Hare-raising chance to bone up on killer Burke
FOR his heinous crimes, it was decreed that his body should go on display for all eternity.
• William Burke's skeleton ended up at Edinburgh University's anatomy department after his execution in the Lawnmarket
But it hasn't quite worked out like that.
Instead the remains of notorious murderer William Burke are locked away in Edinburgh University's department of anatomy for only professors and students to see.
That will change next month, however, as dozens of visitors are given the opportunity to view the skeleton of the serial killer.
The one-off viewing was clinched by a Burke and Hare murder walk, held by West Port Tours, as they celebrate their second anniversary retracing the steps of the deadly duo.
Tour co-owner John Baxter, 25, from Musselburgh, said they were delighted to scoop the opportunity. He said: "Usually the skeleton is under lock and key, but we'll have access for two days.
"There's a rumour that the new students steal it every year, but it isn't true. It is rarely seen, so this is a pretty special occasion.
"As part of William Burke's punishment the judge said that because his crimes were so atrocious, his body should go on display for all eternity, so we'll honour that."
Burke shares the museum's hall of shame with another murderer - Cramond killer John Howison. He was hanged after he bludgeoned an old woman with a garden spade in 1831.
Mr Baxter explained: "After Burke was executed, his body was dissected by Dr Munro the day after the hanging in front of an audience of up to 6000 people. After that the skeleton remained part of Dr Munro's private collection.
"John Howison's body was the last one to be publicly dissected before the Anatomy Act came into force in 1832 (which allowed medical students and professors to dissect bodies legitimately]. The Act came about as a result of Burke's actions."
During the dissection, Dr Munro paid special attention to Burke's brain, hoping to learn about the mind of a murderer. The day after he was studied, the public got their opportunity to abuse Burke's remains.
An estimated crowd of 25,000 filed past what remained of the body, with many spitting at the carcass to show their contempt. Burke's skin was subsequently tanned into leather and made into purses. As he had murdered for money, his own hide became a container for coins.
It is believed that the skeleton went to Edinburgh University after the death of Dr Munro.
Renewed interest in the story of Burke and Hare, who famously murdered at least 16 people before selling the bodies to Dr Robert Knox, has been sparked following last year's big screen version starring Simon Pegg. The special tours for over-16s take place on March 24 and 25. A maximum of 40 tickets are available, priced at 10 each.
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