Burke and Hare were infamous suppliers of corpses to the Edinburgh medical establishment in a reign of terror 1827-8. History remembers them as body snatchers, but there is no proof that the pair ever robbed a grave- instead they created fresh corpses by suffocating hand-picked victims. This is just one of the myths exploded by this bloody history featuring trial reports, confessions, prison records and contemporary illustrations. A rich cast of characters includes the pairs implicated lovers, Helen and Margaret- Professor Knox who received the bodies- and, local victims from Daft Jamie to ageing prostitute Mary Haldane.
New light is thrown on the bodies trade through a recent find at The National Archives: a confession from John Bishop - perhaps a copycat burker - who with Thomas Williams was executed for the murder of the Italian boy in 1831.