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
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.
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.
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.
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
Pritchard had five children with Mary.
deadly bedside manner
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
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
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
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
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
Dr. Edward William
Terrible things happen in the
world. To progress, we must tell the story, and reflect and learn from
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
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
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.
despised life as a country doctor, and moved back to his alma mater
in Glasgow in Berkeley Terrace in 1860.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
He was read his rights and charged with the murders of his wife and
It was the beginning of the end for the devilish doctor and despite
protestations of innocence, his appointment with death was just weeks
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
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
Once settled, Pritchard tried, but failed, to join the city's elite
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
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
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
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
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
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
Around this time, Mary Jane's mother moved in to help care for her
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
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
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
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
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.