Demolition starts on setting of last Scots hanging

GV of HMP Aberdeen, formerly known as Craiginches prison. Picture: Hemedia
GV of HMP Aberdeen, formerly known as Craiginches prison. Picture: Hemedia
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DEMOLITION work has begun on the Victorian jail where the last man in Scotland was hanged to death.

Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen closed its doors last January after 124 years.

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Along with HMP Peterhead, it was shut to make way for the £140million “superjail” HMP Grampian in the Aberdeenshire port town.

The Peterhead site has since been bought by engineering firm Score Group.

The contract for the demolition work at Craiginches has been awarded to Fraserburgh firm David Smith Contractors.

David Morgan, the demolition manager, said the company hoped to have the site cleared by the spring.

He said: “Teams were in to start setting up for the work. We are aiming to have the job finished by May.

“The number of people carrying out the work will vary, but there are a good 20 guys involved, plus machines.

“It’s just the same as a smaller job, there’s no huge building within the site, it’s unconnected smaller ones.

“It’s well within our capabilities.”

The work will involve excavator machines removing softer materials from the structures of the buildings to bring them down.

Mr Morgan says the firm will work with Aberdeen City Council to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum.

He added: “The prison is surrounded by three roads, we are hoping to keep disturbances on the roads at a minimum.

“There will be traffic management orders required and we will be in discussions with the council about these.

“Older buildings like this were built to last. It has walls about two and a half feet thick- most modern buildings have walls about a foot thick.”

Last month, the council announced its intention to buy land at the site and dual Wellington Road, one of the city’s busiest routes, to help ease congestion.

The remainder of the site is expected to be sold to Sanctuary Housing Association, which plans to build 120 homes.

The jail is infamously remembered as the venue for Scotland’s last hanging in 1963.

Henry John Burnett was the last man to be hanged in Scotland, and the first in Aberdeen since 1891.

He was tried at the high court in Aberdeen from 23-25 July 1963 for the murder of merchant seaman Thomas Guyan.

Burnett was convicted of killing Guyan, 27, after becoming convinced his lover Margaret Guyan, 25, was returning to her estranged husband.

The two men met while working in a fish house and after leaving her husband, Margaret moved in with Burnett in Skene Terrace.

He would often fly into fits of rage, and sometimes locked her in the flat where they stayed with her sons.

On May 31, 1963, she decided to move out and stay with her grandmother in Jackson Terrace where she would see Mr Guyan.

Burnett took his brother’s double-barrelled shotgun and headed to the house where he shot Guyan in the face.

After he was sentenced to death, both his own family and that of the victim petitioned for his reprieve.

His execution, at Craiginches, was performed by hangman Harry Allen.

In early August 2014 the remains of Burnett were exhumed from the prison and taken to Aberdeen Crematorium, where a private ceremony was held on 7th August.

The last execution in the UK took place at Strangeways Prison, Manchester on August 13, 1954.

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