Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Burke & William Hare

Friends & Family

The money collected for Mary Paterson soon ran out, and Burke and Hare went on watch for new sources of income. Opportunities quickly presented themselves.

In his legitimate work as cobbler, Burke occasionally bought leather from a beggar-woman named Effie. One morning she attempted to sell some scraps to Burke, who invited her in and took her out to the lodging houses stable. After several drinks, Effie fell asleep in the straw, Burke went to fetch Hare, and that evening they were 10 richer.

Having brought several bodies to Dr. Knox without casting overt suspicion on himself (other than the recognition of Mary Patersons body), Burke became even bolder and began taking more risks. In the streets one morning he encountered two policemen carrying an obviously drunken woman to jail so that she could sleep off the previous nights entertainment. Burke told the officers that he knew the woman, even knew where she lived, and would take her home and see that she was properly taken care of. She was, and Burke and Hare divided another 10 that night.

In June of 1828, Burke found an old man wandering the streets and lured him with promises of whisky to come home with him. They were later stopped by an old woman and a young boy, who asked for directions to the home of a friend of theirs. Burke said he knew exactly where they needed to go, and abandoned the old man (who cursed him over the loss of the promised whisky) and said he would take them to their friends but why not stop and rest first at his house? The woman agreed and explained that the boy was her deaf grandson, and they were not familiar with Edinburgh.

The woman was soon inebriated from the refreshments that were offered, and while her grandson was with Margaret and Helen in another room, Burke and Hare murdered the woman by their usual method. Debate then began about the boy. Being young, they feared he would not take whisky, but they were afraid to let him go out on the streets where he might lead people back to the house. When the boy became increasingly anxious about the absence of his grandmother, Burke grabbed the boy and broke the childs back over his knee although he later claimed that the boy had been smothered.

Both bodies were wedged into an old herring barrel and fetched 8 each from Dr. Knox.

Also in June, Burke and Helen took a brief respite from his work to visit some of Helens relatives. In his later confession, Burke stated that prior to their leaving, Margaret suggested that Helen be murdered, but Burke refused. Probably for this reason, and also because Burke discovered that Hare had been working solo in supplying Dr. Knox during his absence, Burke and Helen moved out of Hares lodging house and into quarters nearby soon after the return from their vacation.

Although living separately, the two men continued to ply their trade as a team. A Mrs. Ostler came to Burkes new boarding house for a celebration in honor of the landlords new baby and was never seen again. A relative of Helens, Ann McDougal, visited in Edinburgh and stayed with Burke and Helen. Ann was soon dispatched by the usual method, although Burke nobly persuaded Hare to take the active part in that murder since Ann was a distant friend of Burkes. Ann turned out to be a good friend indeed, providing Burke and his partner with another 10.

William Hare met Mary Haldane, an elderly prostitute, in the Edinburgh streets and invited her back to the lodging house for a dram. Burke joined them and Mary drank and fell asleep in the lodging houses stable. She was murdered quickly, but Marys daughter Peggy, who had been told her mother had been seen with Hare earlier, went to Hares to ask about her whereabouts. Upon arrival, Margaret and Helen heatedly denied Mary or any prostitute would be allowed into their house. An argument ensued that Hare stopped by saying that Mary had been there earlier but had later left. Hare then offered Peggy a drink and then another -- and once Burke arrived, she soon joined her mother at Dr. Knoxs.

The disappearance of Mary Haldane caused suspicion, as she was a well-known character in the neighborhood, and many noticed her absence. Burke and Hare were further emboldened by not being caught, however, and next targeted a very well known neighborhood resident whose murder would almost be their undoing.

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