportunity to get rich quick and, but for their carelessness and over-confidence, they may never have been discovered, the facts of which are portrayed in depth in a new documentary by Orickle Limited, a Scottish-based media company.

Said Leona Tyrie, producer of “The Body Merchants: The Shocking Truth About Anatomy Murder”, “Following their murder spree and capture by the authorities in Edinburgh, Hare was offered the opportunity to turn King’s evidence against his friend Burke, an offer which he grabbed with both hands in order to save himself from the noose. Burke’s trial began on Wednesday, 24th December 1828 at 10 a.m. before Lord Meadowbank and concluded the following morning, Christmas Day.”

Explained Leona, “ In modern times, we are used to seeing trials last for weeks or sometimes months as all of the evidence is presented but that was not so in the 19th century and in William Burke’s case, it was more or less an open and shut case, given Hare’s testimony against his former partner in crime. Both the public and the judiciary were determined that such heinous crimes would not be allowed to go unpunished and it was therefore necessary to secure Hare’s testimony against Burke although they were both guilty in equal measure. Burke was sentenced to death by hanging and the sentence was carried out in front of a baying crowd in Edinburgh’s Lawnmarket on Wednesday, 28th January 1829 while Hare was allowed to go free.”  

This documentary DVD has been shot in high definition in Edinburgh itself, using the very streets which were known to Burke and Hare,” explained Leona, “ and features authentic re-enactments and expert commentary from acknowledged specialists in their field including, historians, surgeons and anatomists which really brings the subject and the times to life. The DVD not only tells the true tale of a sordid piece of Scottish history but also explains the poverty, degradation and way of life which many people were forced to endure in the 19th century.”
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