The last woman hanged in Edinburgh
In the crisp autumn air of Edinburgh in 1888, a group of young boys sought amusement with a peculiar object—a bundle of oilskin. Little did they know that within its weathered embrace lay a grim secret, one that would send shivers down their spines. As they unravelled the layers, their innocent play transformed into a scene of horror—the lifeless body of a baby emerged, its tiny form wrapped in a macabre cocoon.
This grim discovery set forth a chain of events that would expose the dark underbelly of Jessie King and her partner Thomas Pearson. When the authorities descended upon their abode, a chilling revelation awaited them within the confines of the coal closet. There, concealed from the world, rested the lifeless body of another infant—a baby girl silenced forever by the hands of cruelty. Strangled, her innocent life snuffed out in a heartless act of violence.
Jessie King, a woman of twenty-seven, bore the weighty title of a “baby farmer”—a name that concealed the sinister truth of her deeds. In response to advertisements seeking child adopters, she lured vulnerable souls into her clutches, promising them a brighter future. Yet, behind closed doors, her embrace turned deadly, her nurturing guise a facade for unspeakable horrors.
In this scenario, the babies were the children born to domestic servants and factory girls, conceived under uncertain circumstances that could worsen their already fragile lives.
The accusations against Jessie mounted, with three innocent lives tragically cut short by her malevolent actions. As the trial unfolded, she attempted to retract her earlier confession, hoping to evade the damning consequences that loomed on the horizon. During her trial, Jessie King was portrayed as a creature beyond redemption, a monstrous embodiment of evil. However, some historians and experts argue that this depiction overshadowed her vulnerability and potential mental health struggles. Nevertheless, the jury wasted little time in delivering their verdict, finding Jessie King guilty on all charges.
The sombre halls of the courtroom reverberated with the echoes of justice as the sentence was delivered. Death awaited Jessie King, casting its inescapable shadow over her existence. On that fateful day, March 11, 1889, she became the final woman to meet her demise upon the gallows in the heart of Edinburgh. The weight of her crimes and the anguish of her victims lingered in the air, mingling with the whispers of sorrow.
Now, a silent witness to the dark tale that unfolded, Jessie’s resting place lies beneath the surface of the St. Andrew’s House car park—a place where the wheels of progress roll above the forgotten remnants of her troubled past. The echoes of her deeds may have faded, but the memory of her heinous acts serves as a haunting reminder of the depths to which humanity can descend.
– The Dark Scotland website is created by Stewart and Louise – we run DD Tours, walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.