- Geoff Holder
15th October 2010
The old horse pulled the baker's van along its daily route, stopping and waiting for its usual customers in the peaceful village. But the driver's seat was empty, and the cart was drenched with blood...So began the Blairingone Bread Cart Murder, a gruesome case of highway robbery that ended with poacher Joseph Bell being hanged for ambushing John Miller and blasting him with a shotgun. This is just one of the bloody crimes that shocked the peaceful citizens of nineteenth-century Perthshire. Among the files liberated from the archives are: The Dunning murder of 1818, Scotland's oldest unsolved homicide; The six-month nationwide police manhunt for the murderer of a tollkeeper at Braco and the labourer who killed his former landlady near Blackford; The trio of armed robbers who threatened to burn a family alive - but escaped with only forged banknotes. There are also revelations from inside Perth's three successive jails - the High Street Tolbooth, the Speygate, and the modern prison - with secrets of daring escape attempts that didn't quite make it. The rogues' gallery includes footpads, wife-beaters, brutal aristocrats and ruthlessly violent whisky smugglers. There are tales of arson, assault, and theft - with one man finding that stealing sheep led straight to the gallows. All the executions that took place in nineteenth century Perth are described, some with heart-rending detail on the prisoners' last moments. The illustrations include the never-before-published death warrants for all those who were sentenced to be 'launched into eternity'.