On this day in 1963: Last man to be hanged in Scotland

Henry John Burnett was the last man to be hanged in Scotland. Picture: Hemedia
Henry John Burnett was the last man to be hanged in Scotland. Picture: Hemedia
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Henry John Burnett was just 21 years old when he was hanged at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, at 8am on August 15 1963.

His crime was the murder of merchant seaman Thomas Guyan. Burnett had shot Guyan in the face with a shotgun, when lover Margaret Guyan had refused to leave the sailor for him.

An archive photo of Henry John Burnett, the last man to be hanged in Scotland. Picture: Hemedia

An archive photo of Henry John Burnett, the last man to be hanged in Scotland. Picture: Hemedia

Burnett was the sole inmate of Craiginches to die on the prison’s gallows, and the last man to be executed in Scotland before Westminster abolished the death penalty.

Burnett had met Margaret Guyan, when they were working at John R Stephen Fish Curers in Aberdeen.

Mrs Guyan later went to live with him at his home in the city’s Skene Terrace.

Burnett kept her locked in the house and on one of the rare occasions she was allowed out alone, she met her estranged husband Thomas Guyan, and agreed to go back to him.

When she refused to return to Burnett, he stole a shotgun from his brother’s house and killed Mr Guyan on May 31 1963.

During the trial, the solicitor-general spoke of the ‘sordid background of a sailor’s wife being unfaithful to her husband when he was at sea.’

Six days before his execution, Burnett wrote: “Well, my darling, you will be wondering why I did not kill you up in Skene Terrace.

“Well, it was because I loved you. I could easily have done it if I had wanted to, but what they were saying in court was a heap of rubbish about me being insane even at the time.

“I knew exactly what I was doing.”

Burnett’s body was buried in an unmarked grave within the prison walls, but in August 2014 his remains were exhumed and taken to Aberdeen Crematorium, where a private ceremony was held.

Tony Miller, 19, was the last man to be hanged in Glasgow, on the morning of December 22 1960, while Edinburgh’s last hanging was that of George Alexander Robertson on June 23 1954.