Hi and welcome to the last part of our 2nd case, from our Glasgow’s Square Mile Murders series, that of Jessie McLachlan for the murder of her best friend Jessie McPherson. This will be part 6, the verdict & aftermath, of this mysterious case and there are quite the revelations still to come. So, we’ll get into it.
Dundee Advertiser, Monday 22nd September, 1862, pp.2-4.
Immediately on the conclusion of the charge, the jury expressed a wish to retire, and then were conducted out of Court. The prisoner also was removed for the time. After an absence of about twenty minutes, the jury returned to the Court, and the prisoner having been brought back,
The CLERK of COURT said – Gentlemen of the Jury, what is your verdict?
The Jury then all stood up.
Mr HOLBORN FYFE, ship chandler, Greenock, as foreman of the jury, said in a clear and distinct voice – The jury are unanimously of opinion that the prisoner is guilty of both charges as libelled.
A pause succeeded, during which all attention was directed towards the prisoner. The deathly pallor of her countenance seemed to increase, but the same strength of will she has heretofore displayed was again shown… Her counsel, it was expected, would have something to say, and expectation was awake to hear it, a rumour having passed around the Court while the jury were absent, that an extraordinary statement was to be made either for or by the prisoner. Mr Clark went forward and spoke to her for some time, Mr Dixon, her agent, also taking part in the conversation. After some discussion, Mr Clark handed the prisoner a paper, and throwing up her veil, she stood up as if to speak, but sat down again irresolute, and handed the paper to Mr Clark. During the interval, the Clerk of Court was employed in writing out the sentence, and had handed it up to the Judge for signature.
The ADVOCATE-DEPUTE then rose and said – I move for sentence.
Mr CLARK – My lord, I understand that the prisoner desires to make a statement before sentence is pronounced, either by her own lips or to be read by some one for her.
Lord DEAS – She is quite at liberty to do so in any way she prefers.
The prisoner, throwing her veil off her face, and standing up in the dock, in a loud and distinct voice, said:- I desire to have it read, my lord; I am as innocent as my child, who is only three years of age.
Mr CLARK, amid the breathless attention of the Court, then read the following:-
EXTRAORDINARY DISCLOSURE BY THE PRISONER.
On Friday night, the 4th of July last, I went up to Fleming’s house to see Jessie McPherson. I had been up seeing her that night fortnight, and had promised to come up again that night. We generally arranged on Friday night for my coming, as she then had most time, none of the family but the old man being at home; and I usually went late, to let the old man away to bed, because, being of a jealous and inquisitive turn, he prevented us from talking freely. The old man was always very glad to see me, and very civil any time he happened to be in the kitchen, when I went to see her… [Mrs Fraser & I] parted at the Gushet House about ten minutes past ten. I went up North Street to the house of Mr Fleming in Sandyford Place. I went to the front door, and Jessie answered the door. She told me the old man was in the kitchen, but took me down stairs. The old man was sitting in the big chair in the kitchen when I went in. He said – “Oh, is that you Jessie; how are you.” There was bread and cheese and a tumbler and glass and two plates on the kitchen table. I sat down on a chair at the end of the table next the door. Soon after the old man, without saying anything, rose and went up stairs. I gave Jessie the bottle I had brought. She filled out a glass of rum for me, part of which I took, and then poured out a glass for herself, and she took it, and then put away the bottle and glass in the press. Soon after the old man returned with a bottle and glass in his hands. He filled out scarcely a glass of spirits, and gave it to me. I tasted it, and he told me to take it up, but I did not, and he poured the rest back into the bottle. Jessie, in a displeased way, said to him that that was not the way to treat a person – that he ought to send it round. He said, “You ken, Jess, we have had twa three since the afternoon” – that he wouldna mind, but that Mr Fleming had said before when they were left in the house that they had done well with the drink, and spoke about them using so much, although the old man said that it had been used by young John. He added, “However, if you haud your ill tongue I’ll give you half-a-mutchkin, if you’ll go or send for’t.” She said, “I’ve a tongue that would frighten somebody, if it were breaking loose on them.” The old man said something as if to himself, but I did not hear what. He poured the whisky into a tumbler, on the table, and handed the bottle to me, and at the same time gave me 1s 2d, and made me go out for half-a-mutchkin… Jessie gave me the key of the back door into the lane, and I went out by the kitchen back door, leaving it open and locked the lower door after me, and went down Elderslie Street, and along the first street that crosses it as you come out from the house, and along to North Street, to a whisky shop in North Street, very near right across from the end of the first street where it leads into North Street. It is a shop near the top of North Street, on the right hand side coming up from St Vincent Street, and not far from Mr Gaw, the flesher’s. It would be a minute or two after eleven o’clock when I got to the shop. It was shut, but I knocked twice or thrice, as there was a light inside visible at the top of the shutter, but I did not get admittance; so I came back along Sauchiehall Street, and down Elderslie Street, and round the corner into the lane behind Sandyford Place. I saw Mrs Walker, the grocer’s wife, standing at her own close mouth, with her bonnet and shawl on, and another person whom I did not know speaking with her. When I got to the back of No. 17 Sandyford Place, I opened the lane door, and went in and locked the door behind me. I found the kitchen door shut, that which I had left open. I knocked, but received no answer. I then went to the kitchen window and looked in. The gas was burning, but I saw nobody in the kitchen. I rapped at the door with the lane door-key, and after a little old Mr Fleming opened the door. He told me he had shut the door on “them brutes o’ cats.” I went into the kitchen, and put the money and bottle on the table. The old man locked the door, and came in after me. I told him the place was shut, and I could get nothing. I then said, “Where’s Jessie? It’s time I was going away home.” He went out of the kitchen, I supposed to look for her, and I went out with him. When in the passage, and near the laundry door, I heard her moving in the laundry, and turned and went in past the old man, who seemed at first inclined to stop me. I found Jessie lying on the floor, with her elbow below her, and her head down. The old man came in close after me. I went forward, saying, “God bless us, what is the matter?” She was stupid and insensible. She had a large wound across her brow. Her nose was cut, and she was bleeding a great deal. There was a large quantity of blood on the floor. She was lying between her chest and the fire-place. I threw off my bonnet and cloak, and stooped down to raise her head, and asked the old man what he had done this to the girl for. He said he had not intended to hurt her; it was accident. I laid her hair all down, and she had nothing on but her polka and her shift. I took hold of her, and supported her head and shoulders, and I bade him fetch some lukewarm water. He went out into the kitchen. I spoke to her and said – “Jessie, Jessie, how did this happen?” And she said something I could not make out. I thought he had been attempting something wrong with her, and that she had been cut by falling. He did not appear to be in a passion; and I was not afraid of him. He came in again, bringing lukewarm water in a corner dish. I asked him for a handkerchief and some cold water, as the other was too hot. He brought them in from the kitchen and I put back her hair and bathed away the blood from her face, and said she was sore cut. I said to the old man, however, “Did he do such a thing as that to the girl?” and he said he did not know, and seemed to be vexed and put about by what had happened. I asked him to go for a doctor, but he said she would be better soon, and he would go after he had got her sorted. The old man then went ben the house again, and I supported her, kneeling on one knee beside her. In a little she began to open her eyes, and come to herself, but she was confused. She understood when I spoke to her, and gave me a word of answer now and then, but I could get no explanation of things from her, so I just continued bathing her head. I bathed it for long time, till she got out of that dazed state and could understand better. I asked here whether I would not go for the doctor, and she said, “No, stay here beside me.” I said I would. I did not trouble her much with speaking to her at that time. While I was sorting at her head, the old man came into the room with a large tin basin with water, and soap in it, and commenced washing up where the blood was all round about us, drying it up with a cloth, and wringing it into a basin. I had raised Jessie to sit up, and was sitting on the floor beside her. As he was near us, he went down on his elbow, and spilled the basin with a splash when he was lifting it. He spilled the water all over my feet, and the lower part of my dress, and my boots were wet through. After Jessie had quite come to herself I had a handkerchief which the old man brought me at request, and which I bound round the cut on the brow. I assisted her to rise off the floor, and took her over to a chair, near the bedside. She was very weak and unsteady on her feet, and she asked me to put her into bed. I was not able to do it, and I asked the old man to help me, and we put her into bed just as she was. After she was put into bed I continued bathing away the blood from the nose which continued bleeding a little. When put to bed, I took a crotchet night cap, which was hanging on the looking-glass, and put it on the top of the handkerchief. The old man was drying and redding up the blood and the water that had been spilt over where Jessie had been lying. When she was put to bed she appeared to be getting weaker, and lay with her eyes shut, and I said to the old man that the doctor should be got now. He came and looked at her and said, “No, there was no fears, and that he would go for the doctor himself in the morning.” I thought she was asleep, but she had heard what was said, and turning her eyes to me she said “No.” I understood her to mean that she did not wish a doctor brought at present. She lay in bed till the morning was beginning to break, or till, as I supposed, it would be well on till three o’clock. She had been sleeping and gradually came to herself again, and I thought there was no danger. Latterly she spoke a good deal to me as I sat by the bedside when the old man was out. He sat awhile by the beside after redding up the floor; but he rose and went ben to the kitchen and was going about both ben the house and up stairs. I heard him chapping up the fire, and moving about; and when I went ben to get her a drink of water, I observed he had put the teapot to the fire, I supposed for her. He was but and ben several times, but afterwards came and sat down at the bedside, and remained there till she rose. I was twice in the kitchen during this period – once when I went in for water to her, and once when I took my boots and stockings (which I took off after the water was spilt on them) to the kitchen fire to dry. She told me that on a Friday night, some weeks ago, there was a gentleman in the house who had remained all Thursday night in it, and until the Friday afternoon, when he left, and that old Mr Fleming had conveyed him to the station. She said he was a friend, and she mentioned his name, but I can’t remember it, and that the old man left with him at four o’clock on the afternoon of the Friday she spoke of, and that he did not return till eleven o’clock, when he was gie’en tipsy. He asked her to help him off with his coat, which she did, when she went down stairs, and to bed. She said that between one and two in the morning, he came down to her room, and in alongside her in the bed, and tried to use liberties with her; she made an outcry about it, and was angry then, and spoke to him next morning about it, and said she would tell his son, her master; that he begged her to say nothing about his having done so, or that he had come home the worse of drink; that unless for the drink he would never have done it; that there had been words between them ever since; that the old man was in terror in case it would ever come out about what she had told me, and that he had offered her money, but that for her own character she never went to tell Mr Fleming upon him. But she said she was going to Australia at any rate, and that she was determined to make the old rascal pay well before she left, and she would make him pay for this too. She said that after I went out for the half-mutchkin, they had a great quarrel, and he was very angry because he had thought, when she said that about her tongue breaking loose, she was hinting a threat to tell me. She said they had words on the same subject during the day, and when it began again on my going out, she left the kitchen to take off her stays. which were uneasy, and that she took them off, and had her petticoats untied after that, when she was struck by him. She had given him some words on leaving the kitchen, and he was fighting and using bold language to her in the lobby after she was in the room, and she was giving it him back while loosing her stays, and that when he was there and going to take them off she went and shut the door to in his face, and that he came back immediately and struck her in the face with something and felled her. What I have stated was told me by Jessie during the time I sat with her. It was not told me all at once, but it is the substance of what she said. We did not speak on any other subject. She also asked me if she was badly cut, and I said she was, and she said when the doctor came in the morning she would need to tell him some story or other how she got it. I asked the old man once when he came into the room how he had ever allowed himself to be provoked to strike the girl after his own doings with her. He did not give me a direct answer, but just said it couldna be helped now, although he was very sorry, but he would make everything right to Jess and make up for it, as Jess very well knew, and if I would never mention what I had seen, he would not forget it to me. I said it was a pity I had anything to do with it, and that I did not know what to do, as I had left my child without anybody in charge of it. Jessie said the lodger would take care of him, that I could go away before the doctor came, but that if she must tell about this in the morning, or when Mr Fleming came home, she was afraid she would just have to tell who did it only. This was before the old man, who said, “No, no, Jess, ye’ll no need to do that;” and he begged me never to say anything about this matter, and he would put everything to rights. I said I had no occasion to speak of it, and I promised never to mention it, and Jessie and he could take their own way. He would not rest content till I would swear it, and he went upstairs and brought down the big Bible, with a black cover on it, and in presence of Jessie, he made me swear on the Bible, by Almighty God, that I would never tell man, woman, or child, anything I had seen or heard that night between him and Jess, and he said he would swear never to forget it to either her or me. He said that he would make her comfortable all her life. After this he sat at the bedside. About three o’clock, I would suppose it was, Jessie told him to go away ben the hoose. He said he was very weel where he was. She told me she wanted to rise and make water, and she got up in bed. I told the old man to go away for a little, which he did, and I helped her out and assisted her. She said after she rose that she felt very still and cold, and if she could get ben to the fire. I put a blanket round her, and called to the old man, and he and I took her ben to the kitchen. She walked ben, assisted by us, but I think she could have gone herself. She sat down on the kitchen floor at the fire, on a small piece of carpet. The old man at my bidding went ben to the bed room, and brought ben the pillow and bed clothes, and put the pillow under her head, and the blankets on her, and ticked them in below her. Some time after that she fell asleep for a while, but wakened, and complained that she was too near the fire, and moved herself, with our help, without rising from the floor to her feet, away from the front of the fire, and turned herself, so that she lay with her feet in towards the fire and her head further from it, and between the table and the press, or in that direction. She lay in this position for a good while. The old man was sometimes about the kitchen when I remained, and sometimes about the house. He was ben in the bed room more than once. After lying there in the kitchen a considerable time, Jessie got restless and uneasy, and complained of feeling worse. I thought she was getting worse, and I brought her water. In a very short time (I would suppose at this time it would be between four and five) she got worse very rapidly, and she said to me to go for a doctor. With that I drew on my boots and went into the bed room and threw on the merino dress, which was hanging there, over my own, as it was all wet and draggled, and I put on my cloak and bonnet. As I came out of the bed room the old man was coming down the stairs, and I said to him that Jessie was very ill, and I was going for a doctor, where would I go to? He said he didna ken where any doctor lived near, but wait a minute till I see how she is. I knew there was a doctor in the neighbourhood, and without waiting for him, because I thought he did not want a doctor, and I wished one brought at once, I went upstairs to the front door, but found it locked, and the key was not in it. I went down into the kitchen again, and he was leaning over Jessie with his hands on his knees looking at her. I went forward and asked him for the key, and saw that Jessie had become far worse than when I left her. I thought she was dying. She appeared to be insensible, but not dead, as she was moving. It was the first time I thought she was going to die, and I saw the girl was dying, and I insisted on him letting me out for a doctor. He said he would not. He would do it in his own time. I went up stairs again and into the parlour and opened the shutters, and put up the back window to see if I could see any one stirring about the back of No. 16 or the other houses, but saw no one. I was leaving the parlour to go into the dining-room, to look out in front, when I heard a noise in the kitchen, and I turned down stairs as fast as I could, and as I came in sight of the kitchen door I saw the old man striking her with something which I saw afterwards was the meat chopper. She was lying on the floor, with her head off the pillow, and a good piece along the floor, and he was striking her on the side of the head. When I saw him I shrilled out, and ran forward to the door crying to him, and then I got afraid, when he looked up, and I went back up the lobby and part of the stair, where I could not go farther, as I got very ill with fright and palpitation of the heart, to which I am subject. My fright was caused by hearing him coming out of the kitchen, and I thought he meant to murder me, and I stopped and leaned or held to the wall on the stair without the power of moving, and began to cry “Help, help.” He came to the stair-foot, and said to me to come down, he was not going to meddle me. I saw he had not the cleaver in his hand as he came; and I cried, “Oh! let me away.” He said he would do me no harm. I said the girl is killed, and what was I going to do, and entreated him to let me away. He came up and took me by the cloak, and said that “he kent frae the first she cou’dna live, and if any doctor had come in he (Fleming) would have to answer for her death, for she would have told.” I was crying, and said, “Oh, what am I to do out of my house all the night, and Jessie killed.” He said, “Don’t be feart, only if you tell you know about her death, you will be taken in for it as well as I; come down, and it can never be found out.” I went down to the kitchen in great agitation. I did not know what to do. I was terrified, because I was in the house and saw the body lying there, and myself connected with her death. He said – “My life is in your power, and yours is in my power; but if both of us would keep the secret it never would be found out who did it, and that if I would inform on him he would deny it, and charge me that I did it. He said it was as much as our lives were worth if either of us said a word about it. So he bade me help him to wash up the blood from the floor, but I said I could not do it if I should never move. He took the body by the oxters and dragged it ben into the laundry, and took the sheet and wiped up the blood with it off the floor. The sheet and the blankets he had thrown up off the floor on to the end of the table, and when he took off the sheet to wipe up the blood I saw the chopper, all covered with blood, lying beneath it, or else it rolled out of it on to the table. I beseeched and begged him to let me go away, and I would swear never to reveal what I had seen, in case of being taken up for it myself as well as him. He said that the best way would be for him to say that he found the house robbed in the morning, and to leave the larder window open. He brought the dresses from Jessie’s room into the kitchen, and said if I would take them away, and buy a box and take them by some railway out of the way to some place, or to send the box to some address by the railway to be left until called for, that it never could be found out what had become of the clothes. He said that I knew very well he liked Jess, but he was sure that from the first that she would not be able to recover from what he had done to her at first, and when I asked him what tempted him ever to strike her, he said I knew Jess had a most provoking tongue, and that she had been casting up things to him, and he was mad at her; that he had no power of speaking whiles, when she was at him, and that he had just struck her in a passion; and that even on the Sunday night before he had just been on the brink of doing the same thing to her. He “dichted” up the floor and the lobby with a clout, and took ben the blankets and the sheet, and the hacking knife, and the bit carpet into the bed-room. He came back and burned something I don’t know what – clothes of the girl’s. He got some water about the sink in a tin basin, and washed himself. He had taken off his coat, and was in his shirt sleeves since after the time he killed the girl. His shirt was all blood when he took it off to wash himself, so he put it into the fire. He put on a clean one off the screen, and went ben to his own room and changed his trousers and vest I think. He then went down to the cellar for coals, brought them up, and put them on the fire. The bell rang. he bade me open, but I said “No, I’ll not go to the door; go yourself.” It was the milkboy. The old man took no jug up with him. He was in his shirt sleeves when he went up, but in a coat when he came down again. He brought no milk with him. After that he brought the plate, and said I had better take this and pawn it in Lundie’s pawn, in the name of Mary McDonald or McKay, No. 8 St Vincent Street, and nobody could trace it. He afterwards said, I had better pawn it, but put it away in some place with the dresses. He told me that I would get a tin box in any ironmonger’s for 5s, and to take the things through to Edinburgh, where I was not known, and find some water where they could be sunk and never heard of. He took out his purse and gave me £1 7s. I consented to take the things, and promised never to breathe a syllable of what had passed. He said if I did, it would be my life as well as his, and that he would set me up in a shop and never see me want. I went out from the house after eight o’clock, it might be half-past eight, taking the things in a bundle. He opened the back door for me, and came down and opened the lane door with the key. I went along the lane westward and home down by Kelvingrove Street, along the Broomielaw, where I met the people coming from their work, and I went up Washington Street to avoid them, and down James Watt Street again, and in by the back court into my own close by the court door, and up the stair, where Campbell let me in.
Lord DEAS – Jessie McLachlan, according to the evidence laid before us, the position in which you now stand is this:- You are a member of a respectable family in Inverness. You were at one time a servant in the house of Mr Fleming, and had an opportunity, both then and subsequently, of being well acquainted with everything in that house, and with the state of the family. You were married to a husband apparently in a respectable position in life, but it is the conduct of the individual, and not position in life which makes respectability. It has been stated in your behalf that he was earning wages at the rate of 30s a-week, and that he gave you the whole of that. You had only yourself and one child to maintain, and although you were not in strong health, were your habits and conduct what they ought to have been you could not have had much difficulty in maintaining yourself and child. It has been stated by your sister on your behalf that your brother was in the habit of giving you money, all indicative of the propriety of conduct and respectability of the family to which you belonged. Nevertheless, whatever you did with the money, you were very much in want of money upon that Friday the 4th of July, of which we have heard so much. The deceased, Jessie McPherson, was your most intimate friend. You had been in service with her a long time in the same house. She had trusted you with grocery goods when she had a shop, and has said to one witness that she lent you money, not long before this. It is now, then, certain that she was always towards you most kind and affectionate, and there can be no doubt that she would have trusted you by day or by night, and that the last thing that would come into her head was that her life was in danger at the hand of you, a most intimate and apparently a most affectionate friend. In that state of matters, you left your own house on the night of Friday, and went to the house in which Jessie McPherson was residing. You would, of course, have no difficulty in getting admission there, and you would have no difficulty in framing some probable excuse for sleeping with her all night, and it is now stated, upon your own confession, that you did remain there all night, and in the course of that night – in what precise manner or time is not quite known – in the course of that night, and apparently towards the morning, when probably she was asleep, you did attack her there with that cleaver – that deadly instrument which you saw here – or with some other deadly instrument, and did disable her, and although apparently she may have recovered to some extent from the first blow, you did repeat these blows until you made upon her body all the numerous wounds spoken to by the medical witnesses, and the result of which was her death. Whether you did it in bed or in the kitchen, whether partly in the one or partly in the other, whether after you had disabled her in bed, she had so far recovered as to struggle into the kitchen, and you there continued your bloody work, and dragged her body back to that room after she was disabled, we know not; but we do know this – according to the evidence before us, that upon that night you did most barbarously and most cruelly murder that unsuspecting woman, who believed you up to that hour to be the best friend she had in the world. Of that crime you have been convicted by the unanimous verdict of as intelligent and attentive a jury I ever saw in the box, after a trial of very unusual length, conducted with the greatest possible patience, and all the inquiries having been pursued with the greatest possible care, and when your defence has been conducted in the ablest manner in which a defence for a prisoner could be conducted, and, as I have said before, by a counsel than whom there is no more able counsel at the bar of this country. Everything has been done for you that talent and judgment could do, and after all the attention given to the case, you have been found guilty by the unanimous verdict of a jury, in which I must say I entirely concur. You chose to put in a defence to the effect that a gentleman, whose character up to this time has been unstained, was the murderer, and that you were not the murderer. You have chosen to repeat that statement now, with all the details to which we have now listened.
The prisoner – Well, my Lord, I wish -
Here the officers of Court beckoned to the prisoner to be silent, and she at once desisted.
Lord DEAS continued – I said to you that no doubt primarily it is my duty in such a trial to seek for the conviction – if there is evidence to convict – of those who are guilty – but I sit here, and the just sit there, to protect the innocent, especially the innocent who are absent and cannot defend themselves, and it is my imperative duty, after what has now been stated, to say that there is not upon my mind the shadow of a suspicion that that old gentleman had anything to do with the murder. And if anything had been awanting to show how dangerous it would be to the lives and liberties of people in this country, if the statement of criminals who are capable of committing such a crime were received – if evidence were awanting to show the danger of such statements being given the least credibility or repute, the paper which has been read to us would be quite sufficient to satisfy me of that. I have been counsel for prisoners who have stood in the same position in which you now stand, and I have been frequently counsel against prisoners such as you, and I have had the misfortune to sit as I now do upon the trial of persons who stand as you now do, and I am bound to say that I never knew one instance in which the statements made by those persons after conviction were anything else than in their substance, falsehood, and that the result of all my experience leads me to the conviction that the person who will commit such a crime as you have committed, is quite capable of saying anything. If a statement such as you have now made were to pass for truth with the authorities of this country, there would be an end to the lives and characters of men. Your statement does not convey to my mind the slightest impression – it conveys the impression of one of the most wicked falsehoods I ever listened to. In place of your statement throwing suspicion upon the old man, I think that, if anything were wanting to satisfy the public mind of that man’s innocence, it would be that most incredible statement which has now been read. Be that as it may, I must act upon the evidence and the verdict. The evidence has been led and considered by the jury, who have unanimously returned a verdict finding you guilty. I cannot do otherwise than say that I concur in that verdict, and that no other verdict would have been consistent with the ends of justice. In that state of matters, the law leaves me no alternative whatever but to pronounce the sentence against you, which I now do. His Lordship then, having assumed the black cap, in the usual form sentenced the prisoner to be executed on Saturday the 11th day of October, between the hours of eight and ten o’clock A.M.
The prisoner, who had listened to his Lordship throughout with strained attention, though weeping silently, then quitted the dock without any expression of feeling.
Caledonian Mercury, Monday 22nd September, 1862, p.4.
… His Lordship very solemnly concluded by the usual words: – This is pronounced for doom. May God Almighty have mercy on your soul.
At the conclusion of the sentence, the prisoner said in a voice which was scarcely audible – “Mercy; aye, He’ll hae mercy, for I’m innocent.”
The prisoner was then removed from the bar in charge of the Governor of the Prison; and the large crowd quietly retired from the court-room.
Caledonian Mercury, 22nd September, 1862, p.2.
THE intense interest the public have bestowed upon every effort to pierce the mysteries of the Sandyford Tragedy has been amply rewarded by their dramatic conclusion. In a few weeks, and the last scene of all, when a quivering life will be sent from the gallows to a tribunal where all secrets are known, will close the most frightful narrative of blood that has perhaps ever darkened the annals of Scotch crime… The newspapers failed, after the most laudable efforts, to satisfy the public craving for light; the three days’ evidence of last week come short of that actual certainty when one would like to see the fatal blow struck before pronouncing unhesitating confidence in the verdict; then there is the third and strangest tale of all – that told by the prisoner herself – of which at present it is not too much to say that it is on its own showing – incredible. There is then superabundant information forthcoming; but, saving the strongest circumstantiality against the prisoner, a cloud still remains to tantalise the attention of all the morbidly curious… It is not often that the sensitive public conscience has the opportunity of satisfying itself on the admissions and allegations of a prisoner, additional to those contained in the declarations; and it is now a clear certainty that the conclusion to which the jury have come will be examined, and if possible justified, by the circumstantial details narrated for the prisoner, before sentence. Assuming, therefore, that the verdict is the necessary result of the evidence, how stands the case as Mrs McLachlan puts it?
Now, the first question which occurs to one after reading her statement is this – Why have we not heard of it before? Why was it not candidly made to take the place of her lying declarations? It is said, as we believe her agents aver, that her “amiable nature” venerated the sacredness of the oath which old Fleming made her take on the Bible in the presence of the deceased when the first assault was made? That question can only be put in ignorance of the fact, that when the alleged oath was taken the murder had not been committed. All she swore then not to reveal was the assault, from which, according to her own showing, the deceased might have recovered. The oath had no reference to the murder, for that event seems to have taken place hours after the oath she speaks of was administered. Let us admit, however, that the oath did refer to the murder, and that the whole story is true as she tells it, can it be credited that a woman falsely charged with murder, in place of telling the truth about what admittedly she saw, takes to concocting lies in the shape of declarations, for no better reason than to save the guilty, to whom she was under no obligations?.. Then, we know not what to make of old Mr Fleming as she describes him. It is like a first experience in an abattoir to read of the cool ferocity, then of the drivelling insipidity, anon of the kindly attentions, and then, again, of the consummate plotting of the old man… he is painted as absolutely without conscience – without even that quickening sense at the sight of blood that drove an English madman the other day into the woods after dealing one murderous blow. He is represented to be cruel enough to attack his victim twice within the lapse of three hours; to have battered away with a cleaver at the head of his victim, in utter disregard of every principle and feeling of humanity, and then merciful enough to bathe the aching temples he was destroying inch by inch; to have been cunning enough, on the conclusion of the terrible scene, to devise measures so as to make it appear that the murder was committed for theft, and yet fool enough to believe that after all his participation in the crime he would remain undiscovered. Then, as regards her share in the event, it is left simply for the world to be amazed at her timid courage all that fearful night, and her reverence for the oath she had taken ever afterwards… why, however, was this statement not forthcoming before the verdict? and why – most singular coincidence – does it tally so well with some part of the evidence that tell hardest against herself? and, in a document so minute, why have we no reference even to that struggle – that hand-to-hand encounter – that is fully proved by the medical testimony to have taken place?
Our answer to these questions is simply this – Mrs McLachlan, in attempting to incriminate the old man Fleming, has written a confession. The fiendish resources of her nature have spent themselves in one last desperate attempt to appear angelic. If Jessie McPherson fell not by her hand, neither did she, for aught the panel says to the contrary, fall by the hand of Mr Fleming; and how likely a person she is to commit a murder – and such a murder! – is proved, not merely by the coolness with which she has acted in all her attempts at hiding the bloody evidences of her guilt, nor by the unexcited way she has undergone the ordeal of preliminary investigation and imprisonment, but by the stoical effrontery with which she has met the gaze of the Court and the searching scrutiny of the witnesses… It is indeed rarely that we find such a libel, coming almost from the scaffold, as has now shadowed the remaining days of poor old Fleming. His life has been for ever embittered with a wrong which can never be redressed. It is true, indeed, that the indignant language of Lord Deas wards off successfully the accusations of the prisoner; but he will now have to totter to the grave with the ghostly sounds of a false and murderous accusation in his ears, backed by all the solemnity with which the world regards utterances from a felon’s cell… We heartily agree with Lord Deas when he says, speaking of her extraordinary allegations – “If such statements as we have now heard were to pass for truth upon the authorities of this country, there would be an end to the safety of the life and character of every man.”
Dundee Courier, Tuesday 23rd September, 1862, p.3.
THE GLASGOW MURDER.
MRS McLACHLAN’S STATEMENT.
The agents for Mrs McLachlan have forwarded to the ‘North British Daily Mail’ the following explanation regarding the extraordinary statement read for the prisoner, at the close of the trial:-
SIR, – We think it right, on behalf of Mrs McLachlan, to acquaint the public with the circumstances under which the statement read for her before sentence to-day was made to us. When we first visited her in prison to obtain information for the defence, she gave us to understand that the statements in her declarations contained what she had to say in the matter. At that time she had not been made acquainted with the fact that old Mr Fleming had been liberated from prison, and, on two subsequent visits, she insisted to us that Mr Fleming would surely clear her. At a subsequent interview we informed her, in reply to her repeating that expectation, that Mr Fleming had been discharged from custody. At this she manifested great astonishment, and said she could not believe that to be true. In consequence of our explanation as to Mr Fleming, she inquired of the matron of the prison, who could not consistently with prison regulations, give her any information on the subject, and she thereupon sent for her husband to ascertain beyond doubt whether our statement was correct. having assured herself as to this, she sent her husband with the intimation that she had a communication to make to us. Both Mr Dixon and Mr Strachan were out of town, but Mr Wilson went to see her on Tuesday, the 12th of August last… Mr Wilson communicated to Mr Dixon (Mr Strachan being still absent from town) on that day what she had told him, and on the following day (13th Aug.), Mr Dixon went to see her on the subject. The statement was repeated to him, and notes taken of it at the time. From these notes taken by Mr Dixon on this occasion, and from further conversations with her had by Mr Dixon and Mr Strachan together, in regard to the details, the statement which was read to-day was written out. It was written out as nearly as possible in her own words, and repeatedly gone over with her, not with any view of using that written statement as a declaration, but for counsel’s information in consulting as to the course to be taken upon it. The statement we received from her was immediately thereafter submitted by us to counsel, with a view to our being advised as to the use to be made of it in the defence. Subsequently, after the indictment was served, and upon anxious and most deliberate consideration of the case which could be made out against Mrs McLachlan, we were advised not to admit that she was present in Mr Fleming’s house on the night of the murder, by putting in the statement as a special defence. It was judged expedient to contest the point of her presence in the house that night, as the Crown evidence – it appeared to her advisers – would fail to place that point beyond doubt. It was in consequence of this decision – (based upon the feeling that, in an issue of life or death, no admission, especially one of such vital importance, should be volunteered by the defence) – that the statement was not made use of at the commencement of the trial. Mrs McLachlan sent for her counsel and agents, and expressed to them her desire and determination that the statement should be made in open Court; and she wished, if it could not be read for her, to make the statement with her own lips. The statement was accordingly read for her, and counsel’s copy of it, signed by herself, was thereafter lodged in the hands of the Clerk of Court. – We are, &c.,
J. A. DIXON.
W. M. WILSON.
Sept. 20, 1862.
THE PRESS ON THE TRIAL.
(From the Daily Review.)
This morbidly inquisitive “old wretch,” who was always nosing his servants, and was known to be specially inquisitive about Jessie finds on the Saturday morning that Jessie is not to be seen, and allows three days to elapse, under most suggestive circumstances, without making the least inquiry about her? Does this tally with the man’s character, even as laid down by Lord Deas? Was the man who could not let a girl go to the back-door or the lane without being immediately after her likely to allow three days to elapse without making any inquiry whatever as to the whereabouts of Jessie McPherson? It is not in human nature to do so. It was certainly not in his nature. He accounted for the fact of his not making inquiry very differently on Wednesday when, under Mr Clark’s cross-examination, he allowed an admission to be wrenched from him never alluded to by Lord Deas. “Why did you go to the door,” asked counsel, “to open it when the milkman came, and why did you not leave Jessie to open it on that Saturday morning?” Let the reader ponder the answer, and consider whether it was not the true answer, and especially let him consider whether it is most reconcileable with the assertion of Fleming himself, that he had no idea what had become of his servant, or with the awful statement of Mrs McLachlan. The ‘Daily Mail’ italicises the answer, which was given in these remarkable terms, never alluded to by Lord Deas – “We knew that Jessie was dead, and could not go to the door.” Was not that, we would calmly ask, the unvarnished, the unquestionable truth?.. We hardly know which is the more remarkable, – the manner in which whatever tells against old Fleming is extenuated, or the manner in which whatever seems to favour Mrs McLachlan is passed over. We have one remark more to make. When Jessie McPherson met her death, the state of her body showed that some one had been present besides the murderer. Her face, and temples, and neck had been bathed before she expired. This was done, not to remove the traces of violence, for these were in abundance elsewhere, but to refresh and to soothe the poor woman. A murderer does not do that. He never brings the refreshing element to cool the brow of his victim. If we have carried the attention of the reader throughout these remarks along with us, he will be prepared to enter on the examination of the extraordinary statement made by Mrs McLachlan in no prejudicial spirit. Lord Deas called it a “wicked lie;” it was necessary, therefore, to show what his Lordship’s opinion is worth, by showing his singular bias. The country will probably agree with us that, in many parts of her narrative at least, it does look awfully true.
Glasgow Morning Journal, Wednesday 24th September, 1862, p.3.
THE SANDYFORD MURDER.
THE PUBLIC FEELING.
… The peculiarity of Mrs McLachlan’s narrative is, that it exactly meets every detail, both in the conduct of Fleming and herself, making all their movements intelligible. And it was emitted the moment she discovered that the old man had got himself liberated without attempting to do her justice. Coinciding with the evidence elicited by the Crown so remarkably as it does in most places, it was emitted before the evidence which the Crown could command was collated or known. That being the case, take her striking account of Fleming’s movements with the milk-boy; for though it is not impossible she might have known that the boy was in the habit of calling, and so have put the fact of his calling that morning in as a guess, we defy her to have conjectured the circumstance that Fleming took no milk. Had she been merely guessing, she would certainly have guessed that he had. Her narrative throughout is extraordinary. We do not say it is enough to clear her. We would not hang Fleming on the faith of it. But it is enough to call for a suspension of judgment – for a renewal of the investigation – and for the re-apprehension of Fleming. Let the woman be subjected to the strictest examination; let her statements be shaken if they can; they consist of a mass of detail, and she is but a feeble woman – it should not be difficult to break her down.
Perthshire Advertiser, Thursday 2nd October, 1862, p.4.
THE GLASGOW MURDER.
RESPITE TO MRS. McLACHLAN. – The Daily Review of Saturday says – “Our readers, as well as thousands throughout Scotland, England, and Ireland, will learn with the most heartfelt satisfaction that the prayer of the memorialists has been granted. This important intelligence was made known by the medium of the following telegram from London, received in Glasgow last night:- “The Home Secretary grants the prayer of the petition. Inquiry is directed. Ample opportunity is to be given for full investigation into the facts.” There will, therefore, be no longer any necessity for the deputation appointed last Monday at the great meeting in the City-Hall, Glasgow, going to London to have an interview with the Home Secretary, and to present the petition. Nor is it necessary for any more petitions to be sent up to London, praying for a reprieve. The examination into this case still continues. We believe that little or no light has been as yet thrown upon it by the investigation, in which, we understand, the Crown Agent was engaged yesterday.”
LETTER TO THE QUEEN. – The Peterhead Sentinel says – “We are glad to be able to inform our readers that the principal facts in connection with the late Glasgow trial and the condemnation of Mrs. McLachlan have been laid before her Majesty. Before there was any word of petitions being got up for respite, a lady in town, impelled by a strong feeling of Christian responsibility with regard to the case, forwarded to the Queen the ‘statement’ of Mrs McLachlan, along with the article on the subject in the Daily Review of the 23d ultimo, and an earnest personal appeal for a respite to the unhappy woman; and we are glad to report from the terms of the answer received (which we have seen) that her Majesty has had the matter brought under her personal notice. The following is the reply received:-
Reinhardtsbrunn, September 29, 1862.
MADAM – I have received the commands of her Majesty the Queen to inform you, that your letter of the 23d instant has been forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, upon whose advice alone her Majesty acts in all criminal cases. – I am, Madam, your obedient humble servant,
C. B. PHIPPS.
TERMS OF THE RESPITE. – The following official communication was received on Saturday by the Lord Provost of Glasgow:-
Whitehall, 3d October, 1862.
MY LORD – I am directed by Secretary Sir George Grey to inform you that he has thought it right, under all the circumstances, to advise her Majesty to respite the execution of Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan until Saturday, the first day of November next, and he requests that you will have the goodness to cause it to be clearly explained to the convict that the respite has been granted only for the purpose of allowing time for some further investigation, and that if that should not confirm the truth of the statement made by her as to her share in the transaction, no hope can be held out to her of the commutation of the capital sentence. – I have the honour to be, my Lord, your obedient servant,
Glasgow Morning Journal, Saturday 8th November, 1862, p.2.
ON CONDITION OF
PENAL SERVITUDE FOR LIFE.
The second respite, only justifiable, as it was held to be, on grounds of reasonable doubt as to the unfortunate woman’s guilt, raised by the close investigation made by Mr Young, gave good cause for supposing that when the will of the Crown was made known, as to the ultimate disposal of the woman, due consideration would be shown to her as to a person whose guilt was by no means proved, and the fiercest punishment the law can pass, excepting (and the exception is a doubtful one) that of death, was not, therefore, looked for. The decision was the more startling, and created a renewal of that painful excitement which was so prevalent a short time ago. The intelligence was received yesterday forenoon. Mr A. Young (of Messrs G. and A. Young, Hope Street), Clerk to the Lanarkshire Prison Board, whose ward the prisoner is, receiving one letter and the Governor of the Prison another. The following is a copy of the letter to Mr Young:-
Edinburgh, 6th Nov., 1862.
SIR, – I beg to inform you that I have received her Majesty’s conditional pardon in favour of Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan, who was, at a Justiciary Court holden at Glasgow in September, 1862, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death for the same, pardoning the said Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan of the said crime, and sentence passed upon her for the same, upon condition of her being kept in penal servitude for the term of her natural life.
I have, therefore, to request that you intimate such conditional pardon to the said Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan, and acknowledge receipt of the letter. – I am, sir, your most obedient servant,
ANDREW MURRAY, Crown Agent.
By the same post, Mr Stirling, Governor of the North Prison, received a communication couched in the same terms.
On receipt of these letters, Mr A. Young and Mr Stirling proceeded to the convict’s cell, where, in presence of Bailies Gray and Brown, Mr Young read to the prisoner her final sentence. She preserved her usual stolidity, being, seemingly, in no wise discomposed, and making no remark. Thinking possibly that the full meaning of the letter was not understood by her, Mr Young read the latter part over again. She then said, “And I’m to be in jail a’ my days” – a remark evidently of disappointment at the decision of the Home Office. The fact that her statement had to some extent been credited by the Crown authorities would doubtless to one, whose consciousness of innocence has been shown through many trials, be conducive to hopes that a more lenient settlement of the case would be made than the most severe in the power of the law to bestow.
Dundee Courier, Monday 10th November, 1862, p.4.
… The same evidence, the same inference and insight which enable the Home Secretary to reach the conclusion that Mrs McLachlan was a secondary agent of the Sandyford murder must in the very nature of the case bring home conviction to the prime mover and perpetrator of the crime. It seems to us, therefore, that a warrant for the apprehension of James Fleming on a charge of murder, if still competent in law, is in point of reason the inevitable consequence of Mrs McLachlan’s penal servitude for life. There is, of course, another interpretation of the decision of the Home Secretary. It may be said that he has not entered into the natural logic or the legal bearings of the case at all, but has simply struck out a medium course, quoad the disposal of Mrs McLachlan, by which he hopes to appease public opinion, and to cover up what is undoubtedly an ugly and disagreeable incident in the administration of justice.
Glasgow Morning Journal, Saturday 15th November, 1862, p.3.
… The doom of Mrs McLACHLAN, if innocent, is most sad, terrible, and crushing: even if guilty, it is not without a full portion of gloomy and refined severity. But James FLEMING, covered from the first with the broad shield of the law, complimented from the bench, forgiven by his friends every fault and self-contradiction on the score of old age, and restored to what his admiring organ [the Glasgow Herald] calls “the bosom of his family,” has alas! to bear the cruel thought in many minds that he is more or less guilty of the murder. Let us not, however, underweigh in the least the calamity of suspicion. It is no small woe to be deemed, even by the “unreasoning” multitude, a murderer, and “a murderer of the most ferocious type;” for, be it observed, if this suspicion should happen to be right, JAMES FLEMING may not only, in demoniacal phrenzy, have hacked JESS McPHERSON to death, but in cold blood and with deliberate perjury would have twisted the hangman’s rope round the neck of a still younger woman to save the brief term of his own wretched life.
Dundee Courier, Tuesday 2nd December, 1862, p.3.
THE GLASGOW MURDER. – ACTION AGAINST THE ‘MORNING JOURNAL.’ – The following paragraph appeared in the Glasgow ‘Morning Journal’ of yesterday:-
“We have learned that the Glasgow agents of James Fleming were in Edinburgh last week feeing counsel in a projected action of damages against the printer of this Journal. They offered retainers to Mr Rutherfurd Clark, to Mr Young, the Solicitor-General, and to the Lord-Advocate, but all of these leading counsel have declined to take any part in their case.”
Dundee Advertiser, Thursday 15th September, 1864, p.2.
DEATH OF MR JAMES FLEMING. – Mr James Fleming, the old man whose name was so prominently before the public during the excitement which prevailed relative to the Sandyford murder, died on Tuesday last, the 13th inst. at the country residence of his son, Mr John Fleming, Dunoon. He was in the 90th year of his age.
North British Daily Mail, Monday 8th October, 1877, p.4.
A FORGOTTEN TRAGEDY.
At a late hour on Friday night a woman was liberated from Perth Prison whose name fifteen years ago was in everybody’s mouth. Jessie McLachlan, who was tried and convicted of the Sandyford murder at the autumn sitting of the Circuit Court in Glasgow in 1862, and whose original sentence was commuted to one of penal servitude for life has, after undergoing 15 years’ imprisonment, had the remainder of her sentence remitted. The circumstances attending the murder itself, and the protracted inquiry following upon it were of such an extraordinary character that a brief recapitulation of the case may not be without interest. On Monday, the 7th July, 1862, Glasgow was startled by a report that a murder of a singularly atrocious character had been committed in the West-End… The public mind was in a perfect ferment. What could have induced an octogenarian to commit such a wicked and apparently motiveless act? Was it, indeed, likely that single-handed and alone a man of his years would have been able to overcome a vigorous young woman such as the servant undoubtedly was? The probability was that if old Mr Fleming was the principal criminal he must have had at least one accomplice. But he maintained his entire innocence, and protested that he had no cognisance whatever of any of the criminals. Few credited entirely his version of the matter, and he was detained in custody; but it was felt that even upon the assumption of his guilt there was more to be revealed than had yet come to light. Things were in this state when, a few days afterwards, some cows were observed in a field near Blantyre tossing about a bloody garment, which, it was feared, might belong to some unfortunate victim whom they had gored to death. But a search removed any idea of this sort, and then it came out that a woman named Jessie McLachlan, who resided at the Broomielaw in Glasgow, had been seen in the neighbourhood, and on the police making inquiries the garment, which proved to be a gown, was identified as her property. Further investigation brought out the following facts:- Mrs McLachlan was on intimate terms with Jessie McPherson, and on the night of Friday the 4th July had gone to visit her friend, wearing the gown in question. She did not return till the Saturday morning, and when she did come back she was wearing another dress. Some silver-plate which had been stolen from the house in Sandyford on the occasion of the murder was found in a pawnbroking office in East Clyde Street, and Jessie McLachlan was identified as the person who had pledged the articles. She at first denied having been near Mr Fleming’s house on the night in question, but the prima facie case against her outweighed her assertions, and she was taken into custody, a step which was followed by-and-bye by the release of old Mr Fleming. This latter proceeding on the part of the authorities was far from being in cosonance with the popular sentiment, and a strong feeling of discontent was aroused in large sections of the community, which instead of diminishing, grew more intense as the day of trial approached… The great feature of the trial was the examination of old Mr Fleming, who stoutly adhered to his original story. He admitted hearing a “squeal” about four o’clock on Saturday morning, but it had not occurred to him to inquire the cause of it or afterwards to connect it with the non-appearance of his servant… Though so old, dotage could scarcely be pleaded to account for this strange conduct, for he was sharp enough to collect and give receipts for the rents of several properties. In addition to such inexplicable conduct, it was shown that on the shirts which he had put past there were spots of blood, and a garment stained with blood was found in his room. But he maintained that his version of his conduct was the true one, however strange it might appear to other people… The circumstances already stated, were proved against Jessie McLachlan, along with others, which left no doubt of her being at least accessory after the fact, and, after a trial which lasted three days, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty as libelled. When called upon to state whether she had anything to say in arrest of sentence, her counsel on her behalf read a most extraordinary statement… Lord Deas characterised it as “a tissue of falsehoods,” and pronounced sentence of death in terms that left no hope of mercy. It is impossible for any one who did not witness it to conceive the excitement in Glasgow consequent on the trial and sentence of death. A petition, which received an enormous number of signatures, comprising the names of people in every rank in life, was got up, praying the Home Secretary to institute an inquiry into the truth of the prisoner’s statement. It seemed, in the result, as if the excitement of the Glasgow populace had communicated itself to the Home Office, for Sir George Grey not only granted a respite, but, setting every known form of procedure in such cases aside, issued a commission to Mr George Young (now Lord Young) to take evidence in secret as to the truth of the statement made by the prisoner after her conviction; and as the only point of importance in it was that old Mr Fleming and not she was the principal in the crime, it was evident that a remission of sentence following upon this inquiry would be tantamount to fixing the guilt, indirectly, upon him in the estimation of the Secretary of State. Indeed, it was plainly said by Sir George Grey that the respite was not to be followed by a commutation unless the secret inquiry confirmed Mrs McLachlan’s statement. When the inquiry was ended Mr Young made his report, and the sentence of death passed by Lord Deas was commuted to one of penal servitude for life. Nobody knew what evidence Mr Young had before him; nobody knew what was the nature of his report; and old Mr Fleming’s family naturally felt themselves aggrieved. They represented the unfairness of the proceedings to the Home Office, calling attention to the conditions upon which the inquiry had been granted, the fact that the inquiry was virtually a trial of Mr Fleming as well as Jessie McLachlan, and that it was not fair to fix thus indirectly a stigma upon an old gentleman upon evidence which neither he nor any one for him had a chance of sifting. But the Home Office declined to move further in the matter, and so Jessie McLachlan went away into penal servitude, and old Mr Fleming lived on for a few years more at liberty, when he died without making any sign. Now, after being dead to the world for fifteen years, Mrs McLachlan find herself once more a free woman. Who told the real truth in the matter we have no wish to decide; but Mrs McLachlan’s own statement justifies us in expressing our hope that she returns to liberty a wiser and a better woman.
John o’ Groat Journal, Thursday 25th October, 1877, p.6.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE JOHN O’GROAT JOURNAL.
“JESSIE MACLAUCHLAN INTERVIEWED.”
SUCH was an intimation on a poster of an Edinburgh Journal the other day. The party referred to is Mrs Maclauchlan, once resident in Glasgow, and who had been a servant with a mercantile man in that city, a Mr Fleming. On a certain night the woman went to the house of her old employer, who was absent, and here she joined in a sort of fete, at which a fellow-servant of old, an old man, James Fleming, father of the master of the house, was present. The servant was then atrociously murdered, and the body concealed in the house… The judge was keen against the prisoner, and pronounced the statement which she emitted at the bar to be a “tissue of falsehoods!” Immense sensation was created in society by the sentence, and a large number of people sided with the convict. The words of the judge already quoted were held blameworthy, if not truculent. A judge should never conduct himself so as even to seem a partizan, and should never insult the prisoner by immediate imminent accusation. Nor did the judge know but that all the declaration which to him seemed false was literally true. Much diffidence is at times due in dealing with the unexpected. Nor were there wanting some who thought that the lowly position in life of Mrs Maclauchlan went against her at the trial. Mr Dunlop, M.P. for Greenock, in the House of Commons, instanced several facts which rendered the conduct of old Fleming, on the night of the murder, to say the least of it, very suspicious. The man also experienced once and again instances of popular hate – a very suspicious test, however, of truth or innocence – and it is but due to him to say that on his death-bed he appeared really to deny all participation in the deed of blood. Numerous petitions were presented on behalf of the convict, and so large was the sympathy excited on her behalf that it was said two regiments of soldiers would be requisite in order to enable the executive to carry out the law. In the press the woman was hotly, and as if with the venom of a personal hate, denounced by the Glasgow Herald, as she was as warmly befriended by the Daily Review… Finally the convict was respited, with of course the alternative of life-long detention. So Mrs Maclauchlan was removed to Perth Prison as her ultima domus. But she still had sympathy without, and when something like an attempt was made to get a confession out of her, an effective interference was made on her behalf… If guilty, Mrs Maclauchlan deserved death; if innocent, her sufferings have been very heavy – captivity – the severance of domestic ties – and despair of the present life as respects home amenities, one sister having lost her reason, another having gone to America, along with her husband, whatever that means… The crime is one of the darkest mysteries of our day… Mrs Maclauchlan had better now betake herself to some quiet form of industry, and avoid all sorts of publicity. She should be let alone, and it is wrong for members of the press or others to attempt to draw her out.
That ends part six, and the entire case itself, for Jessie McLachlan. I believe that her statement was the truth of the matter. I also think it was right that the counsel for the defence came out thereafter with an explanation of it as to when it was taken, etc., because I think that probably made all the difference to the sentence she finally received, the 15 years in Perth prison. Very shortly after leaving prison, she emigrated to the United States where an article at the end there mentioned her sister had previously gone. She died in Michigan in 1899 after re-marrying. I’m not really sure what happened to her previous husband, Mr McLachlin, or her son, who was three years old at the time. It doesn’t mention that she ever had any contact with them again and perhaps he divorced her on the sentence having been made against her. So, she really suffered for her decision to see her friend that night. I wonder what would have happened had she not made those arrangements. Would Jessie MacPherson still have been murdered that night? Would James Fleming have followed the same path? He wouldn’t have had anyone to blame. There would have been no-one else for suspicion to land on. He wouldn’t have been able to give the plate or clothing to anyone. I wonder how that would have gone for him?
The next case that we’ll will move onto will be that of doctor Edward William Pritchard which, well… So, we may see you for it. Take care.
Narration by Jenny
Art by Alex
Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson
Greysteil by Paul Burns.