Tag Archives: theft

Sinks of Sin

Good day once more, good people.

It is Sergeant Mendick here, with some more snippets of crime. Now, every city has its bad areas and places best avoided and today I will tell you about one in Dundee. When seamen were ashore in Dundee many headed toward the public houses, but a considerable number ended up in the disreputable lodging houses, many of which doubled as brothels and were often dens of thieves. In the early years of the century, Couttie’s Wynd was one of the most notorious areas for these establishments. Couttie’s Wynd is a dark, narrow gulley that extends from the Seagate to the High Street. One of the public houses in this street was owned by James Davidson, known commonly as Humphie. At the end of October 1825 the master of a visiting ship was ill-judged enough to enter Humphie’s House and whatever happened there he also met Susan Frazer, notorious as a prostitute and thief.  When he realised he had somehow lost all his money he complained to the police and both Frazer and Davidson were arrested. While Davidson was set free, Frazer admitted to picking the captain’s pocket and sent on to a higher court and eventually a long spell in the jail.

couttie's wynd

Couttie’s Wynd

Couttie’s Wynd was too narrow a street to attract many respectable people and for much of the century it remained a place of prostitution and drunkenness. In September 1861 Frederick Leverdowitz the master of the barque Lavinia of  Libau visited one of the houses and came out minus a gold watch and chain and £90 in cash, which was a huge sum at the time. The police arrested three suspects, Catherine Grant, Catherine Hughes and her husband John Hughes. Catherine Grant, officially a millworker, was sent to jail for sixty days while the husband and wife team were eventually given longer sentences.

Janet Cassels was one of the most notorious bad women in Dundee in the 1820s. She was a known prostitute who haunted the low lodging houses of Couttie’s Wynd but on the 12th September 1827 she excelled herself. Cassels was in a brothel run by a woman called Elizabeth Muat and took a dislike to a prostitute named Jean Adam. When she saw Adam at the other side of a glass door Cassels lifted a table knife and thrust it right through the glass, stabbing Adam in the arm and the face just below the eye.

When the case appeared before the sheriff later in the year, Cassels was as respectable looking as possible and declared:

“I am not guilty, please your lordship.”

Although the sheriff took the unusual course of being judge and defender, he still found Cassel guilty and told her she was lucky she was not at a higher court on a much more serious charge. Immediately Cassel’s politeness ended and she reverted to type:

“Go to hell you bugger; I hope to God I’ll be tried before the Lords next time and not before yon old damned sheriff.”

Those words were only the beginning of a tirade that continued as the sheriff sentenced her to two years banishment from Forfarshire, with the warning that if she returned she would be put in prison and sustained only on bread and water for two months. The messenger, Patrick Mackay, was given the unenviable task of taking her by post chaise out of the county and into Perthshire.

The very next day at twelve o’ clock the watchman at the Witchknowe arrested her and she was put into jail.  Rather than sorrow, she declared she preferred to be in prison in Dundee that exist outside the county. She was released in January 1828 but a week later was arrested again and returned to her former lodging. The same thing happened again, and again, as she held true to her promise not to leave the town.

So when in Dundee, good people, best to avoid Couttie’s Wynd although I have been told that it has cleaned up its act a little.

As a matter of interest, one of my cases is on offer this week at only 99 pence!

See more at:

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

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SHERLOCK WHO?

Good day once more, fellow sufferers in this vale of tears.

As some of you will know, for the past few months I have written the occasional piece about the crimes I have experienced in my career as a Scotland Yard detective. In my time I have infiltrated what could have been a major insurrection and helped prevent an attempt on the life of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria; I have grappled with a mass-murderer in Dundee as I dogged the sinister China Jim and I was involved with one of the most audacious gold robberies of all times.

My biographer, Malcolm Archibald, wrote of these things and I suspect will be writing more, perhaps about my struggles with the Fenians or that terrible child kidnapping ring. I do not know: I only know that he has asked me to grant him the favour of a further interview. I may: I may not. That depends on the demands of my lady wife.

And then today I learned about this Johnny Raw upstart, this blackguard braggard of Baker Street who thinks he knows all there is to know about crime solving. What was his name? Sherlock Holmes? I ask you, what sort of name is Sherlock for a detective. Try walking into any pub along London’s Ratcliffe Road, or in Liverpool’s Scotland Road, or in the East End of Glasgow or Dundee’s Dock Street and giving the name ‘Sherlock’. Once the denizens have stopped laughing they would break a bottle over your head just to see the blood flow.

Oh ‘Sherlock’ may be very well at solving crimes of the upper classes, tracing stray dogs in country houses or finding  who is blackmailing titled gentle women who have been too free with their favours, but what good would be be when the hoi-polloi rise en-masse or a rampaging mob of redcoats decide to vent their frustrations by wrecking the town?

What good was his cleverness when that madman was ripping up prostitutes in Whitechapel? I’ll tell you: no good at all. He was nowhere to be seen. As expected: his clever words and fancy manners are useless against the real criminals, the ten-to-one street corner assassins, the garrotters, the sneak-thieves and drunken blaggards who cause most of the crimes in this Empire of ours.

No – it is then that you need the real police, the steady, blue-uniformed men who tramp the beat day after day, night after  night and know all the light-fingered gentry and the wife-beating brutes, the women who give their love-rivals a face-full of vitriol and the prostitutes who lure the foolish up dark alleys to be stripped, beaten and robbed. Oh and me of course, James Mendick of the Yard.

This week the kindle books about my good self are only 99p each, 99 cents in North America. And a bargain at twice the price, I may add.

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

The crime of employment

Good day once again from Sergeant Mendick.

Today I am not going to dwell on any specific crime, or type of crime. Instead I am going to talk about changes in types of crime that come through employment, or lack of it. As some of you may know, I am a detective with Scotland Yard, and have something of a roving commission. Although based in London, I have worked in Manchester, with my adventures there chronicled in The Darkest Walk, and in Dundee, as related in A Burden Shared. Now both these great cities, and every other in which I have worked, share some common experiences.

Both have pockets of bitter poverty, and both areas of affluence.Both have problems with drink and violence, and both have gangs of young street-Arabs roaming around looking for what they can thieve. There is wife-beating when a drunken brute staggers home and takes out his frustrations on his dearly-beloved, and husband beating when the wife spends her time studying the contents of a bottle rather than looking after the house, and proves her love by smashing a poker over her husband’s head. There is the occasional murder,usually as the result of a matrimonial dispute or drunken rampage, and there are carefully planned robberies where a cracksman uses all his skill to break into a jewellery shop, a mansion house or even a bank.

However, the vast majority of crimes are not like that. Most people within the Queen’s peace will never experience a murder in their family, or have an expert pick their lock. What they might see is the casual, pointless crime that most blights the country. There are two types: simple theft or drunken violence. Although both are common throughout the year, the experienced policeman knows which will be most prevalent according to the number of men and women employed in the area.

When unemployment scars the streets, the doors of factories and mills are closed and groups of sullen men stand idle on street corners, when haggard-faced women huddle their children close to them and search the gutters for scraps of left-overs, then theft will rise. That is a fact known to every policeman on the beat and the best of them will turn Nelson’s eye to the odd disappearing loaf of bread or pound of potatoes. People have to eat. Who with any common humanity, who with even the slightest hint of Christianity would arrest a woman who steals to feed her family, or a man who poaches a rabbit or a salmon from a landowner who boats of his thousands of fat acres. Why, I have known policemen, hard, cynical, long-service men who think nothing of arresting a habitual thief and sending him for transportation, drop a penny or a pound of cheese into the lap of an honest woman down on her luck. Christian charity is good for the soul.

There are other crimes associated with unemployment. Many a poor woman, desperate to feed her children, has resorted to vice to make a few pennies. That course could lead to the dangers of disease, or violence if unscrupulous men lure her into a dark alley for rape, or these evil predatory women encourage her to join their stable. Truly that is a temptation it is better to fight.

On the other hand, when jobs are plentiful and wages rise, then such simple theft eases. Fat-bellied children mock the very uniforms that keep the streets safe and mill and factory workers can demand another half-penny an hour in their pay, knowing that their masters can ill-afford to turn them down with order-books full and customers aware of other operating mills. When that happens, men and women earn full wages, but not all is spent sensibly. Rather than saving for the next rainy day, working men and women often choose to dash into the nearest gin-palace or squalid shebeen where kill-me-deadly whisky can be purchased. Drinking leads to all sorts of temptation, from immorality between unmarried people to sudden flare-ups of violence.

At time of full employment, drunken violence escalates in the streets of every town and city in the land.

So be warned, young people and old who are reading my memoirs, there is never a time when crime is quiet. Unemployment brings theft and employment encourages drinking and violence. Best keep clear of both. Have a safe day now.

Sergeant James Mendick

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

 

Before the Aberdeen Police

Good day to you all

This is Sergeant James Mendick back again, reporting on crimes old and new. Today I am going to talk about one aspect of criminal Aberdeen. Now you all know that today we have a dedicated, skilled and professional body of policemen, like myself, dedicated to keeping Good Queen Victoria’s towns and cities free of crime and criminals so that the respectable people such as yourselves can walk in safety.

It was not always so. Once there were only a very few overworked individuals to guard the populace from the hordes of the wicked. In Aberdeen up in the north east of Scotland there were the Town Sergeants.

Of all the Town Sergeants, Charles Dawson was perhaps the best remembered. He lived at Well Court in Broad Street and became legendary for his knowledge of all the local bad men.  Dawson was a busy man as he kept his stern eye on the bad characters of the town. One family that stirred his interest were the Pirie brothers: John, Peter and Thomas Pirie, who were known thieves and housebreakers. If the criminologists’ theory of a criminal class was ever true, the Piries were role models.   When there were a number of burglaries in the winter of 1829, Dawson looked at the modus operandi, checked the whereabouts of the Pirie clan and put his detective skills to work.

The first break-in that Dawson could connect with the Piries occurred on the night of 14 November 1829. Burglars had hit the firm of William Mackinnon and Company, Iron and Brass founders of Windy-Wynd. This was a lane that ran between Spring Gardens and Gallowgate, where the north bank of Loch of Aberdeen had been. The burglars were not subtle. They forced open an iron front door to enter a short corridor that led into the premises. There was a second, wooden door with a lock that was nailed in place. The burglars forced this lock as well. That door led into a space from which doors opened onto a tin workshop and a copper workshop. The door to the tin shop was open and the iron shutters to the copper workshop had been thrust back; there had been a fair amount of strength needed to break in.

The burglars stole a variety of objects that could be kept, pawned or sold: a number of tin dishes, a zinc-brass cover, two brass pump valves, files, brass fire irons, an oil flask, a bow saw and other objects. Dawson notified the pawn shops about everything that had been stolen.

The second break-in that Dawson linked to the Piries was on 12 December 1829 when the home of Harry Grassie was burgled. Grassie lived at Holburn on the road from Union Grove to the Deeside turnpike.    Once inside, the burglars had emptied a desk of promissory notes and bills, an insurance policy, £9 in bank notes [more than a junior domestic servant earned in a year], pocket books and various personal and business papers.

Dawson and the police asked for more details of the Holburn break in. Harry Grassie was an elderly man with money, but in a move that was not uncommon at the time, he had married a young and attractive wife. His wife had fallen foul of the excise and had been fined, but Grassie had refused to pay the fine so she was jailed instead. Despite his apparent callousness, Grassie visited his wife in the jail every night between six and seven. Ironically, or perhaps with poetic justice, it was when Grassie was visiting the jail that the burglars struck, removing a pane of glass from the bedroom window to get in.

Dawson investigated the break in with a careful eye that would have found favour with Sherlock Holmes. He found three sets of footprints on the earth underneath the bedroom window. He measured the prints; one was quite distinct as if the heel had been lost from the boot, so that could have been a valuable clue: now all Dawson had to do was search all of Aberdeen for a man with no heel on one of his boots.

Although Dawson suspected that the Piries may have been involved in the factory robbery, he had no evidence against them. However when he examined Pirie’s house in Ann Street, he took Grassie in case there was any of his property to identify. He also brought and two other men in case of trouble. After Dawson banged on the door for a good fifteen minutes, the Piries allowed him in. Dawson asked to see all the boots in the house. There were three pairs; all dirty but that was not unusual at a time when paved streets were not universal. The boots were an exact match in size for the footprints on the earth, and one was lacking half its heel. Dawson guessed that he had found his burglars and immediately arrested them.

He searched the house and found two chisels, one of which had a piece of putty on the blade, which suggested it had been used to remove a pane of glass from a window. The colour of the putty on the blade matched that around the glass on Grassie’s window. Dawson searched further; he lifted the hearthstone and found a snuff box with Grassie’s bills inside. There seemed no doubt that the Pirie’s had burgled Grassie’s house.

However there remained the Mackinnon burglary. Although Dawson had no evidence, he strongly suspected that the Piries were involved there as well. He remained alert and asked his informants to keep their ears open for any information.   The Piries lived right next door to Mackinnon’s foundry and worked in a factory in nearby Wapping Street. As the weeks passed they must have thought they had escaped, but when Charles Dawson arrested them for the break in at Grassie’s, one of their work mates, William Ross remembered one of the Piries using a bow saw. Ross recollected that such an item had been stolen from Mackinnon and searched the factory further. In a hidden corner of the factory he found three bags of material that had been stolen from Mackinnon. Ross took the bags to the Police Office.

Working closely with the police, Dawson questioned Pirie’s neighbours and their servant, a woman named Moir. She lived in the flat immediately below Grassie and knew his house well. She told Dawson that John Pirie had asked her to sell a set of brass fire irons for her. When Dawson asked, she handed him the irons, which were the set that had been stolen from Mackinnon. There was more than enough evidence to charge John Pirie with the Mackinnon break in.

The case came to trial in the April Circuit Court. The Piries pleaded not guilty and put up a spirited, if strange defence of alibi. Although there had been a number of people who were definite that they had seen the Piries leave their work early on the Saturday afternoon, the Piries found counter witnesses who had apparently seen them hard at work. One woman, Agnes Faulkner, swore blind that she left the work with John Pirie at quarter past six, and that she accompanied him to the Ann Street house, where she remained until quarter past eight. Even stranger, the Piries had a sister who put herself square in the firing line when she claimed that her husband had brought home the box full of Grassie’s bills, and told her to hide them. She claimed that she had not known they were stolen, but she had placed them under the hearthstone, without her brother’s knowledge. When the Advocate General heard that this woman was estranged from her husband, he prevented her from continuing, as she might incriminate him.

After hearing from four Glasgow criminal officers that John Pirie was a well known thief, the jury found him guilty of the Mackinnon burglary, but the case against his brothers was not proven. All three were found guilty of the Grassie burglary. John Pirie, the eldest brother, was transported for life and his two brothers for seven years. The Pirie brothers sailed on Burrell on 22 July 1830 along with another 189 convicts. The Pirie sister was not charged with perjury; although it seemed obvious she was more concerned with getting her husband in trouble than ensuing that justice was done.

If I say so myself, that was not a bad result for a man who worked without training. Of course if you want to read about a real criminal officer in action, two of my own stories, Darkest Walk and A Burden Shared are in print. . .

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

Trouble at Sea

Hello all

It is Sergeant Mendick again, stealing a few moments of your time to tell you about another case I found interesting. I was not involved in this one but my young colleague, George Watters, had to read up on maritime law and came up with this one. It is a whaling case, which is not unusual as the whaling men – the Greenland men – are a rowdy, truculent lot!

In the first half of the 19th century Aberdeen was a major whaling port. One of her chief rivals was neighbouring Peterhead. Both ports sent ships north to the Greenland Sea and Davis Straits to hunt for whales and seals. Although both these areas are vast, the actual whale hunting grounds could be quite limited, and ships tended to hunt within easy view of one another. Most of the time that did not cause any problems, for mutual support was welcome, particularly if the ice closed and a ship was sunk, when having another vessel close by to rescue the men could only be good. However there was always the possibility of more than one ship harpooning the same whale, which caused some ownership problems.

In the summer of 1856 the Aberdeen vessel Alibi and the Peterhead ship Clara sailed to the Cumberland Straits, off Arctic Canada. On 13 October both vessels were part of a group of whaling ships at anchor in the Bay of Niatilick on the west side of the Straits. This was a favoured spot for whaling ships, having a fairly safe anchorage, and an island to shelter behind. The island was also called Niatilick and had the added advantage of a prominent hill. The ship masters often climbed the hill and scanned the surrounding icy seas to search for whales. Shortly after six in the morning Captain Sutter of Clara was on the hill and he saw signs of a whale in the distance. He alerted an Inuit named Bullygar, who commanded an Inuit manned whale boat, and told him to approach cautiously so the crew of Alibi did not realise the whale was there.

Bullygar was an expert and came up astern of the whale, threw his harpoon and got fast to the whale without too much difficulty. The whale at one sounded – dived- but Bullygar knew all about whale hunting and kept the harpoon attached as the whale pulled her through the icy water. Eventually the whale lines ran out, so Bullygar attached what was known as a drog or drogue to the end of the line and cast it off. A drog was an inflated sealskin float of indeterminate length, but they could be as little as two feet long and as much as five feet, with a circumference about the same. They had three functions: they slowed the whale down; they tired it out and they marked where it was.

Following the float, Bullygar steered his boat north west, with another of Clara’s boats rowing beside him. About two miles from Niatilick island, both boats landed on a small rock and watched the progress of the drogs. They had barely taken sightings when the whale surfaced, and they rowed hard toward it, but before they reached it two of Alibi’s boats appeared from behind an ice floe and had plunged their harpoons into the whale, and a boat from a third ship also came and thrust in the killing lance. With the whale dead, the boats united to tow it to the island of Niatilick, where the mother ships were.

Once they arrived at Niatilick, Bullygar and the other Clara boat tried to tow the whale to Clara, but the men from Alibi objected. The boat’s crews began to argue, but mere words escalated into something more serious as the excited whaling men saw their oil money bonus slipping away from them. Men on both sides lifted the lances, long, sharp weapons designed specifically to kill wounded whales, and tail knives, six foot long blades that could easily cut a man’s arm off. There was a fight; a man was slashed, and things could have developed into a full scale Arctic battle until Captain Sutter of Clara intervened and called a halt.

The whale was towed to Alibi, whose crew flensed it – stripped off the blubber- and claimed both ownership and profit. With the hunting season over and the ice closing in, all the whaling ships returned to Scotland, but the owners of Clara instigated legal proceedings to claim what they said was their whale. They estimated they were owed £1200, for loss of profit and damages, with interest for ‘the illegal seizure of a whale’. Captain Stewart of Alibi contested the claim vigorously.

It was not the first case of its kind, and centred on the legal rights of ownership: was the whale owned by the first ship to see and harpoon her, on by the ship whose men actually killed her? The law in the Arctic was a bit vague, so that even if a boat had harpooned a whale, if the lines broke, or became unattached from the boat, the animal was termed as a ‘loose whale’ and was fair game for any other vessel to claim. If this law was followed, then the whale was loose as Bullygar had either tossed the lines overboard, the line had run out or had broken. In either case, there was no line attaching the boat to the whale, and the drogue was doing the work of the boats in tiring the whale. If that argument was correct, then Captain Stewart of the Aberdeen ship was legally correct in claiming the whale.

However the owners of Clara claimed that as Cumberland Inlet was a new area for whaling, the old law did not apply there, and the ships should abide by the law of the native Inuit. The local law, which applied particularly to drogue fishing, stated that the person who first struck the whale owned it. If that argument was proved correct, then Bullygar and Clara were undoubtedly the owners.

Captain Sutter brought over an Inuit harpooner named Tessuin from Niatilick Island , who spoke to the court through an interpreter to tell them that this was the case when the Inuit hunted, and to remind them that the first harpoon had been made fast by a local Inuit. Captain George Brown, another whaling man, acted as interpreter.

Despite all the trouble Sutter had gone to, the Court of Session found in favour of the Aberdeen Arctic Company and Captain Sutter of Clara lost his case and his money.

What do you think? to whom would you have awarded the whale? It’s a tricky one!

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

A Sink of Atrocity

Good day to you.

The name is Sergeant James Mendick of Scotland Yard, but my friends call me James. Not that I have many friends, only colleagues. The others are citizens or criminals and neither like the police.

Queen Victoria is secure on her throne, the country is recovering from a great depression and the towns and country are crawling with criminals who prey on the respectable.

I have recently returned from a stay in Dundee in Scotland where I encountered one of the worst cases I have ever seen, with cannibalism, murder and street riots. Now I happen to know Dundee well as I was born there, but my early memories were anything but happy. The only bright spot this time was my meeting with Johanna. . . I believe my biographer will have mentioned that in his scribblings about my case in his book A Burden Shared: the Dundee Murders.

However this is not about me. I would like to tell you about a murder that occurred high in the hills when I was a youth:

Cock of the North

In common with many criminals of the 19th Century, Charles McEwan often adopted an assumed name. Sometimes he was known as Robert McLeod, sometimes as John McIntyre, or even Charles Mackay, but very seldom did he use his real name of McEoch.  Born in Armagh, to many people he was The Cock o’ The North and was a coppersmith as well as a tinker. He was a tall man, well made and muscular.

Around 1814 the 26 old McEwan and the rest of his tinker clan took the boat from Ireland and landed in Scotland. Rather than search for work in the burgeoning industrial towns of the central belt they headed north for the small communities and wide spaces of the Highlands and north east. The band soon became notorious for petty and not so petty theft mixed with a casual violence that saw doors locked on their approach. The other travelling people knew McEwan well and tried to avoid him. If they were unlucky enough to fall into his company he was quite capable of robbing them of their meagre livelihood; any resistance could lead to assault.

McEwan was a keen follower of prize fighting and was a lady’s man; or rather he had an eye and a fancy for any woman who could give him what he wanted. In his ten years roaming the north of Scotland he kept company with at least three different women and the second last of them gave him three children.  His final woman was short, well made and around 30 years old. Her name was Margaret Mooney and they had only been together for a few days when McEwan made his fatal mistake. On the 8 October 1823 McEwan had speared a salmon in an Aberdeenshire river and they cooked it under the autumn stars. The drop of blood that spilled on McEwan’s light corduroy trousers may have been seen as an omen, but if so he ignored it.  They were walking, as always, heading south over the high hills from Aberdeenshire and enjoying the hospitality of farms and cottages on the route, as was the way of old Scotland.

Elizabeth Middleton and John Smith were shearing sheep at the farm of Kildow, and passed a few hours with McEwan and Money before lodging them comfortably in a barn. The next morning, 9 October 1823, saw the tinkers trudge on to the Firmouth, a rough and lonely drove road that toiled over the Grampians from Deeside to Glenesk and the glens of Angus. They were walking side by side when a group of four whisky smugglers joined them. The smugglers were a jovial crew with the panniers on their garrons heavy with whisky. They were not afraid of McEwan in the slightest; these men were well used to taking care of themselves against the Excise or anybody else who tried to rob them.

At a place called Lochmaven, at the apex of the pass, McEwan and Mooney sat down to rest; both were sober, despite sharing the smuggler’s peat reek, but McEwan may have been a little less sober that Mooney.   What happened next is pure conjecture, based on later evidence, but at some point in the late afternoon McEwan and Money must have argued and he lifted a small iron anvil that he used in his tinkering trade and smashed her over the head until she was dead.

Although there were no witnesses to the actual act, there were people who used this lonely road and their stories helped piece together something of the story. Later that evening Joseph Stewart of Ballater rode past and saw Mooney lying on the heather with one hand above her head. He saw McEwan at her feet; gasped at the sight of the blood that stained McEwan’s shirt and trousers, kicked in his spurs and rode on into the slithering rain without stopping or looking back.

At around two in the morning of 10 October McEwan banged at the door of a lonely house at the south side of the Firmouth. His shirt was bloody, his trousers were sodden with rain and the deep blood stains below his knees suggested that he had been kneeling in blood.   Margaret Machardy answered the door to him and gave him lodgings for the night. Not surprisingly she commented on the blood but he told her little.

McEwan did not sleep well that dark morning, nor on the night of that Friday 10 October, which he passed at an inn at Balfield, about three miles North West of Brechin. The inn keeper, Helen Young had not wished such a bloody, battered apparition as McEwan to remain in her house all night, but she could not put him out into the dark, so allowed him to remain. Sometime during the long hours of darkness he demanded whisky; he was seen furiously scrubbing at his sleeve with a wet brush and trying to wash his hat but nobody questioned him.

On Saturday 11 October McEwan asked Young if she had heard about the woman killed on the Firmouth. When Young said that ‘there are many lies in the country and that was one, for I would have heard of a murder,’   McEwan said he had seen her ‘all over blood’ and was sure she had been murdered.

In the meantime, Elizabeth McDonald and Margaret Cruickshanks were first to find the dead body of Mooney about half past seven on the Friday morning. They had been harvesting in the south and were returning home when they saw the body lying among the heather. It lay close to the road in a welter of blood and disturbed ground.  When McDonald investigated, she saw that Mooney wore some rags of clothes and there was a basket nearby, with tea caddies and other items inside.  The two women followed a trail of blood for about twenty metres but it petered out in the heather and led nowhere.  They hurried the nearest cottage, some miles ahead, hammered on the door and told what they had found.

As soon as they heard the news, the scattered population gathered to see the body, but it was taken away and decently buried. Mr Garioch, a surgeon, later examined Mooney and decided that she had been killed by a blow to the head. He was shown a box of tools including a small anvil whose concave sides fitted the indents into Mooney’s head. Many tinkers carried such a portable anvil.  Garich said that Mooney had been drinking spirits before she was killed.  A second surgeon, Dr Murray did not entirely agree with Garioch; he was not so sure that the anvil had been the murder weapon.

As soon as Mooney was found, the authorities began the search for McEwan. He was a kenspeckle figure in Aberdeenshire and not hard to trace with his blue coat, corduroy trousers and prominent hat. John Fyfe, a King’s Messenger in Aberdeen, traced McEwan’s route by the places he had stopped and the people he had passed on the road. Fyfe arrested him in Brechin and brought to Aberdeen. The small anvil was inside the box of tools that he carried with him.

McEwan denied all knowledge of the murder. He said he came across the body in the moorland but he had not killed Money. Even so the deed seemed to affect him and his normal false joviality altered to a sullen silence. He gave conflicting statements about his background: in his first he said he had been apprenticed to a Dublin coppersmith and had no fixed abode and had never in his life been asked for a certificate of his character. In his second he said he was a Glasgow man but had been to Dublin. In this statement he said he and Mooney lived as man and wife; he agreed that he had travelled on the Firmouth with her, but said he had left her there, hale and hearty.

During the trial in March 1824 at the High Court in Edinburgh, McEwan challenged many of the statements made by the prosecution: he claimed he had not asked for whisky when in the houses south of the Firmouth, but only drank whey.  He said that the blood on his trousers was his own, from a bleeding nose.  He said he was wetting his hat to try and remove the ‘cloors’ or dimples in the material. His clothes were produced in court, complete with blood stains on the sleeve of his shirt and blood stains on his trousers. The jury had no difficulty in finding him guilty.

When Lord Gillies sentenced him to hang, McEwan said ‘Thank your Lordship, I’ll die innocent. There has not been a doctor here today but has perjured himself.’ As was normal in the period, McEwan was chained in his cell; he paced, clanking, back and forth as far as the chain would stretch.

He remained stubborn even as the day of his execution drew closer, and when the ministers tried to save his soul he replied: ‘I am not the better of you, or any like you.’ Only when three Catholic priests came did he show any interest, but if he confessed to them, his guilt travelled no further.   On the evening of Tuesday 6 April 1824 McEwan was taken from Calton Jail to the lock up house in the High Street of Edinburgh. At about ten past eight he was led out and he marched bravely to the gallows. He was hanged at Libberton Wynd in Edinburgh on the 7th April 1824 and his body was given to Dr Munro to be dissected.

Ah the good old days.

If you enjoyed what you read, I will be back with more stories of crime in my days.

That one was in Fishermen, Randies and Fraudsters’ by Malcolm Archibald

I wish you good day

Good Day to all

My name is James Mendick but you will call me Sergeant Mendick of Scotland Yard. My mission is to help cleanse the Empire of all the villains, blackguards and ruffians that infest every corner.

In this series of communications I will inform people of the different types of criminals that endangers them in their everyday life, from the  footpads that lurk in the unlit streets of the towns and on the long lonely stretches of the Queen’s Highway, to the murderers that hunt for prey. I will mention the rioters and the vitriol throwers, the thieves and robbers, card sharps and thimble riggers as well as the cracksmen and fraudsters.

Today is just an introduction. There is much, much more to come.

In the meantime, see some of my more interesting cases in

The Darkest Walk

and

A Burden Shared,

published by Fledgling Press

Sergeant James Mendick

Scotland Yard