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By Judy Hamilton

Scotland's worst and so much notorious murders : comprises money owed of the notorious Burke and Hare, cannibalistic Sawney Bean, baby assassin Jessie King, still-unidentified Bible John and the present-day crimes of Peter Tobin.

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The number of victims grew; three more, a man and two women, were sent to the great hereafter in swift succession. Then it was the turn of Mary Haldane’s daughter to find out first-hand just exactly what had happened to her mother when she vanished from ken. Burke and Hare and their two partners must have revelled in their new-found wealth. Burke was particularly callous in his search for victims. He took to prowling the streets looking for likely candidates. On one occasion he lured an old beggar woman and her grandson, who was deaf-mute, back to Tanner’s Close.

There was, naturally, a feeling of real and terrible fear in the district. When would the disappearances, the killings and the arrests stop? Innkeepers who had not yet felt the strong arm of the law on their shoulders shut up shop and left the area before they, too, came under suspicion. Families, fearing for their own safety, fled to start a new life elsewhere. Travellers with fewer places to stop for the night became more vulnerable: easy prey for the devious, bloodthirsty Bean family. And devious they were.

Hare was tall and gaunt, with an unmistakably sly, weasel-like countenance. Burke was a good deal shorter than his friend and quite plump. In time, Hare paired up with the owner of the lodging house – Log’s widow, Margaret Laird. Burke’s ‘lady’ friend, Helen MacDougal, also took up residence in the house in Tanner’s Close. The two women were to play no small part in the horrors that were to follow. They knew full well what the men were up to and gave them every encouragement. Burke and Hare embarked upon their grisly career quite by chance, as it happened.

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