Hi and welcome to part one of our 2nd case, of our Glasgow’s Square Mile Murders series, that of Jessie McLachlan for the murder of her best friend Jessie McPherson. This will be part one of the pre trial, of which there will be 2 parts for this one, as there’s quite a lot of suppositions & information before the trial even gets started. So, we’ll get into it.
Dunfermline Press, Wednesday 9th July, 1862, p.4.
MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN SANDYFORD PLACE,
(From the Morning Journal.)
A murder, as full of the elements of mystery and horror as any which has of late years startled the country, transpired on Monday in a house at 17 Sandyford Place, Glasgow, tenanted by Mr Fleming, the accountant, the unfortunate victim being a maid servant in Mr Fleming’s family, named Jessie McPherson. The family are residing just now at the coast, leaving the servant girl and Mr James Fleming alone in the house. About half-past nine, on the evening of Friday, Mr Fleming retired to rest in his bed-room in the upper flat of the house, which is a two-storied self-contained tenement, with a sunk flat, in which the kitchen and servant’s bed-room is situated. In the dawn of Saturday morning his attention was aroused by two or three loud and sharp screams, in quick succession; but thinking, as has been stated to us, that the sounds were possibly caused by the frolicking of the servant with some female friend whom she had prevailed upon to keep her company in the lonely house during the night, after looking his watch, which showed the time to be four o’clock, he once more composed himself to sleep. Rising between nine and ten, and going down stairs, finding the deceased did not as usual appear to make breakfast, and concluding that she had gone out with her friend, he prepared his own breakfast, leaving the house shortly after ten for business. Returning at night, the girl was still absent. On Sunday he again prepared his own meals, went twice to church, read during the evening alone in the house, and again retired to rest, no inquiry having been made by him regarding the missing woman, nor suspicion crossing his mind that a horrible murder had been done, and that the body of the murdered woman lay under the same roof with himself. On Monday, Mr John Fleming, sen., arriving from Dunoon, the absence of the servant girl was communicated to him, and wishing at once to ascertain whether, as was supposed possible, she had absconded, he went to her bed-room to see if any clue could be had there to her unaccountable disappearance. The door was locked and the key missing; but the key of the pantry being tried in the lock, opened it, and on entering the room, lying on the floor, face downwards, not far from the bedstead, lay, nearly nude, the disfigured body of the murdered woman. Across the brow extended a deep gash, laying over the forehead, with a similar wound an inch lower down, at the junction of the nasal bone and brow; while on the right side of the head, immediately behind and a little above the ear, the skull had been smashed in, making a wound through which part of the brain protruded. On the head, besides the wounds already spoken of, were several bruises, inflicted apparently by some blunt instrument, which also had been used in giving the wound on the right side of the head. That on the brow and across the nose and eyes, seemed to have been made by some edged but blunt instrument. On examining the house no trace of violence was seen anywhere till descending to the sunk flat, and there indeed were sufficient signs to show that she had not died without a severe struggle. A part of the wood-work at the side of the kitchen door had been torn off, and though sought for by the police officers could not be found. The kitchen floor – a stone-flagged one, as usual in sunk flats – had been in some parts carefully washed; but though no stains of blood were found on the floor, traces of the flight were visible in places here and there, which had been struck by something, and there was also to be seen a trail, as it were, which had been left by the body being hauled through the kitchen thence along the passage (a distance of about six or seven yards) into the bed-room. No weapon, or any instrument that showed marks of having been used in the murder, was to be found anywhere, the whole house being searched. How “ingress” had been gained, whether “gained” at all, or permitted, could not be ascertained. Leaving his awful handiwork, the murderer had first gone to the back door, to which, from the kitchen and bed-room, were on the passage a line of minute blood drops, and retracing his steps, had ascended the stairs, going out, it is thought, by the front door, which was locked from within, and in which Mr James Fleming can recollect finding the key in the morning after the murder. Deceased has been long known to Mr Fleming’s family, and, so far as known, had no male friend in the habit of visiting her. A tall, fresh-coloured, healthy woman, about forty years of age, she has evidently died not without a strong and desperate combat for dear life, preceded and incident on, it is possible, a defence of her womanly honour.
Falkirk Herald, Thursday 10th July, 1862, p.4.
MURDER OF A FALKIRK WOMAN
ARREST OF MR FLEMING, SEN.
On Monday afternoon, about a quarter past four o’clock, Mr John Fleming, residing at 17 Sandyford Place, reported at the Western District Police Office that a servant in his employment, named Jessie McPherson, about 40 years of age, had been found dead in her bed-room same afternoon. From the inquiry made by detective officers Campbell and Jeffrey, it appears that the deceased was last seen alive about half-past nine o’clock on Friday evening by Mr Fleming’s father, who was the only person residing in the house with the deceased (Mr John Fleming, in company with his son, having gone to Dunoon on the forenoon of that day.) Mr James Fleming, we are informed, states that, about four o’clock on Saturday morning, he heard loud cries proceeding from the kitchen in which deceased was, but he paid no attention to the circumstance. He arose between nine and ten o’clock, and observed that the door of deceased’s room was shut. He then went to his office, and returned in the afternoon, without seeing deceased. When his son returned from Dunoon on Monday morning, the circumstance was mentioned to him; and when deceased’s bed-room door was forced open, she was found lying upon her face on the floor, quite dead, the body being almost in a state of nudity. The clothes which deceased had worn were strewn about the room, and they were all saturated with blood. Distinct marks were also observable upon the floor of the kitchen, and the lobby leading therefrom to the bed-room, as if deceased had been dragged from thence to the room. The blood also seemed to have been washed off the kitchen floor. Dr Fleming found that the skull of deceased was fractured in several places, and also that one of her jaws was fractured. The case is altogether of a most mysterious nature, and there seems to be little doubt that the unfortunate woman has met with foul play.
The circumstances attending the murder are much shrouded in mystery. It appears that on Friday forenoon Mr Fleming and his son, a young man of about twenty, left Glasgow for the coast – where the other members of the family are at present residing – leaving James Fleming, an aged man, father of the former, in the house alone with the housekeeper, named Jessie McPherson, a woman between thirty and forty years of age. Mr James Fleming is said to be about eighty-seven years of age, but appears to be a healthy old man, robust for his years, and in the full possession of all his faculties, with the exception of being rather dull of hearing. On Friday evening he retired to bed betwixt nine and ten o’clock, his bed chamber being on the first floor, immediately above the sunk flat. The house is self-contained, situated in a quiet and genteel locality, and shaded from Sauchiehall Road by a row of trees. The housekeeper was at this time employed in the scullery; and Mr Fleming states that after going to bed he heard no noise, and was under the impression that deceased had retired to rest. Early in the morning, however, he was awakened from his slumbers by several loud cries which apparently proceeded from the sunk flat, in which the housekeeper’s bed-room is situated. To these sounds he paid no attention, and again fell asleep immediately afterwards. On rising about 10 o’clock in the morning he found deceased’s bed-room shut, and it then occurred to him that she might have gone out with a female friend, whom he supposed she had prevailed upon to pass the night with her in the lonely house, and that, having stayed out too long, she was afraid to come back. From this time, till his son and grandson returned from the coast on Monday, he cooked his own meals in the house, and did not think of making any inquiry about the missing woman, who, by this time, had been absent two days. When Mr John Fleming arrived, his father related the circumstances of the disappearance of the housekeeper, and the cries he had heard on Saturday morning. The former immediately proceeded to the door of the sleeping apartment which had been occupied by the deceased, and found it locked, and the key amissing. The key of the pantry was then procured, and by it access was gained to the bed-chamber, where a fearful sight presented itself. The unfortunate woman, Jessie McPherson, was found lying on the floor, near the bed, in a semi-nude state, the only garments which covered her person being a short flannel gown and shift. The body was frightfully mutilated – deep gashes being observable on the brow, head, back of the ear, and lower jaw, which had sustained a compound fracture. The skull was also fractured so severely that the brain protruded. From the appearance of the body there can be no doubt that the poor woman made a desperate effort to save her life, one of her hands, apparently in warding off the blows, having been fearfully smashed, and one of the fingers of the other hand almost severed. The wounds on the head and face, as also those on the hands, appeared to have been inflicted with a sharp instrument. Two cleavers were found in the kitchen, which adjoins the bed-room of the deceased, and one of these, on being examined, seemed to have been recently and carefully washed, and it is suspected that by this deadly weapon the foul murder was accomplished. The apartment in which the body was found bore evidence of the terrible and deadly struggle which had taken place, part of the walls and articles of furniture being bespattered with blood, and pieces of the dress worn by the deceased being found lying about the floor, also covered with blood. The extreme coolness and confidence of safety apparently manifested by the murderer is shown by various circumstances besides the mere washing of the cleaver which is supposed to have been employed in perpetrating the horrid deed. From the appearance of the kitchen floor and part of the bed-room floor, it is evident that they had been carefully washed for the purpose of obliterating the traces of blood; but notwithstanding this precautionary measure, the marks of blood were plainly seen on the floors of both apartments – the floor of the kitchen being composed of flagstones, and that of the bed-room (which leads from it) of boarding. The body had also the appearance of having been washed or wiped with a damp cloth. In the course of the struggle, part of which seems to have occurred in bed, the bed-clothing was saturated with blood in several places, and a sheet, which was soaked with blood in one part, was carefully rolled up, the bloody part being in the centre, and concealed in a corner of the room. Mr John Fleming, immediately on learning these particulars, communicated with the police of the Western District. Mr Todd, Acting Assistant-Superintendent of Police, with detectives Campbell and Jeffrey, proceeded to the house and investigated the case. Sheriff Strathern, the Procurators-Fiscal for the city and county, and Mr McCall, Assistant-Superintendent of the Central District, were also speedily in attendance, and along with a number of intelligent detective officers made diligent and active inquiry into the matter until an early hour on Tuesday morning. The inquiry was resumed after the lapse of a very few hours, and was continued during yesterday with unremitting exertion, care, and prudence, and the body of the deceased was subjected to a post mortem examination by Drs G. H. B. Macleod and Fleming. So far as we can learn, the only articles missing from the house are six silver toddy ladles, a silver soup divider, a silver slice, and six silver plated forks. These articles are said to have been kept in the kitchen, and were in the house previous to the family leaving for the coast. If plunder were the object that the murderer had in view, the perpetration of this awful crime has yielded him very little of any intrinsic value, but it may be surmised that this was not all that was desired, else it is possible he could have enriched himself to a much greater extent. Whatever that object may have been – and it is difficult even to our most practised police authorities to solve that problem satisfactorily – the fact remains that a savage murder has been committed. The circumstance of the floors of the kitchen and housekeeper’s bed-room having been carefully washed, evidently after the committal of the murder, has been by many considered rather a remarkable and curious feature in the case, and has accordingly been commented on, and a peculiar deduction drawn from it. It has been said by some of those who have paid attention to this particular point, that the careful and business like manner in which this operation of washing the floors seems to have been gone about, leads them to form the conclusion that the murderer must have been a woman, or assisted by a woman, as no man could have done this so well. This idea may be perfectly reconcileable with the other facts of the case, especially as the whole affair appears to have been so quietly executed. It is stated by the eldest Mr Fleming, who had remained at home, that he found the outer door on the latch on Saturday morning, and it is argued from that incident, that the murderer must have escaped by the front door. The back door was locked from the inside, so that he could not have gone out in that way, which, however, would have been the most natural course for him to have followed, seeing that it leads into a garden, and thence into a vacant piece of ground. It is also said by Mr James Fleming that the door in the window of the scullery looking to the front area was slightly open on Friday, and it is inferred from that that an intending robber may have found a safe and easy means of access through that window. As, however, it was found snibbed in the morning, it appears that he did not take the same mode of egress. While as yet no trace of the murderer has been found, the police are not relaxing their efforts to obtain a clue to his or her whereabouts, and it is to be hoped that in this they will be successful. Meanwhile, the aspect of the case is in many respects mysterious and unaccountable. Deceased, so far as we can ascertain, bore a very good character.
Since the above was written, we have heard that some time ago, having by her prudence and economy laid past a sum fully more than sufficient for a “rainy day,” she left her service and started in business in a small way, on her own account, in Anderston. She acted, however, on the so-called “book system” of dealing with the working classes – that is, by granting credit and using pass-books; and what with the bad debts that she had made, and the dulness of trade, she was compelled to close the shop. Mr Fleming, by whom she had formerly been employed, very considerately took her again into his service, so that she once more found herself in quiet waters. Since then she took a number of her small debtors into court, and obtained decreet against them for their respective sums; and it occurred several times that these poor people called upon her at Mr Fleming’s house, and begged her not to enforce the decreets against them. It may be that “bad blood” may have been engendered through these little law-suits, but we have not, of course, any reason to allege that they were directly or indirectly the means of this foul murder, and we merely give the above for what it is worth. We may add that, according to our information, the poor woman’s person does not appear to have been subjected to any outrage beyond those wounds on the head and hands already adverted to.
The Glasgow correspondent of the Caledonian Mercury writes:- The query, “Who is the murderer?” is the universal question – the supposition that it was the person to whom suspicion now points being, from many circumstances, a strangely horrible one. Meanwhile, the ferocity of the murder and the secrecy attending it have produced universal excitement throughout the city. A minute scrutiny has been made into the past life of the deceased, but nothing has transpired to give the least clue to the mystery.
The Daily Mail of yesterday says:- The burden of her simple story is, that several years ago deceased came from Falkirk to this city, and for full three years was employed as a domestic servant by Mr Fleming; that at the expiry of this time she opened a shop in Glasgow, and carried on business for some time, but not succeeding she went to England. She returned to Scotland, and, after staying some time in Garelochhead, was again received, about nine months ago, into the Fleming family, where she remained in her old capacity of servant until the past week.
So far from the time which has elapsed having diminished the interest in this case, the excitement increases as any fresh fact is elicited by the strict system of inquiry which is being instituted by the authorities. To-day we learn that the silver-plate which was missing from the house of Mr Fleming has been found in Mr Lundy’s pawn-office, in East Clyde Street. It had been pledged on Saturday last at one o’clock by a young woman, whose name or by whom employed is yet unknown. Mr James Fleming, the old man, was taken this forenoon from the house in Sandyford Place to the County Buildings, for examination, where some acquaintances of the deceased have been examined to-day by the Fiscal.
(From our Glasgow Correspondent.)
APPREHENSION OF THE ELDER MR FLEMING.
We understand that Mr McCall, Assistant-Superintendent of Police, after a careful and painstaking investigation into the circumstances attending the mysterious murder of Jessie McPherson, has seen it to be his duty to take the elder Mr Fleming into custody. The old man is now under judicial examination before the Sheriff, with a view to his committal. The greatest anxiety and excitement continues to prevail in Glasgow. The most extraordinary rumours are afloat.
(From our Second Edition of Tuesday.)
We have made inquiries in Falkirk respecting the person mentioned (and we fear with too much truth) to have been foully murdered. She was well-known to many people in town, having lived from her infancy in Falkirk. She appears to have been the illegitimate daughter of a person named Richardson, who at the time of her birth lived in St Ninians. She was adopted by a Mrs Macpherson, who brought her up through her more tender years. At an early age, however, she went to service, in which capacity she passed many years in the houses of several most respectable parties in town. She was no less than eight years with Mrs Darnley, who speaks of her as a good, kind, obliging person. Her long service with Mrs Darnley seems to have begotten a mutual feeling of respect – so much, indeed, that a regular correspondence was kept up between the parties. On Saturday last, one of Mrs Darnley’s family employed in the Falkirk Ironworks, went to Glasgow with the excursionists, and when there, called at the house at which the deceased served. The door, the youth states, was opened by an elderly man, who said that Miss Macpherson “was not at home.” Desirous of seeing her, the youth stayed in Glasgow over Sunday, during which he again called at the house of Mr Fleming; was again met by the same old man (apparently Mr Fleming, the eldest) and received the same answer – namely, that she was not at home. This time, however, his name was asked and given, on the understanding that it would be handed, with compliments, to Miss McPherson. No more was heard of her till the Glasgow morning papers announced her frightful and singularly mysterious death. One of the Glasgow detectives was in town on Tuesday morning, endeavouring to gain some clue to the perpetration of this “mystery of Glasgow.”
We may assume that the murder is the all-engrossing subject in Falkirk, where the deceased, from having passed the bulk of her life here, was personally known to almost everybody in town. She was a most superior-looking person, and had the peculiar faculty of making friendships and retaining them. There has naturally been a great deal of inquiry regarding the most likely perpetrator of the dreadful crime, and the probable motive of the murderer. Nothing definite has, however, been arrived at. In addition to the circumstances mentioned, we learn that the deceased had written during the last week to a person in Falkirk, that for about three weeks she had not been on good terms with one of the Fleming family. We hear a number of other rumours – some of them with a deal of feasability – but pointing in a direction which it would not be prudent to refer to further in the meantime.
Glasgow Morning Journal, Thursday 10th July, 1862, p.2.
THE SANDYFORD PLACE MURDER.
PROGRESS OF INVESTIGATION.
The excitement in the public mind increases as time goes on without bringing aught but an occasional gleam, as it were, from a chance source, to dissipate the gloom that envelopes the mystery. Each day and hour, indeed, has brought new, if minute, items of intelligence, all requiring consideration in any attempt at solving the dark riddle, and giving rise to conjectures of a most opposite and varied kind. The prevailing suspicion was undoubtedly attracted to Mr Jas. Fleming, and many were the queries why, at the earliest stage of the investigation, he had not been apprehended. His extreme old age, however, the possibility that the infirmities of years had prevented him seeing and hearing what a younger man would have been expected to have seen and heard of a desperate struggle for life taking place under his feet and but a few yards from him, the excess of wickedness which had to be supposed in one so old and holding his position committing such a crime, combined to make highly improbable to the minds of some the idea of his being the culprit. The patient research of the authorities, judiciously slow even to cast the slur of suspicion on the unhappy old man, resulting in no definite clue to suspect elsewhere, no alternative was left them but his apprehension; and accordingly, yesterday forenoon, on a warrant of the Sheriff, he was taken into custody while in the house in Sandyford Place, and conveyed thence to the County Buildings. Meanwhile the startling information was given to the police authorities that the missing articles of silver plate had been pawned on Saturday last, at 1 p.m., in Mr Lundie’s pawn-office, No. 8 East Clyde Street, by a young woman. This strange discovery gave a new direction to the inquiry, a direction, it was hoped, that would speedily lead to the apprehension of the murderer and the total removal of all suspicion from the old man, whose sad position excited universal pity. Pity, how much called forth by the more than possibility of his innocence, how impossible to withhold, not unmixed with horror, by the supposition of his guilt. Every detail that could be gleaned from Mr Lundie’s assistants, to whom the young woman gave the articles, was carefully collected, but indeed amounted to little more of use for practical purposes of detection than the fact that it had been a young woman who pawned them. On handing the articles over the counter from one of the enclosed boxes, common to all pawns, she had given the name of Mary McDonald. Being asked by the young man where she had got the silver plate, she stated that it belonged to her mistress, who resided at No. 5 St Vincent Street, and that she had been sent with them to the pawn in order to raise a few pounds required by her mistress to meet a pressing claim of the landlord for rent. There were 27 articles in all, some of them silver, and others silver-plated, bearing the crest of the Flemings, and for these she received the sum of £6 15s., leaving immediately afterwards. Mr Lundie himself was absent at the time, and states that the slender inquiry into the pawner’s circumstances, and the whereabouts of her obtaining the goods, was reprimanded by him whenever he heard of it. A circumstance that requires accounting for, however, is why the authorities were not sooner informed of these articles being pawned with Mr Lundie, a bill particularising the missing goods having been sent round all the pawn-offices on Tuesday forenoon. This bill, it is said, was overlooked by the assistant clerks, and it was not till yesterday morning, when reading the account given of the stolen property in the newspapers, that the idea was suggested that the articles pawned on Saturday were those missing. As a matter of course, the name and address given by the woman have turned out to be fictitious, No. 5 St Vincent Street being untenanted, and the soi-disant Mary McDonald or her “mistress” nowhere to be found. On the track, however, with a tenacity and zeal that will surely be rewarded with success, our city detectives are now most earnestly engaged. She is described as being somewhat pale complexioned, with a faint tint of red on her cheeks, oval faced, hair of a light or sandy colour, and about 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 5 inches in height. Apparently about 22 years of age, decently dressed, so far as her garb was visible from the counter upwards, arms and hands white, as if unused to the manual labour of servant work, she might have been taken rather as earning her bread by the needle than in domestic service. Her position in the box prevented her dress being seen well, and the only article she wore, the style of which can at all be recollected by the young man who transacted the business with her, was a neat bonnet, trimmed with brilliant coloured flowers. Whither has Mary McDonald gone? Into the seemingly impenetrable darkness that is over all the case, not again to emerge therefrom, or will this prove the happy clue to the labyrinth in which conjecture at present wanders? Some light, it was anticipated on Tuesday night, would have been thrown on the affair by a Mrs Mary Downie, housekeeper, at Troon, a most intimate personal friend and old acquaintance of deceased; and, yesterday, she having been sent for, arrived to tell what she could of her dead friend’s antecedents, her position in her service in the Sandyford Place house, and other places where she had been working. Mrs Downie is the person spoken of in yesterday’s Journal with whom the deceased entered into partnership in opening the small grocery in Gray Street. She states that, so far as she knew, “Jess McPherson” never had any male friend in the habit of visiting her, as a lover, during all the time they lived in the same house. Mr James Fleming at times “dropped into the shop to crack a while,” and then left again, but he paid no more attention to deceased than towards herself, and appeared to her to take rather a fatherly than any other interest in the prosperity of the shop. Deceased was of a quiet, reserved nature, and didn’t “care about men,” having met with a “misfortune” in early youth, while in Falkirk, where she had been the sweetheart of a young man, now in Australia. Being compelled to close the shop, from losses sustained through bad debts incurred by working people unable to pay what they had obtained on credit, their affairs were as far as possible wound up, and a person employed to collect all the debts due to them, deceased then leaving for Lancashire. On her return, she in no one case prosecuted one of her debtors, and Mrs Downie is of opinion that, from the gentle disposition and conduct of deceased, no malicious feelings could have been engendered in the breast of any one towards her. This seems somewhat to exonerate the aged man, his interest in deceased being stated by Mrs Downie to be that of a father, and nothing more, while the statement made by a cotemporary, that “bad blood may have been engendered through little lawsuits,” is shown to be unfounded. Other persons, however, speak to a knowledge of statements made by deceased, that her master’s father had repeatedly asked her to marry him, and had been as repeatedly refused. Mrs Smith, residing at 49 Richard Street, states that when conversing with Jessie McPherson about a fortnight ago, on being asked how she was getting on in her “place,” said that she was getting on well enough, but she also complained of the old man using an expression regarding her that led Mrs Smith to believe she was annoyed by his old-mannish ways. Two persons intimate with deceased state further that deceased often spoke of how ardently she was entreated by Mr James Fleming to marry him. That the deceased did so say and tell her intimate acquaintances cannot, we think, knowing the concurring information, admit of a doubt; but it may be that the story of her courtship by her employer’s father has had no foundation other than her own fancy, feminine vanity having frequently been known to err in this respect heretofore. Mr James Fleming, after his apprehension, was detained all day yesterday in the County Buildings. Shortly before three o’clock, in presence of Sheriff Strathern and Procurator-Fiscal Hart, Procurator-Fiscal Gemmill entered on the examination of the prisoner, the wonted caution having been given him to answer no question that he might feel objection to. The examination lasted till shortly after seven, the old man, replying to the questions with an iron calmness of aspect that one would suppose impossible in the guilty, and was surprising in the innocent. At half-past seven, after this searching examination, a crushing trial one would think to a person so old, he emerged from the Sheriff’s chambers with the most composed and placid appearance. The opinion of the fiscals that he should be committed for future examination was only arrived at, we understand, after a perplexing deliberation, many facts having, while the prisoner was making his declaration, been elicited in support of his innocence. He was, however, committed, and immediately thereafter conveyed in a vehicle to the North Prison. His age is now known to a certainty to be 87, documents existing showing that he was born in August, 1775, and is a native of Glasgow. He has throughout all his long life been resident in the city, and is consequently widely known. About 5 ft. 7 in. in height, he is remarkably hale and vigorous, appearing rather a man who has not yet reached three score and ten, and who certainly has few of the frailties of that age. Ruddy complexioned, wiry frame, somewhat bent by years, but still strong, he looks like one who has lived a careful life in youth, and who seems reaping the benefit of that in a hale old age. A more melancholy sight, and one which could more readily call forth the sympathies of any one, however callous, than this old man, alone in the hands of the law, being led away to prison under suspicion of such a crime, can hardly be conceived. It is earnestly to be desired that some other solution to the mystery may be found, one less revolting to natural feeling, than that which could implicate this prisoner. The recovery of the stolen silver plate is most suggestive of mercenary motives towards the murder, but in following out the theory that the crime was committed by a mere robber, the question at once arise – Why so mangle the victim? how account for the washing of the kitchen floor – the deliberation shown in washing the blankets? And, indeed, with the exception of the single fact of theft having been committed, the appearance of the scene of murder is against the supposition of robbery having been the original motive to the deed. It is now thought the murder was consummated in the bed-room, where the blood stains were most plentiful, into which the unfortunate woman seems to have run, followed by her murderer. Whether she was unrobed or not at the time of the struggle is uncertain. On the floor of the bed-room can be discerned the mark of a foot stocking-clad, and the body having no stockings on when found, this may be a sign unwittingly left by the murderer. That the body has been dragged along the passage and floor face downwards is also surmised, the thigh-bone and knee bearing abrasions as if made by being dragged along the floor. Deceased, though tall, was of slender form, and is said by her foster-sister not to have been really strong, though healthy. Her remains, it is intended, will be buried to-day. It is not positively known whether any of her clothes have been stolen from the house, but being of saving disposition, she was usually well clad, and several articles of dress she is known to have been possessed of, among other two silk frocks and a cloak, cannot be found. She received her half-year’s salary, £7, in last May, and every vestige of that having gone too, unless she has herself disposed of it in banking or otherwise, theft in this case also has been committed. Carefully avoiding mere gossip, rifest in such a matter, and giving only what we have ascertained from trustworthy sources, without attempting in the least to theorise or conjecture on the mystery, the matter may here be left to the coming day which will doubtless solve this, as time has solved many other and equally dark problems.
Dundee Courier, Friday 11th July, 1862, p.4.
MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN GLASGOW.
COMMITTAL OF JAMES FLEMING ON A
CHARGE OF MURDER.
(From the ‘Daily Mail’ of Thursday.)
An event took place on Wednesday which so far corroborates the suspicions that have been pointed in one direction, and which, if not approved by every one; is not likely to be condemned by many as either harsh or hasty – we refer to the apprehension, examination, and committal to prison of Mr James Fleming, the old man who was in the house on the night on which it is believed the murder was committed. At the first indication of the murder the absence of all inquiry on the part of the prisoner as to the cause of the disappearance of the deceased, although he heard screams during the night, notwithstanding a partial deafness, was accounted by all a mysterious circumstance which had not been sufficiently explained; but apart from this negative evidence, there were positive facts, not only suspicious in themselves, although clumsily explained, but provocative of the impression that there was much more behind. Thus some of the blankets in the bed-room in which the murdered woman was discovered were found to have been washed, but not with the address of a female, the crimson spots having been removed in some measure, though remaining clearly perceptible on a close examination. Again, some linen, which had been recently dressed, was found in a drawer in which the prisoner’s underclothing was usually kept, stained with spots and a goodly sized blotch of blood, the explanation of this being, that it had been placed by the deceased on the “winter dykes” on Friday, and that on Saturday he had taken it carelessly down and put it past. Moreover, the room in which the prisoner slept was situated on the ground floor, and immediately above the kitchen in which the fearful conflict in all probability took place, so that it is but reasonable to suppose that the noise of the scuffle must have been heard with warning distinctness; and besides this, any one quitting the house by the front door must have passed his bedroom; yet nothing occurred he avers, to awaken his suspicion. As stated on Wednesday, the house in Sandyford Place has been repeatedly examined from top to bottom, but excepting the numerous painful records of the deed in the kitchen and bed-room, no blood has been found on the walls or furniture. Minute inquiries have, of course, been made as to the relationship of the prisoner and Jessie Macpherson; and as this is a material element, it may be well to mention the opinions entertained on this point by the friends of the deceased. It is stated, on the one hand, that the conduct of the prisoner towards the deceased, whom he had frequently visited while she kept a shop in Grace Street, Anderston, was always respectful and kind, even going the length of proposals of matrimony; and, on the other hand, that he had made advances which, whether dishonourable in their nature or not, were at least exceedingly distasteful to her; for it is alleged that she had told one of her friends, on the Sunday before her death, that her life was made miserable owing to the manner in which he came about her.
The examination of the prisoner took place yesterday before Mr Sheriff Strathern, and lasted for about four hours. Of course, like all preliminary inquiries in such cases, it was conducted with closed doors; but we understand it resulted in the prisoner being committed for further examination, and removed shortly after to the North Prison. It may be mentioned that, although the prisoner gives himself out as being eighty-seven years of age, his appearance is not that of a person so far advanced in life. He looks a hale, robust man, capable of some degree of active exertion, and with his mental faculties comparatively unimpaired.
[Repeating the information regarding the silver plate.]
… The subjoined wearing apparel which belonged to the deceased, and is known to have been taken away, has not yet been recovered:- Black watered silk, sometimes worn, and in good condition, a silk dress, or skirt, of a changing colour, with two flounces, a black silk polka, a black velvet cloak, a drab cloth cloak, and a black harness plaid. The story told to the pawnbroker seemed so plausible, the party offering the articles apparently so respectable, and no robbery of the kind having been reported by the police, that he had no compunction in at once taking the plate in pledge, giving L.6 15s. for it. So little did the assistant suspect that the goods had been got in an improper manner, that he thought no more of the circumstance until he read in the newspapers of the discovery of the robbery, when he at once communicated with Mr Lundy, who instantly informed the police of the matter…
[Details again giving the false name and information given by the young woman.]
As if to render still more complicated the appearances of the case, various theories have been propounded respecting the motive which may have led to the commission of the crime. While deceased kept a shop in Grace Street, Anderston, debts were incurred to her by many persons, some of whom she sued, the result being that they were ordered to pay up by instalments, and the hypothesis has been hazarded that perhaps some one who stood indebted to her, smarting under the means taken for the recovery of debt, had compassed her destruction. This seems a very improbable solution of the mystery, and fades away in the attempt to grasp it.
Dundee Courier, Tuesday 15th July, 1862, p.4.
THE MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN SANDYFORD PLACE.
(From the ‘Glasgow Mail’ of yesterday.)
APPREHENSION OF THE PLEDGER OF THE PLATE.
We are happy to be able to announce that the woman who pledged in Mr Lundie’s the silver plate belonging to Mr John Fleming, of Sandyford Place, which is supposed to have been stolen on the Saturday of last week, after the committal of the brutal murder, has been apprehended, and is now safely lodged in the Central Police Office, South Albion Street, until she can be brought before the Sheriff.
On a previously concerted plan, Captain McCall, of the Central District, Captain Robb, of the Southern Division, with Messrs Wm. Smith, Audley Thomson, and — Mackay, sub-inspectors of detectives, proceeded yesterday afternoon, between three and four o’clock, to the private dwelling house of James McLachlan, who resides in Broomhill Street, between James Watt and Brown Streets. Here they made a few inquiries, and then apprehended the man and his wife, whose name is Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan.
Mrs McLachlan is a native of Inverness, and was at one time a servant in Mr Fleming’s house. She was acquainted with Jessie Macpherson several years ago, with whom she was a fellow-servant, and was married out of Mr Fleming’s house, four years ago. She is a woman of about twenty-eight or thirty years of age, slender made, fair complexion, and rather above the middle height. She has rather a ladylike appearance, and seems to have suffered much mental agony during the week that has passed since she visited Mr Lundie’s. She is very pale, but composed, and altogether a determined-looking woman. Her husband, we believe, had nothing to do with the matter, although, of course, in view of the serious investigation which is going on, and his intimate connection with one of the chief parties concerned, the authorities could not do otherwise than take him also into custody. He is second mate on board of the screw iron steamer Pladda, which plies between Glasgow and Cork and Waterford, and in her he sailed from here on Thursday before the murder, not returning to the Clyde till last Thursday. It is said that the woman McLachlan was seen entering Mr Fleming’s house on the Friday night of the murder. She was twice called before the Sheriff and the Procurators-Fiscal during last week, as an acquaintance or “friend” of the deceased, to see if she could throw any light on the mysterious matter; but not a word did she let drop to explain anything connected with the murder. She admits that she gave the things in pawn at Mr Lundie’s, and says she got them from old Mr Fleming on the Friday night; but we understand she left home after ten that night, and did not return till Saturday about nine in the morning bringing with her a bundle. Sheriff Strathearn and Messrs McCall and Robb searched the house last night, but found nothing to inculpate her or her husband; but of course they entered into no official investigation at that time. To-day, the prisoners, McLachlan and his wife, will be fully examined, after which we trust we will be enabled to give further particulars in regard to this all-engrossing topic.
The ‘Falkirk Herald’ of Saturday in reference to the call made by a young man from Falkirk at Mr Fleming’s house, mentioned in the ‘North British Daily Mail’ of Saturday, says:- “We have made particular inquiries at the young man Darnley (about 17 or 18 years of age), and his statements are as follow:- I called at six or shortly after six o’clock on Saturday evening at the house of the Flemings, in Sandyford Place. After ringing the bell, there was rather an unusual delay, when an old man between 70 and 80 (as I thought) opened the door. I asked if this was Mr Fleming’s. ‘Yes,’ was the reply. I then asked ‘Is Jessie Macpherson here?’ ‘No,’ was the reply, as if the old gentleman did not hear my question distinctly. On repeating the question, he answered ‘Yes.’ I asked ‘is she in?’ and received for answer ‘No.’ I asked ‘Di ye no ken whaur she is?’ Answer – ‘No.’ I then asked, ‘Has she been lang out?’ and the answer was, ‘She has been out a long while.’ Having told him I was leaving by an evening train, and having given my name, I left. This conversation was conducted by Mr Fleming on the door step. On Sabbath I returned. The senior Fleming again came to the door. This time I was accompanied by an acquaintance, Mr Jas. Walker, who, however, stood at a distance from the house. I again asked if Jessie Macpherson was at home. The answer was, ‘No.’ I then said, ‘She’s surely often oot the noo?’ Having said there was a person waiting on me (James Walker), I left. Mr Fleming seemed, as I thought, cool. The information here given suggests a number of queries – pertinent and suggestive.”
Crowds of people again congregated yesterday about Mr Fleming’s house in Sandyford Place, and displayed their morbid curiosity by peering into it as narrowly as they could. The police, however, kept them at a somewhat respectable distance. None of the deceased’s missing clothing has yet been discovered, although, of course, this is not much to be wondered at, seeing the police were chiefly on the hunt for the woman, whose capture is above reported. Old Mr Fleming still remains in custody, and doubtless the apprehension of yesterday will have a material effect on his position.
We understand another woman has since been apprehended, as being concerned in the murder. They will be brought up at the Police Court this morning.
(From afternoon edition of ‘Morning Journal.’)
The Central Police Court was crowded this morning with persons anxious to obtain a look of Jessie McLachlan, the young woman who has confessed that she pledged the silver-plate on the morning of the murder in Sandyford Place, and who is now very strongly suspected of having herself committed, or taken a part in the committing of that fearful crime. Bailie Brown was the presiding magistrate, assisted by Mr Cunningham as assessor. The hon. the Lord Provost also took a seat on the bench, although officially he took no part in the proceedings of the Court. Before it was opened the husband of Mrs McLachlan was led to a seat beside the score of prisoners whose cases were to be disposed of, and after one or two prisoners had been remanded for the further consideration of the charges against them, his wife was brought in, and with him was brought to the bar. Without any inquiry, and doubtless to the disappointment of the crowd gazing intently upon them they were ordered to be remitted to the Sheriff for examination, and were then taken out of the court. Not only were they not questioned but they did not offer any remark; but moved into and out of the court, as if they were taking part in dumb show. The female prisoner was very pale, but barring that sign, exhibited a demeanour which was indicative of stoical indifference or great mental firmness. She is tall, has very regular features, and a very good figure; indeed, with regard to physical appearance, she has been highly favoured by nature. The husband was well dressed, looked like his profession (that of a sailor), is about thirty years of age, and much more than his wife, seemed not like a person who had to do with an atrocious crime; and indeed not only his appearance speaks in his favour, but so do those who are acquainted with all the facts of this mysterious affair. Though he has been remitted on the charge of being connected with it, when the officials do venture an opinion with regard to him, that opinion is to the effect that he is quite innocent of the murder. It is, therefore, believed that he will easily be able to prove that he was not in Glasgow at the time when the crime was committed, but with his vessel (the Pladda) at a port in Ireland, so that we need not be surprised if we learn in a day or two that he has been liberated. A few minutes after the husband and wife were thus remitted, the latter was conveyed in a cab to the County Buildings, and the former in ten minutes after was taken to the same place in a similar manner. They were to be examined to-day before Sheriff Strathern, he being the Sheriff who has been hitherto taking cognisance of all the evidence bearing upon the murder. We have now to state those facts which we have ascertained as having transpired between the apprehension of these two prisoners and their being handed over to the Sheriff, and which do not appear in our previous edition of to-day. As we have already stated, they were, shortly after their incarceration in the Central Police Office, stripped and their persons carefully examined, and as we have already said, there was not the slightest sign indicative of a recent struggle upon the person of the husband. But unfortunately for the female prisoner, she did not come out of the ordeal so successfully; for although there was no mark or abrasion upon her face, body, lower limbs, and arms, there were wounds upon three fingers of one of her hands, as if they had been bitten, and two other marks as if they had been cut. With regard to these very suspicious circumstances against her, she volunteers the statement that the bites had been caused by a little dog she kept, and the two other marks with a knife by her son, who, by the way, is three years and a-half old, and who since his mother’s apprehension has been in the care of the police authorities. With regard to the bites – which, however, as we are informed, are not like the bites of a dog – her statement is so far plausible, inasmuch as it is true that she did keep a little dog in her house. Although she is very cautious in what she says, and professes an entire ignorance of anything connected with the murder, yet she seems anxious to account for the pledging of the silver-plate, respecting which, at her apprehension, she said she knew nothing at all. She says – and of course her story must only be taken for what it is worth – that Mr James Fleming called upon her on Friday night, about eight o’clock, and asked her to pledge the plate; that she asked him why he did not get Jessie McPherson to go to the pawn-office for him? that he replied that she was busy and could not get out; that she (the prisoner) then told him that all the pawn-offices were shut at that hour; that it was thereupon agreed that she would fulfil his commission the next day; that she did pledge the plate at one o’clock the following day; that he again called at three o’clock and obtained the proceeds, of which he gave a large part to her; and that he thereafter left her with the intention of going to the Highlands.
It may also be stated, with regard to the pledging of the plate, that Mr Lundie’s assistant, who took it from her, called at the Central Police Office after midnight this morning, and having been shown the prisoner, at once identified her. She as unhesitatingly recognised him, and recalled to his remembrance some words which she had made use of when offering the plate in pawn. When on another occasion the remark was made to her that she would have acted more like an innocent person had she given herself up at the earliest stage of the inquiry into the murder, she says that that is quite true, but that she did not give herself up because she was afraid that she would be detained. She also states that after she had informed her husband last Friday night, that although she had nothing to do with the murder, she had pledged the plate at the request of old Mr Fleming, he had insisted she should give herself up, and that they had agreed she should do so on Monday (yesterday). Her apprehension arose from the following circumstance:- Captain Robb called upon Captain McCall, stating that he had reason to believe that the witness, Mrs McLachlan, had to do with the murder. He said that he had ascertained that she had left her own house at 10 o’clock P.M. on the Friday before the day on which the plate was pledged; that she had been out all night, and had returned next morning with a bundle in her possession. It was thereupon arranged that they should watch the house at the Broomielaw to see if anything would transpire, and not allow her to escape. They did so for several hours, and at three o’clock apprehended her in her own house, as we have already stated. Whilst we are going to press, she, her husband, and old Mr Fleming are being examined in the County Buildings by Sheriff Strathern. We may state that the woman who was apprehended in Holm Street, and whose name is Mary Blair or Frazer, was not remitted to the Sheriff at the Police Court this morning. It is, however, expected that she will prove an important witness in connection with the washing of the bloody clothes of the deceased.
Dundee Courier, Wednesday 16th July, 1862, p.4.
THE MYSTERIOUS MURDER AT SANDYFORD PLACE.
(From the ‘Morning Journal.’)
EXAMINATION OF THE PRISONERS.
On arriving at the County Buildings, Mrs McLachlan was at once taken into Sheriff Strathern’s Chambers; and Procurator-Fiscal Gemmel, after the caution that she was not bound to make any statement that might implicate herself, proceeded to examine her. From 11 o’clock forenoon till 5.30 the wretched woman was interrogated and re-interrogated, being frequently confronted with her husband and old Mr Fleming, who had been brought down in a cab from the North Prison. With a collected mind throughout this long trial, yet, from the pallor of her countenance, evidently suffering great mental agony, she preserved a composure that showed an iron will and a nature of more than ordinary feminine strength. The woman Black or Fraser was also examined at some length, but her story in all respects coinciding with what she from the first stated, and there being no ground whatever for suspecting knowledge of, or complicity in, the deed on her part, she was liberated after a few hours’ detention. James McLachlan’s assertion that he had been with the Pladda on the night of the murder, sailing between Glasgow and Waterford, admitted of easy proof, and an officer was therefore sent down to the Pladda in order to ascertain the truth of the statement. His story here received sure confirmation. The Pladda left Glasgow on Thursday 8th inst., at 12 noon, and at the time the dreadful tragedy – of so much and so terrible moment to McLachlan – was being enacted, he was with her, far out on the deep. About 5 p.m. he was liberated, and, taking his departure by a private door from the County Buildings, escaped the observation of the large crowd, which, from an early part of the day, had been waiting for a glimpse of “Mary McDonald.” An honest, industrious, and in every respect, so far as known, thoroughly respectable man, his position drew forth the earnest sympathies of all around him, even of those whose large experience of criminal life is supposed to be hardened to feeling in like scenes. At 6 o’clock, exhausted with the ordeal she had gone through, but still maintaining the same outward calmness, Mrs McLachlan having been committed for further examination, was brought out of the Sheriff’s Chambers in charge of an officer and placed in a cab which stood waiting for her at a side door in Brunswick Street. An immense crowd had collected round the vehicle, and on the appearance of the woman, accompanied by the officer, a rush was made by some of the more eager, who pressing back the policemen standing round the cab, succeeded ere it was driven away, in catching a glimpse of her countenance. She was taken to the North Prison [Duke Street Prison], whither also had gone Mr James Fleming, whose detention there, it is generally hoped, will not now be long.
Dunfermline Press, Wednesday 16th July, 1862, p.4.
THE SANDYFORD PLACE MURDER.
ARREST OF “MARY MCDONALD.”
This most extraordinary and exciting of all events has received a new development, as unexpected and surprising as any of the many incidents which have united in making this the engrossing topic of the day, and one of the most remarkable in the records of crime. The discovery, on Sabbath, of the anxiously sought for “Mary McDonald,” in the person of Mrs McLauchlan, a young and married woman, startled even those whose whole minds had been occupied with the investigation of the mystery. Before marriage, Mrs McLauchlan had been a fellow-servant of the deceased McPherson, and, as one her intimate friends, had last week been twice examined by the Fiscal, to see whether she could throw any light on the case – being all the while the identical “Mary McDonald,” who represented herself as a servant with a lady at 5 St Vincent Street, and pawned the silver plate with Mr Lundie a few hours after the murder. No suspicion of a definite nature was attached at any time during the investigation to McLauchlan. About four or five years ago, while Jess McIntosh, “before being married to her husband, McLauchlan, who is employed as a seaman on board the Pladda,” sailing between Glasgow, Cork, and Waterford, she served for sometime in Mr Fleming’s family, and was not only then, but afterwards, also, seemingly a close friend of Jessie McPherson. In the afternoon of Sabbath, however, information having been received which directed attention to the woman McLauchlan, Captain McCall, with Captain Robb of the Southern District, Sub-Inspectors Smith, Thompson, and McKay, all of whom have been engaged, to speak within strict limits of the truth, night and day, with untiring energy in the pursuit, proceeded about three P.M. to her house at 182 Broomielaw, and there ascertained certain facts which at once confirmed what had only been at first a slight suspicion, that she was the woman they had so earnestly been looking for. When first interrogated, she pretended to know nothing of the silver plate, nor saw any reason why suspicion should attach itself to her. The house was thoroughly searched, her husband interrogated, and also a female lodger in the house, her own story heard; and confirmation sure being had that she was the woman wanted, she was at once apprehended. Her husband was also taken into custody; and, we understand, terrified by the position of his wife, whose culpability to a certain extent he knew, confessed that last Friday night she had told him that it was she who had pawned the silver plate, asserting, however, her innocence of the murder. He alleged that he himself had till then not the slightest idea of his wife’s knowing anything about it. Both were conveyed quietly away from their house in a cab, their child, but an infant, being left in the charge of a woman in the house. On their arrival at the Central, a strict examination was made of their persons, and the woman again interrogated. Seeing a pretence of ignorance no longer of avail in face of the accumulated evidence against her, she confessed to having pawned the articles, narrating under what circumstances, and strongly denying having taken part in or any knowledge of the crime. Her story is that she received the plate from James Fleming late on Friday night, but till further scrutiny has confirmed it, strong doubts may be entertained that it is altogether false. She is said to have been absent from her own house all Friday night. Of her husband the facts as yet ascertained have been exculpatory. He is stated to have been from home during the night of the murder, having left Glasgow on the Thursday previous in the Pladda for Cork, returning the following week, and this, if confirmed, removes all suspicion from him. His person, we may add, on being examined, exhibited no trace of recent blow or scratch, as might have been the case had he taken part in the struggle that preceded the murder. Cognisant of the robbery as the woman McIntosh or McLachlan has been, her conduct during the past week, supposing she continues her assertion of innocence, is extraordinary. Examined twice before the Fiscal on the murder, she stated she could give no clue, and that her relations with deceased had always been those of the utmost friendliness. Talking to a small circle of the friends of McPherson, she told somewhat humorously how old Mr Fleming had, under her cognisance, been troublesome to “Jessie,” making love to her against her often expressed wish that he would desist. One notable circumstance, indeed, attending her examination, not thought of at the time, but now recalled, pregnant with meaning, is that when first visited by the detectives she obstinately refused to tell them anything at all, however unimportant their inquiries might be, and it was not till cautioned strongly of the sharp mode in use to make such refractory witnesses speak that she gave any minute item of information she might conceive suitable. That she was always on the best terms with the deceased we have, as a fact, not only from her own lips, but also from those of Mrs Mary Downie, who, along with Jessie McPherson, conducted the grocery in Gray Street. Mrs McLachlan, says Mrs Downie, dealt with them, purchasing or getting on credit any groceries she might want, and if there was one person more than another whom “Jessie” liked it was she. At the time the business stopped, Mrs McLachlan was in debt to them, which had not yet been paid. The debt not being paid had not, however, caused any coldness between them. Her appearance is like the description first given by Mr Lundie’s assistant. Tall, pale-complexioned, auburn hair, apparently about 26 years of age, she looks altogether unlike a person whom one could suspect of being accessory to crime so horrible as the Sandyford Place murder. Of the articles of wearing apparel belonging to the deceased, some of them have, we understand, been found in McLachlan’s possession, but certain of them are still sought for. After despatching McLachlan and her husband to the Central Police Office, the detectives proceeded, following up the clue they had obtained, to the house of a woman of rather questionable reputation in Holm Street, and apprehended her also. She is supposed to have had, with Mrs McLachlan, a knowledge of and connection with the murder.
Scotsman, Wednesday 16th July, 1862, p.6.
THE GLASGOW MURDER.
EXAMINATION OF THE MCLACHLANS.
… A feature of some importance has come to light since the apprehension of the prisoner. As formerly stated, the authorities were convinced that the bloody foot-marks on the floor of the bed-room were not those of the old man Fleming, or of the deceased, for these reasons:- The foot-print was that of a person having a “high instep,” and old Fleming has not this form of a foot, he being plain-soled, and the mark was too large for the foot of deceased. When the feet of the prisoner were examined, it was discovered that she had a high instep, and it is suspected that the marks on the floor are likely to correspond with her feet. That a female was present when the deed was done, there cannot now be a doubt. – Glasgow Herald.
The N. B. Daily Mail of Tuesday says:- “Old Mr Fleming retained the calm collectedness he has shown throughout the case; and we understand that yesterday, while the case was being alluded to in his presence, he exclaimed, ‘The Lord will send light that will soon clear me.’ We learn that the woman McLachlan told her husband, after his return on Thursday, that she pledged the articles for old Mr Fleming, who gave her them on Friday night in her own house about eight o’clock, and that he said he wished a little money to enable him to take a trip into the Highlands, telling her not to give her own name, as the articles would be soon relieved. She further said that he gave her £5 of the money received at Mr Lundie’s office (£6, 15s.) It is known that she paid £4, 10s. of rent last week, besides buying some other small articles, which may account for her stating that she got so large a share of the money. James McLachlan recommended his wife to give herself up as the pledger; but this she refused to do, and hence, as he knew the matter would come out, he did not go with his vessel on Saturday as usual. The house in which the McLachlans live has two rooms and a kitchen, and the kitchen and one room is sub-let to Mrs Campbell, also the wife of a sailor, and who likewise belongs to Inverness, and knew Mrs McLachlan before she came to Glasgow. The parties all enter from the same door, and the McLauchlans got to their room by passing through Mrs Campbell’s room. Mrs Campbell, who was at the County Buildings yesterday as a witness, and a most important witness she is, has stated, we believe, that Mrs McLachlan went out about ten o’clock on the Friday night, and that she went to bed soon after, leaving the door on the latch, thinking that Mrs McLachlan would soon be back again, especially as she had left her child of three years of age in bed. About four o’clock, however, she was awakened by the child’s cries, and these continuing and increasing for some time, she went in and found that Mrs McLachlan had not returned, and that the child was still alone. She, of course, comforted the boy. The mother did not come in till about nine o’clock, when she appeared to have something rather bulky under her shawl. Mrs Campbell was requested to put on a fire for her; and after Mrs McLachlan had had breakfast she went out, and did not return for several hours, during which time she no doubt pledged the articles. Mary Black or Fraser, the other woman who was apprehended on Sunday, after the McLachlans, was also examined as a witness yesterday. We understand that she is a charwoman or washerwoman, residing in Holm Street, and acted as a help for a considerable period at Mr Fleming’s house. She was also well known to Mrs McLachlan, and went about her house at 182 Broomielaw Street, having previously known her when she was servant to Mr Fleming. She has said, we are creditably informed, that Mrs McLachlan asked her to go down on the Friday to keep her boy of three years of age for a while, as she was going out. This, however, she avers she did not do, on account of some friends having come, and detained her until she thought it was too late to go. After her examination, she was set at liberty. It was through this woman’s daughter, we understand, that the clue was obtained which led to the apprehension of Mrs McLachlan.
The Falkirk Herald of Tuesday says:- “We understand, from Agnes McPherson (who resides in Falkirk), and with whom the deceased Jessie McPherson was brought up by the parents of the former, who are both now dead, that James Richardson, the putative father of the murdered girl – whom he neglected throughout life, and whom he would not have known had he seen her alive – has had the effrontery to go into Glasgow with the view avowedly of claiming any money and effects his late daughter may have left behind her.”
Dundee Courier, Wednesday 16th July, 1862, p.4.
THE MYSTERIOUS MURDER AT SANDYFORD PLACE.
(From the ‘Morning Journal.’)
THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING DRESSES.
In the afternoon of yesterday, Capt. Robb and other officers, accompanied by several labourers, proceeded to the premises in which the McLachlans lived, and raised the flat stones of the close which led to their dwelling. They were induced to enter upon this undertaking from their having learned that last Thursday Mrs McLachlan had employed a plumber to repair her water-closet, the piping of which had been stuffed, and that that tradesman had as he himself stated – pushed down this obstruction, so that a free or partial passage was obtained. The officers of police conjectured that the obstruction might be caused by the dresses of the murdered woman, pressed into the piping of the water-closet by Mrs McLachlan on the Wednesday, having then heard that the missing silver plate had been recovered, with the hope that all traces of the dresses would be destroyed, if it so happened that her house should be searched. These officers, however, were unsuccessful in their efforts; for, in the drain under the flags which carried off the water from the water-closet, they found no wearing apparel, nor pieces of wearing apparel. Their conjecture was therefore wrong, or the dresses had been washed into the common sewer. The water-closet and the ash-pit behind the house were also searched in vain. We may here remark that all hope of discovering these dresses, so essential as pieces of evidence, is not yet abandoned; but we consider it most prudent to withhold our information of what steps are being taken to arrive at this discovery.
THE WASHER-WOMAN MARY FRAZER.
With regard to Mary Black or Frazer, who was apprehended in her lodgings in Holm Street on Sunday evening, we have to confirm what we said, that she was arrested, not at all with the hope that it would be found that she has had anything to do with the murder, but with the hope that she may prove a witness to some circumstances, however indirect they may be, connected with that crime… These facts are to the effect that she is a char or washerwoman, lodging in a sunk flat at 128 Holm Street; that she ran messages and washed for Mrs McLachlan; but she declares that she never washed any of her body clothes, all her washing being confined to the sea-going clothes of James McLachlan. She further states that on the Friday before the murder she carried some articles she had washed for Mrs McLachlan to her house in the Broomielaw; and that, after remaining there for a short time, she left about half-past nine at night, and at ten o’clock reached her lodgings in Holm Street, which she did not quit that night. Her not going out after this hour is confirmed by the person with whom she lodges. All culpability is therefore completely taken away from Mary Frazer. It should be added that she positively declares that she did not wash any clothes for Mrs McLachlan last week, and that she is quite ignorant of the murder or of anything that can criminate Mrs McLachlan.
THE MURDER STILL MYSTERIOUS.
It is thus seen that McLachlan is, for herself, very unfortunately and dangerously implicated in the foul deed at Sandyford Place. Nor does public sympathy derive much relief from the idea that she, a young, good-looking, well-reputed married woman, may be the guilty one. What took her from her own home and her poor child to the fatal house at Sandyford Place? Ten o’clock at night was not an hour at which Jessie Macpherson was likely to have invited her. She could scarcely have gone with a deliberate design to commit murder, for she appears to have made her absence from her own house little of a secret. Yet she must have got admittance, for the house was not broken into. The murder appears in itself, and in its motive, and in the train of circumstances in which it arose, to be as mysterious as ever, although there is incomparably greater assurance that conviction will be brought home to the guilty.
Falkirk Herald, Thursday 17th July, 1862, pp.2 & 3.
THE SANDYFORD PLACE MURDER.
For the convenience of the readers of the Weekly Herald, we give consecutively a number of paragraphs regarding this mysterious case; taking up the narrative at the point left off in the Weekly Herald of last week:-
THE EXTREME MYSTERY OF THE MURDER.
A number of bold and distinct facts have been elucidated, but when collated and analysed, do not go far to dissipate the palpable mystery in which the crime is shrouded. It would require the power of sifting evidence possessed by Edgar Allan Poe, or the keen metaphysical acumen of Thomas de Quincey to solve the problem from the facts presented, so it is not surprising that up till to-day the Glasgow Police Detective Force should have been partially baffled. I have heard the question discussed on several occasions, and may say that the prevailing opinion among a majority of the inhabitants is, that the old man Fleming, though aged 87, has been justly apprehended. Living in the house with the murdered woman, he had at least the opportunity of committing the crime, and the callous remissness which he displayed in instituting no inquiry regarding her for the space of nearly three days, naturally drew suspicion on him; but then the broad decided fact has transpired, since his apprehension, that there is a woman in the case…
MARY MCDONALD’S COMPLICITY.
I think I am warranted in stating that she must have been accessory to the murder, either during or subsequent to its perpetration. Does this not remove all suspicion from the old man? By no means, say a large section of the community, who being determined to have somebody hanged, would with willingness sacrifice Mr Fleming for lack of another victim. The old man was hale and hearty, they add, and may have taken advantage of his son’s absence to introduce an improper character into the house, which the deceased would no doubt object to if she made the discovery, and then a struggle might ensue, and unintentionally resolve itself into a most bloody murder. The deed being done, and no chance of interruption, the washing of the kitchen, lobby, and blankets might be set about, and the plate entrusted to the young woman to dispose of. The washing of the kitchen prevented the old man from seeing the blood, and the absence of the silver spoons and toddy ladles suggested the idea of robbery, and so was calculated to throw the police off the scent. The authorities expect to prove, by the imprints of footmarks on the floor, that another woman than the deceased was actually in the house, and she must either have been admitted by old Fleming, or by Jessie McPherson herself. In old Fleming’s favour it is urged, in accordance with ascertained facts, that he has been examined naked from head to heel, and no marks of having been engaged in a struggle found upon his person. There is neither a scratch nor a bruise upon him, and no spots of blood on any clothes which he had worn. The cooking of his own breakfast was not an unusual occurrence, and he was frequently known to purchase his own groceries and provisions, so that, though living in his son’s house, he might maintain an appearance of independence. On Monday morning he called, when collecting rents, at a shop in the Briggate, and there partook of rolls and milk, stating at the same time that he could not get his breakfast as his servant had disappeared. This, of course, is a material point in his favour. But then on the other hand, the washing of the blankets and the floor, does not suggest the idea that the murder was committed by a stranger. What object, it is asked, could a stranger have in wasting time in washing the house, when his or her first impulse would be to take flight? The putting of the house in order could be no benefit to a stranger, as it would never be supposed that the murder would not be discovered as early in spite of that precaution.
THE WASHING OF THE FLOOR.
Some strong Flemingites advocate the far-fetched, and, I must say, improbable, notion, that the washing of the floor was meant to delay the discovery, and thus gain time; but time could not be esteemed of very vast importance by the murderer, when the stolen articles were not pawned till one o’clock P.M. If old Fleming was a party to the horrible crime, he must be possessed of either and icy heart or an iron nerve and resolution, or he could never have slept in the same house with the mangled remains of his innocent victim. Moreover he went to church twice on Sunday, and heard the service with great composure, as the Rev. J. Logan Aikman, of whose congregation he was a member, is prepared to testify…
THE APPREHENSION OF MR FLEMING, SEN.
However improbable, if not impossible, the guilt of this aged person may be, it will at once be seen that it was not easy to avert suspicion from him. He was alone in the house with the now murdered woman, he had ample opportunity to perpetrate the tragedy, if he was able and willing, and he had leisure to wipe or wash away its traces. Then there is his extraordinary apathy, or unaccountable neglect, in not rousing himself up when he heard, as he states he did hear, the screams proceeding from McPherson’s bed-room, and his still continued remissness in making no inquiry about her during more than two days, and only reporting her disappearance upon his son’s arrival at Sandyford Place on Monday afternoon. Finally, we have the circumstances that some slight traces of blood are visible upon a shirt belonging to the old man, which had been dressed by the deceased, and which he readily admits to have been removed by him from the kitchen and placed in his drawer, subsequent to her disappearance.
MR FLEMING, SEN.’S ECCENTRIC HABITS.
We have heard that the elder Fleming was a man of rather eccentric or peculiar habits, and to those who knew him, it did not appear at all strange that he should have cooked his victuals in the absence of the servant, as in early life he had been a weaver, and was then in the habit of cooking his own meals. He was in the habit, and, indeed, fond of this work, even when all the family were at home; and he has been known, often and again, to purchase tea and sugar for his own consumption, although he had these, of course, abundantly at his disposal in his son’s house. Indeed, it was nothing unusual for him to rise before the servants were up in the morning, and kindle the kitchen fire – a duty which lay entirely with the domestics, and one with which he had nothing to do. But these acts tend to allay any feeling of surprise at his conduct in the kitchen after the servant’s disappearance.
BURIAL OF THE MURDERED WOMAN.
The remains of Jessie McPherson were interred in Sighthill Cemetery on Thursday. The hour of burial had been kept as secret as possible, but ere the arrival of the funeral coach, about 1 p.m., at the Western Police Office, a large crowd had collected, many of whom, after the coffin had been brought out, and the funeral proceeded on its way to Sighthill, followed it thither. The only person attending the funeral were the husband of the deceased’s foster-sister and a few other of her male acquaintances.
(From our Glasgow Correspondent in Saturday’s Herald.)
… This dark tragedy must be of unusual interest to the people of your town; for I understand that the deceased came originally from Falkirk, but I assure you that this interest cannot equal that which is taken in the crime by the people of Glasgow – a better instance of which I perhaps could not give you than by stating the fact that the house in which the murder was committed has been visited by large numbers, just to obtain a sight of the outside of the building. With regard to the motive of the crime, there is no doubt that it was not robbery, for although some valuable articles were amissing, yet a great many still more valuable and as accessible, were left untouched. Besides, had the murder been committed by a robber, he would not have washed up the kitchen, so as to hide the traces of a deadly struggle; nor would he have washed some of the blood-stained clothes, nor have dragged the body of the victim from the kitchen to her bed-room, and then have stripped and left it almost naked. A robber loses no time to leave the scene of his crime. What makes the mystery still greater is, that a murderer usually does the same.
And so ends part 1 of the Pre-trial round-up of the case, as it stands, against Jessie Mclachlan and old Mr Fleming, for the brutal murder of, respectively, her best friend and his servant. This case has some interesting twists and turns in it, so, I hope you’ll join me again for the 2nd part of the pre-trial journey. Take care.
Narration by Jenny
Art by Alex
Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson
Greysteil by Paul Burns.