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Dr. Edward William PRITCHARD

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner
Number of victims: 2 +
Date of murders: February 28/March 18, 1865
Date of arrest: March 21, 1865
Date of birth: 1825
Victims profile: Jane Cowan, 70 (his mother-in-law) / Mary Jane Taylor, 38 (his wife)
Method of murder: Poisoning (antimony)
Location: Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging in Glasgow on July 28, 1865
 
 

 
 
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A notorious poisoning case in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1865, Dr. E. W. Pritchard was convicted of poisoning his wife and mother-in-law with aconite and antimony.

The case was notable for several reasons. Pritchard's wife had been slowly poisoned for several months, yet despite the suspicion of several members of Glasgow's medical profession, none acted on them out of professional courtesy. Both victims were treated by Pritchard, who refused assistance by his fellow doctors, and signed off on the death certificates without an autopsy. It took an anonymous letter to the authorities before an investigation was made and the truth came out.

As described in Rick Geary's excellent graphic novel "A Treasury of Victorian Murder," Pritchard was a narcissistic sociopath, confident of his innocent and refusing to admit guilt until shortly before he was hanged. Pritchard's hanging was attended by more than 80,000 people and would be the last public execution in Scotland.


Dr Edward William Pritchard (6 December 1825 – 28 June 1865) was a Scottish doctor who was convicted of poisoning two family members. He was also suspected of the murder of a third person, though he was never tried for it. He was the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow.

Early years

Pritchard was born in Southsea, Hampshire, into a naval family. His father was John White Pritchard, a captain. He claimed to have studied at King's College Hospital in London and to have graduated from there in 1846. He then served in the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon with HMS Victory. For another four years he served on various other ships travelling around the world, before coming back to Portsmouth where he met his future wife Mary Jane Taylor, the daughter of a prosperous silk merchant in Edinburgh.

The couple married in 1851, but after a period apart, Dr Pritchard resigned from the Navy. He first took a job as a general practitioner in Yorkshire, living for a time in Hunmanby. There he became a prominent freemason in the lodge in nearby Scarborough, where he was Master of the Royal Lodge in 1857 and Master of Old Globe Lodge in 1858 and 1859. In 1859, however, he left under a cloud and in debt, moving to Glasgow.

Murders

In 1863 there was a fire in the Pritchards' Berkeley Terrace house in Glasgow, which killed a young servant girl. The fire started in her room but she made no attempt to escape, suggesting that she may have been unconscious, drugged or already dead. No charges were brought, but the procurator fiscal looked into the case.

In 1865 Pritchard poisoned his mother-in-law, Jane Cowan, 70, who died on 28 February. His wife, who he was treating for an illness (with the help of a Dr Paterson), died a month later on 18 March at the age of 38. Both were living at the family's new home in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. He was caught after an anonymous letter was sent to the authorities. When the bodies were exhumed, the poison antimony was found in their system.

Trial

Pritchard was convicted after a five-day hearing in Edinburgh in July 1865 presided over by judge Lord Inglis. He was hanged in front of thousands at the Saltmarket end of Glasgow Green in an 8am execution.

Family

Pritchard had five children with Mary.

Wikipedia.org


A deadly bedside manner

Leighton Bruce

WHEN Mary Pritchard became seriously ill in December 1864, it was fortunate that her husband was a doctor – or so you would have thought. Unfortunately for his wife, Dr Edward Pritchard was a liar, a womaniser and a murderer. He was having an affair with a young girl, hiding a shady past and poisoning his wife. Naturally, his court case gripped the nation.

Mary Pritchard had been ill for a long time. Suffering the effects of antimony poisoning she suffered headaches, retching and her constitution was considerably weakened.

Her mother, Mrs Jane Taylor, a resident of Edinburgh, moved through to the Pritchard's Sauchiehall Street house in Glasgow to nurse her daughter. There, on 25 February 1865, Taylor herself fell ill and died. Uninhibited, Pritchard continued to poison his wife until she too died, on 18 March.

Two days later the procurator fiscal (public prosecutor) received a letter claiming that the deaths were suspicious. It is thought to have been written by a Dr James Paterson. Paterson had originally been asked to write the two death certificates, and when he refused, Pritchard wrote them himself.

The police launched an investigation. Dr Pritchard was arrested that evening at Queen Street station, Glasgow, and taken into custody.

It was not the first time the doctor had been embroiled in controversy. It is thought that the family left Yorkshire under a cloud. If they thought they had escaped their past, they were disappointed, as trouble followed them north to Glasgow.

In 1863 a fire in their Berkeley Terrace house killed a young servant girl. The fire was thought to have started in her room, yet she had made no attempt to escape. Was she unconscious, drugged or already dead? Perhaps only the good doctor knew what had really happened. No charges were brought, but the procurator fiscal's office were aware of the incident and now, two years on, they had a letter suggesting that the deaths of his wife and mother-in-law were suspicious.

A post-mortem investigation was carried out on Mrs Pritchard which confirmed that she had not died from natural causes but had particles of antimony in her liver.

Mrs Taylor's body was exhumed on 31 March 1865. A medical report found she had suffered the same fate as her daughter. Dr Pritchard was charged with murder.

A double murder involving a man of the doctor's high social standing was considered scandalous and public interest was high. The trial at Edinburgh High Court was bound to grip the nation.

Just after 8am on 3 July, Pritchard was taken to Court. The Scotsman at the time reported large crowds of people gathered to watched the police van, many even followed it up the Royal Mile. Special tickets were issued for the public gallery and extra space was made for reporters.

The doctor appeared in court dressed in mourning and was described by The Scotsman as appearing "sad and thoughtful" and "cool and collected" throughout the proceedings.

Much of the evidence during the five-day trial came from servants in the Pritchard household. Their testimony highlighted the links between Mrs Pritchard's bouts of illness and consuming food that the doctor had come in contact with.

It came to light that a 15-year-old servant, Mary MacLeod, had formed a relationship with Pritchard, admitting as much to a washerwoman. This witness revealed the girl had told her that should Mrs Pritchard be taken away, she would take her place. In August 1864 MacLeod is believed to have had a forced miscarriage and at that time Pritchard showed sympathy to her – it was suspected he had been the father.

Most damning of all, it was alleged that Mrs Pritchard had caught the doctor and MacLeod together that November. It was shortly after this that she first became ill.

During the trial it was proved in court that Pritchard had added antimony and aconite to an opium preparation called Battley's Solution that Mrs Taylor used frequently. Pharmacists were interviewed and it was acknowledged that a doctor could acquire quantities of antimony without drawing unwanted attention.

The jury took a short time to deliver a unanimous verdict of guilty on both charges. The doctor was sentenced to death.

Pritchard was moved to Glasgow's North Prison where, The Scotsman noted, he admitted that Mrs Taylor knew about the "improper intimacy" between himself and the young servant girl.

On 28 July 1865, Edward Pritchard was the last man to be publicly hanged in Glasgow. Thousands gathered at the Saltmarket end of Glasgow Green for the 8am execution.

Normally a curtain would be drawn below the scaffold so the prisoner could suffer their last moments in privacy. But on this occasion, in acknowledgement of the horrific nature of the crimes, the spectators were permitted to witness the condemned man's final moments.

A noose was placed around his neck and a white cap placed on his head. The executioner released the trap and Pritchard dropped to his death, the hangman climbing below the gallows to pull on the dead man's legs to ensure strangulation.

In the crowd women screamed, men cheered and the body spun slowly – marking the end of Pritchard the poisoner.

Scotsman.com


The Regrettable Dr. Edward William Pritchard

Fileysurgery.com

Terrible things happen in the world. To progress, we must tell the story, and reflect and learn from them.

Dr Edward William Pritchard, physician and man-midwife. He lived in Hunmanby with his wife and mother in law.  Before the railway arrived, Filey was a small collection of fishermen’s hovels, and Hunmanby was the main town.

Dr Pritchard was born around 1825. He had a series of somewhat questionable medical qualifications possibly from Leyden University. He was given a commission as naval assistant surgeon in 1846 and served on the Victory in it's final days. Four years later Pritchard married Mary Jane Taylor. In 1851 he resigned from the Navy and took up a position as GP in Hunmanby. 

On moving to the area, he was appointed Medical Officer to Bridlington Number 3 Area, covering the area from Thwing to Folkton and Filey. He opened surgeries in Filey and in Hunmanby on Cross Hill, near to the entrance to Hunmanby Hall; he also took a surgery in Bridlington, opposite to the old Lloyd Hospital. He later moved to Warbuton House, on the corner of Hungate Lane, opposite what is now the Co-Op.

Allegedly, he would ride outside church on a Sunday, horse whipping his "heart sink" patients. His groom would call him from church services, and he would disturb the proceedings by riding dramatically and noisily away. Though he looked the part of a respectable family man, he was, biographies tell us, an utterly weak character, a joke among his colleagues because of his incredible boasting and lying. He also regarded himself as a great lover.

He despised life as a country doctor, and moved back to his alma mater in Glasgow in Berkeley Terrace in 1860.

In 1863, when he was 38, a fire broke out in the room of the servant girl in his house; she was found dead, and it seemed clear that she had made no attempt to leave her bed during the fire. Pritchard was widely suspected, but he nevertheless won a claim from an insurance company.

In 1864, he made another servant girl - aged 15 - pregnant, and promised the fifteen-year-old girl that, should his wife die, he would marry her. On the strength of this promise he carried out an abortion on the girl.   

In November, 1864, his wife Mary became ill, with vomiting and dizziness. A doctor called in by Pritchard suspected she was being poisoned, and wrote to Mary Pritchard's brother, suggesting she should be moved into hospital. The result was that Mary Pritchard's mother, Mrs. Taylor, decided to come and nurse her daughter. Soon, Mrs. Taylor was suffering from the same symptoms. Mary died on February 24, 1865, and Mrs. Pritchard followed her a month later. Pritchard provided both death certificates, stating that Mrs. Taylor died of apoplexy, and his wife of gastric fever.

The Procurator-Fiscal received an anonymous letter which made certain allegations against the doctor and the bodies were exhumed. On examination, it was found that both of the women had died of antimony poisoning. Pritchard was arrested and charged with murder. His trial took place in Edinburgh in July 1865. The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming and he was duly found guilty.

Pritchard was hanged in public, the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow. The attendance for his demise was estimated at over 100,000.

Several books were subsequently written about his exploits, establishing his notoriety to the Victorians and Edwardians.

Mr Mowthorpe tells of the final indignity; when he first went to the Royal Masonic Lodge in Filey in the 1960s, there was a blank space on the Honours Board where Pritchard’s name had been expunged.


Dr Pritchard

By Robert G. Bartholomew

A celebrated event took place in 1865 which had a close association with The Grange in Edinburgh. It involved the murders of Mrs Jane Taylor, who lived at 1 Lauder Road, and her daughter, Mary Jane Pritchard; these were notorious in their repercussions throughout Scotland.

Edward William Pritchard was born in Hampshire in 1825 and came from a naval family. He studied under two eminent surgeons in Portsmouth, and while there is some doubt as to his qualifications he did claim to have studied at Kings College Hospital in London, and to have graduated there in 1846. He served in the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon with HMS Victory, and for four years in various ships travelled throughout the world. While based in Portsmouth he met his future wife Mary Jane Taylor, whose father was a highly respected and prosperous silk merchant in Edinburgh.

The couple were married in 1851 and after some time apart, Dr Pritchard resigned from the Navy, and took up an appointment as a general practitioner in Yorkshire, where they both lived for a time at Hunmanby. It is recalled that while there, he built up a very indifferent reputation, and in 1959 left under a cloud and in debt.

Having set up a general practice in Glasgow, he tried to establish himself by joining the Athenaeum Club and several learned societies. He gave public lectures on his travels, and boasted of his friendship with Garibaldi. He purchased a diploma of Doctor of Medicine and tried to obtain other qualifications, but could not find sponsors for either of the Faculties of Physicians or of Surgeons.

In 1863, he was living with his wife and family in Berkeley Terrace: they now had five children. While there, there was a mysterious fire in which their servant girl lost her life; and subsequently there was an insurance claim. The family now moved to 22 Royal Terrace, and then to Clarence Place, which was part of Sauchiehall Street. Mrs Taylor assisted with the purchase price of this house.

In October 1864 it was noted that Mrs Pritchard was not well, so she went through to Edinburgh to recuperate with her parents at 1 Lauder Road. Her health improved somewhat, so she decided to return to Glasgow for Christmas. She then became ill again with sickness and vomiting, and her mother came through to help look after her. Mrs Taylor too became sick, and attributed it to the same.

A few days later, on 25 February 1865, Mrs Taylor died. A neighbour, Dr James Paterson, who had been in practice for over 30 years, was asked by Michael Taylor to certify the death of his wife, but he was not prepared to do so. The death was accordingly certified by Dr Pritchard himself as “Primary cause, Paralysis: duration, twelve hours. Secondary cause: Apoplexy: duration, one hour.” He then accompanied the body to Edinburgh, where arrangements were made for the funeral to take place in Grange Cemetery.

On return to Glasgow, Dr Pritchard found that the condition of his wife had not changed for the better. On 17 March, she took a severe attack of cramp and became light-headed, after her husband was seen to have given her something to drink. Dr Paterson was called in during the evening and found that her condition had taken an alarming change for the worse. Two days later, she died, and Pritchard certified the cause of her death as gastric fever, it duration two months. That same day, he accompanied the body of his wife to Edinburgh with a view to its interment beside that of her mother in Grange Cemetery. At his request, the coffin was opened at Mr Taylor’s house, and he kissed his dead wife on the lips, exhibiting, we are told, “a great deal of feeling”. However, as he stepped off the train in Queen Street Station in Glasgow, he was arrested. This followed the receipt by the Procurator Fiscal of an anonymous letter, pointing to the suspicious circumstances in which mother and daughter had died.

Dr Pritchard was a handsome man of considerable presence, with a convincing personality in all that he did. He was flamboyant and generous. His mother-in-law thought the world of him, and assisted financially for the sake of the family. His qualifications, however, were vague, and he indulged in “gratuitous falsehoods”. Although he appeared to have a loving relationship with his wife, he had also had a long-standing affair with Mary McLeod, the 15-year-old servant girl from Islay. Mother and daughter knew about this, and it could have been a motive for their downfall, in addition to the never-ending requirement for money.

The trial was held in the High Court in Edinburgh, with Lord Inglis presiding. It took four days and involved much examination and cross-examination. It was established that both Mrs Taylor and her daughter died of poisoning. They had both been taking large quantities of Battley’s Sedative Solution (opium) to relieve their pains, but this had been laced with Antimony and Tincture of Aconite poisons — which Dr Pritchard was able to obtain, and its was possibly administered by Mary McLeod on his instructions.

Throughout the trial, Pritchard strenuously maintained his innocence and his family and relations were staunch in his support, as was public feeling generally. However, an exhumation was ordered on Mrs Taylor’s body, and a post mortem showed an unmistakable presence of antimony. An examination on Mrs Pritchard gave the same result.

Pritchard was hanged for his crimes on 28 July, three weeks after his conviction. It was the last public hanging in Glasgow, and attracted tens of thousands of onlookers. At 8.10pm he was ‘launched into eternity” on the gallows erected over the pavement in front of the South Jail. In 1910, when rebuilding work was carried out, a grave was discovered with the initials EWP. The corpse was examined and was found to be wearing patent leather boots, which —unlike Dr Pritchard’s reputation—were in a perfect state of preservation.

Credits:

This article has been produced by Robert G. Bartholomew who lived at 1 Lauder Road from 1967 to 1996. The gravestone to Michael and Jane Taylor, along with their daughter Mary Jane Pritchard, can be found in Grange Cemetery, backing onto Lovers’ Loan, approximately 50 metres from the main gate in Grange Road.

For further reading on Dr Pritchard:

  • Trail of Dr Pritchard. Edited by William Roughead WS. 344pp. Text with illustrations. Published by Wm. Hodge & Co, Edinburgh and Glasgow, 1906.

  • South Side Story. A single page anthology by Edwin S. Towill, on “Crime in the South Side — Dr Pritchard”, 1962.

  • Some Reflections on the Case of Dr Pritchard. By Rt Hon Lord Cullen 1997. A Christmas lecture in aid of charity. Published in the Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians, Volume 28, 187–197. 11pp of text and photographs, 1998
     


The Poisoning Philanderer: Incredible true story of the Scots doctor driven to double murder

By Tom Hamilton - DailyRecord.co.uk

AS he prepared to bury his wife, the mother of his five children, Dr Edward William Pritchard, 40, was inconsolable. He was so vexed by the loss, he asked for the coffin lid to be removed one last time.

In a remarkable public show of affection and undying devotion, he leaned forward and wept as he kissed the lips of his beloved Mary Jane, 38. She had died on March 19, 1865, just a few weeks after her mother Jane Taylor, 70, had also passed away. It had been a traumatic few weeks for the desolate doctor.

But nothing like what awaited him.  By the end of July, he too, would be dead.  Convicted of the murders of both women, he was dispatched to the gallows.

As he dangled at the end of a hangman's noose, more than 100,000 watched the macabre spectacle.  It was Friday, July 28, 1865 and it was the last public execution ever to take place in Scotland.

Pritchard was rightly accused of "crying crocodile tears" over his wife. It has its origins in the myth according to which reptiles weep while eating humans.

The story earned him the nickname 'The Human Crocodile'.

But he also got another nickname when his fondness for young ladies - especially household serving maids - became known to the public. For that he became known as The Poisoning Philanderer.

IT had been a trying day for Dr Pritchard. He had paid his last respects to his wife as she lay in her coffin in her father's house in Edinburgh, and made the final funeral arrangements before returning to Glasgow by train.

But as he stepped off the carriage at Queen Street Station, he was stunned when he was approached by a detective superintendent on the platform.

He was read his rights and charged with the murders of his wife and mother-in-law.

It was the beginning of the end for the devilish doctor and despite protestations of innocence, his appointment with death was just weeks away.

Thanks to forensic evidence, which was to reveal huge quantities of poison in his victims, The Human Crocodile was cornered.

Pritchard would later blame a "terrible madness" for his actions, but his clandestine affair with a teenage servant may have gone along way to explaining the motives of The Poisoning Philanderer.

His background, however, reveals little to account for how he developed into a killer who would soon have such an impact on the country, that 100,000 Scots would be in Glasgow city centre at 7.30am one summer morning to watch him hang.

Born into a naval family in Hampshire in 1825, Pritchard was apprenticed to surgeons in Portsmouth at 15, and undertook hospital studies in London before joining the Navy.

Home on leave, in 1850 in Portsmouth, he met Mary Jane Taylor, the daughter of an Edinburgh silk merchant, who was staying in town with her uncle, Dr David Cowan, a retired naval surgeon.

They fell in love and Pritchard won the approval of the girl's family and they married.

They should have lived happily ever after - just like a Mills and Boon doctor's romance plot. But that was not to happen.

Pritchard quit the Navy and set up a small medical practice in a village in Yorkshire.

The couple had three daughters and two sons before they moved to Glasgow in 1860.

Little is known of the reasons for the move, but there were rumours of inappropriate relations with female patients and financial problems.

His medical qualifications were also thought to be dubious, and it turned out his diploma had been bought from the University of Erlangen in Germany.

Later, one of his many detractors, said of his time in the village: "He spoke the truth only by accident."

His in-laws were unaware of any problems and regarded him as "an idol".

When the Pritchard family decided to move north, they stayed with Mary Jane's folks in Edinburgh before their new property in Glasgow was prepared.

Once settled, Pritchard tried, but failed, to join the city's elite medical societies.

He also made an effort to ingratiate himself in social circles with fanciful tales that his brother was the Governor General of Ceylon, and that he was a personal friend of great Italian liberator Garibaldi.

He even had a walking cane with the inscription: 'Presented by Gen. Garibaldi to Edward William Pritchard'.

He gave colourful lectures on his travels with the Navy, and once told a stunned audience: "I have plucked eaglets from their eyries in the deserts of Arabia and hunted the Nubian lion on the prairies of North America."

The family stayed in various homes around Sauchiehall Street, at that time one of the finest residential areas in the city.

In 1863 they had a place at 11 Berkeley Terrace, which included attic quarters for servant Elizabeth McGirn and another maid.

On May 6, police on patrol spotted a fire in the top attic around 3am and battered the door to raise the alarm.

Pritchard ran upstairs shouting her name, but the flames were too intense.

The fire was contained, but the young girl was later found dead - her body horribly charred.

The fire was blamed on a gas jet igniting as she read in bed.

There were rumours the girl may have been pregnant and having an affair with the doctor.

Concerned police officers were suspicious that the fire happened when Mary Jane and the other servant were away from home.

They quizzed Pritchard, but took no action. Had he got away with murder?

PRITCHARD had a fine conceit of himself and a strangely bizarre habit of walking down the street, handing postcards which contained his own picture to people he thought worthy.

After the blaze, the family moved to a nearby house at 22 Royal Crescent and a new, pretty servant, Mary McLeod, 15, from Islay, was hired.

It wasn't long before the lustful doctor set his eyes on Mary, despite the fact he was no oil painting.

Six feet tall, he walked with a stoop. Partially bald, he tried to cover it up with a ridiculous comb-over and attempted to keep attention away from his pate by cultivating a massive beard.

While his wife and children were away for the summer at Dunoon, he seduced the girl.

At the same time, there were suggestions that he was over familiar with lady patients. His finances were shaky too.

When the family moved to a £2000 house at 131 Sauchiehall Street (now No. 249) his mother-in-law paid £500 and the rest was raised on a loan. There was also an overdraft.

He ran into serious trouble when his wife caught him kissing young Mary, who became pregnant in late 1864.

The smitten doctor arranged an abortion and told the girl that if his wife died before him, he would marry her.

Shortly afterwards, Mary Jane fell ill and was constantly sick. Pritchard diagnosed gastric fever.

But records also showed that he had been buying large amounts of tartarised antimony and tincture of aconite - deadly poisons. Mary Jane recovered and after convalescing at her family's home in Edinburgh, the family enjoyed a happy Christmas.

But her illness soon returned. Pritchard asked her cousin, also a doctor, for his opinion. He diagnosed a stomach irritation and prescribed a mustard poultice as well as champagne and ice.

The sickness got worse and Mary Jane demanded another doctor be called.

This time she was seen by her brother's old university classmate Dr Gairdiner, Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University. He thought she was drunk and hysterical and put her on a course of bread, milk and boiled eggs.

Around this time, Mary Jane's mother moved in to help care for her daughter.

The elderly lady had a health problem too. A serious one. She took medication for aches and pains. But she had developed a dependency on her favoured tipple, Battley's Sedative Solution - opium. She worked her way through a three month supply in just two weeks.

As Mary Jane's sickness continued, Mrs Taylor's health also deteriorated.

Pritchard asked another local resident, Dr James Paterson, for his opinion. He concluded she was under the influence of opium.

He was unaware that evil Pritchard had been slowly administering large amounts to both women.

Just hours after his visit, Mrs Taylor died on February 25. Pritchard signed the death certificate himself - paralysis and apoplexy - and attended the funeral at the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh.

In her will she left two thirds of her £2500 estate to Mary Jane and the rest to her son.

Mary Jane's health went downhill quickly and she began hallucinating and it was Dr Paterson who treated her.

But on March 19, Mary Jane died.

Pritchard signed the death certificate - gastric fever.

Arrangements were then made to bury her with her mother.

But before the funeral could take place, the Procurator Fiscal received an anonymous letter urging a probe into the suspicious deaths of the two women.

After his arrest, the Taylor family refused to think badly of the doctor and supported him.

But on March 28, after Mrs Taylor's body was exhumed and tests were carried out on both her and her daughter's remains, experts found massive amounts of antimony.

There was massive public interest in the four-day trial, which was covered extensively by the papers of the day.

No one thought a doctor could be guilty of such evil deeds.

One paper reported: "No one who saw the intelligent, thoughtful and mild-looking individual seated in the dock on the first morning, could be prepared for anything like the consummate villainy and diabolic cruelty which each day brought to light ... the whole murderous plot."

Pritchard tried every trick to try and escape death.

He even made his 14-year-old daughter and son, aged 11, give evidence and tell the court how much their father loved their mother.

Tears trickled own his cheeks as they stood in the witness box.

But evidence of his affair with young Mary ripped his credibility to shreds - not to mention the poison in the dead bodies.

The jury took just one hour to find him guilty and Lord Inglis passed the death sentence.

Huge crowds gathered outside the court as he was taken away and Pritchard theatrically bowed to them.

He had just 21 days left to live.

During that time - just like many condemned men - he found God, read the Bible and said regular prayers.

He made various confessions too - even implicating young Mary at one point.

He eventually cleared her name and shouldered the entire blame saying: "The sentence is just. I am guilty of the deaths of my mother-in-law and wife. I can assign no motive beyond terrible madness. I alone - not Mary McLeod - poisoned my wife."

And so, on July 28, 1865, Pritchard was taken to the gallows at Jail Square beside Glasgow Green facing Nelson's Column close to the old South Prison, where the High Court now stands.

His hangman was to be the legendary William Calcraft, known as the executioner extraordinaire.

He was to have the longest career on the scaffold - 45 years and used the shortest rope in the business.

The previous year he had carried out a multiple hanging of five pirates in public.

The Glasgow crowd cheered and hissed his arrival as Pritchard moved towards him wearing a dark suit and shiny black shoes.

A prayer was said. The rope placed around the neck. A cap over his face. At 8.10am, the bolt was drawn and Pritchard was launched into eternity.

There were no tears for The Human Crocodile as he suffered, his body convulsing a dozen times.

Pritchard was buried in the South Prison's 'Murderers' Graveyard' where the plots were only identified by the initials of the dead.

Many years later, when the High Court had been built, workmen found a pair of shoes under a stone marked 'EWP'.

These were Pritchard's perfectly preserved patent shoes which he had worn to the scaffold.

One of the workmen took the shoes and sold them in a nearby pub.

This was the last public execution in Scotland. In the wake of a Royal Commission report, from 1868, all executions in Great Britain were carried out in prison.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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