FOR HOLLYWOOD star Joan Fontaine, it was her most famous role in a glittering showbiz career - that of the second Mrs de Winter opposite Laurence Olivier in the classic movie Rebecca. Little did she know that her performance so beguiled a young petty criminal from Scotland that he changed his name to hers - and that 65 years later the film industry which propelled Miss Fontaine to stardom would be preparing a silver screen version of his own bizarre life story.
THE CASE of Jessie King was one that shocked Victorian Edinburgh. Here was a woman who had, it seemed, callously murdered at least two infants that had been put in her care. In an era when life was cheap, the murder of children was nonetheless something that produced a horrified reaction from the public.
WHEN Mary Pritchard became seriously ill in December 1864, it was fortunate that her husband was a doctor – or so you would have thought. Unfortunately for his wife, Dr Edward Pritchard was a liar, a womaniser and a murderer. He was having an affair with a young girl, hiding a shady past and poisoning his wife. Naturally, his court case gripped the nation.
ST OLAF'S cottage near Harray in Orkney stands alone in an island of fields. Today it is easily reached by road, connected to the outside world by telephone and would make a comfortable family home. During the beginning of the last century it was a place that would have chilled your blood.
WHEN the body of Peter Manuel swung from the gallows in Barlinnie Prison on 11 July 1958, Glasgow and much of Scotland breathed a long sigh of relief. The reign of terror caused by one of the most "callous" and psychopathic killers in British criminal history was at an end.
ON THE surface, it seemed the classic witchcraft trial conducted a la Salem. An alleged witch could admit to practising magic and face prison or admit she was not conspiring with the dark arts and be jailed for fraud. To sink or float, as it were.
DR THOMAS Neil Cream was hanged for the murder of four London prostitutes in November 1892. His final words, "I am Jack" uttered before dancing the Tyburn jig, were ominous.
A SCOTSMAN and an Englishman went up a hill and only one came down alive, or so the old joke goes.
FOR 18 months the body of James Stewart - James of the Glen - was left to hang on the gibbet at an elevated and highly visible spot on the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry.
THE TALL, well-dressed handsome stranger didn't say much - but what he did say earned him the most chilling sobriquet in Scottish criminal history. More than 35 years after his killing spree, mere mention of the name Bible John is still enough to send a shiver up the spine. In late 1960s Glasgow, when his identikit image stared from every newspaper and wanted poster in the land, he provoked fear to the point of hysteria.
EDINBURGH flourished in the early 19th century. Basking in the afterglow of the Scottish Enlightenment, the city’s reputation as a centre of science and progress was assured. The Industrial Revolution was generating wealth and improving the city.
EDINBURGH painter and decorator James Aitken felt trapped in his average life.