Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Burke & William Hare

Daft Jamie

Sketch of
Sketch of "Daft Jamie"

Eighteen year old James Wilson, known as Daft Jamie in the West Port neighborhood, was a well-known local character. He entertained local children with riddles and jokes and he lived on the streets or with kind souls who would offer him shelter -- although he frequently visited his widowed mother. His only prize possessions were a snuffbox and snuff spoon that had seven holes in it that Jamie used as a calendar to tell the day of the week.

In early October of 1828, Hare came across Jamie wandering the streets, looking for his mother (although some versions say Margaret was the one who found him). Hare told him that he knew where his mother was and invited him back to his house to wait for her. Burke was in a local tavern and watched the two go by and observed Hare lead poor Jamie in as a dumb lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep to the shearers.

Burke was fetched from the tavern by Margaret, and the Hares and Burke tried to convince Jamie to have some whisky. Jamie drank only a small amount and refused more, although he was soon dozing on a spare bed. Burke and Hare attempted to put their usual method of killing into play, but Jamie was strong and fought back successfully enough that he pinned Burke, who screamed to Hare for help. Both men eventually overpowered Jamie and smothered him.

That evening, the two men collected 10 for Jamies body. Suspicion grew quickly, however, because Jamies mother made constant inquiries of her sons whereabouts. Also, when his body was uncovered at Dr. Knoxs, several of the students easily recognized Jamie by his face and by a well-known deformity of his foot. Dr. Knox denied that the body was Jamie, but began the dissection quickly, focusing first on those most recognizable features.

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