Between 1857 and 1908, four notorious murders were committed within one square mile in the centre of Glasgow. The notorious 'square mile' murders are now documented in a strand of brand new docu-dramas on BBC ALBA. The programmes are produced by STV Productions and presented by John Morrison.
Ever Believe Me – Sgeulachd Madeleine Smith
Thursday 28th November @ 21:00 on BBC ALBA
Sunday 1st December @ 23:00 on BBC ALBA
This chilling docu-drama looks at the case of Madeleine Smith, a beautiful debutante accused of poisoning her lover with arsenic. Found not proven, the case continues to fascinate. A crime of passion? Maybe. It certainly caused a scandal, and prompted David Lean to make the film Madeleine. The question remains - did she do it, or didn't she?
In 1856, Glasgow debutante Madeleine Smith began a passionate affair with Emile L'Angelier, a drifter from the Channel Islands. The two met in secret, and wrote to each other frequently. When her parents tried to have her ‘married off’, Madeleine abandoned her lover. He threatened to use their letters to expose the affair. Shortly afterwards, he was found dead from what was recorded as arsenic poisoning. When the passionate letters were found, Madeleine was charged with murder. In court, witnesses testified to seeing her sign for orders of arsenic. Although the circumstantial evidence pointed towards guilt, the jury freed Smith under the controversial not proven verdict.
This docu-drama revisits the colourful tale, and considers how L'Angelier might have perished.
The Sandyford Murder – Sgeulachd Jessie McLachlan
Thursday 5th December @ 21:00 on BBC ALBA
Monday 9th December @ 22:30 on BBC ALBA
The odd case of Jessie McLachlan, known in the legal profession as ‘the Sandyford murder’, throws up a very interesting contrast to the infamous tale of Madeleine Smith. Both the accused were young women living in Glasgow and both stood trial for murder – yet their fates, by dint of their class, could not have been more different.
The McLachlan story revolves around the brutal murder of a townhouse servant. Miss Jess McPherson worked at Sandyford Place, part of gentrified Victorian Glasgow. In the early hours of a weekend morning in 1862, her best friend Jessie found her badly beaten body in her basement bedroom. Arrested and accused of killing her, there was a public outcry when it became evident that Jessie McLachlan's wealthy employers, a family of accountants called Fleming, were being protected by the authorities.
Jessie McLachlan always resolutely denied the crime. She maintained that the elderly James Fleming had attacked the servant in a fit of drunken rage. McPherson had confided in McLachlan that she had long been resisting Fleming's sexual advances.
Despite much evidence against James Fleming, a jury found Jessie McLachlan guilty and she was sentenced to hang. Although there was widespread public sympathy in the wake of the deeply flawed case against her, she went on to serve fifteen years in prison after the sentence was commuted. To this day, the McLachlan case is considered one of Scotland's most shocking miscarriages of justice.
Presented by John Morrison, "The Sandyford Murder" features drama reconstruction with up to date research and opinion from Scottish legal expert Clare Connelly and criminal defence lawyer Iain MacDougall.
The Human Crocodile – Sgeulachd Edward Pritchard
Thursday 12th December @ 21:00 on BBC ALBA
Monday 16th December @ 22:30 on BBC ALBA
The bizarre tale of Edward Pritchard completes this compelling strand, documenting Glasgow’s notorious ‘square mile murderers.' Pritchard was hanged in 1865 for two murders. It is thought he committed at least one more.
On the 28th July 1865, nearly ten thousand people gathered in what was then known as “Jail Square” in Glasgow, to witness the last public execution in Britain. The convict was a murderer - and a doctor - found guilty of administering poison with deliberate intent to kill. Physicians who kill are not uncommon - from the reviled Victorian Dr Crippen to one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history, Dr Harold Shipman. Knowledge of the human body, and being placed in intimate trust by patients, lend themselves to a specific brand of murderer. But Edward Pritchard’s killings were literally much closer to home, as this programme reveals.
With expert commentary and drama reconstruction, Pritchard's bizarre activities come under the spotlight. The programme is presented by John Morrison from the scenes of the doctor's crimes in the city centre.
For further information or preview copies, please contact:
STV press office
0141 300 3670 / 07803 970 143
0141 300 3830 / 07921 494 654
BBC ALBA press office
0141 220 6040