The Execution of William Burke
January 28, 1829 - It was on this day that the infamous serial killer and body snatcher, William Burke, was executed in a public hanging.
Burke and his partner in crime, William Hare, had found easy money as grave robbers. In the early 19th century there was high demand for cadavers to supply the flourishing research in medical science. Burke and Hare landed an eager paying customer in Dr. Robert Knox, an anatomist at the Edinburgh University's Medical School.
But what Dr. Knox really needed was fresh bodies, so Burke and Hare began a murder spree that would claim 16 lives. Most of the victims were suffocated after being lured into a boarding house operated by Hare and his wife. In the beginning they were careful to pick victims that were not well known. Many were down on their luck debtors and beggars. As time went on the killers became more reckless. After their final murder they left the body under a bed where it was found by a boarder searching for a lost stocking.
In the trial that followed, Hare was offered immunity in exchange for his confession and testimony against Burke. The court delivered a death sentence.
After the hanging, Burke's body was publicly dissected at the same medical school he had been supplying cadavers to. His skeleton and a wallet made from his skin are still on display there.