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The Sandyford Murder

The Sandyford murder case (also known as the Sandyford Place Mystery) was a well-known proceeding of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Scotland. It is one of four notorious murder cases that took place in an infamous area of Glasgow known as the Square Mile of Murder, "situated where Sauchiehall Street is coming to an end as a shopping centre and giving way to well-built terraces". The case revolved around the brutal murder of one Jessie McPherson, a servant, in 17 Sandyford Place, Glasgow, Scotland, in July 1862. McPherson's friend Jessie McLachlan later stood trial, accused of having murdered McPherson. The Sandyford case was the first Scottish police case in which forensic photography played a role, and the first case handled by the detective branch of the Glasgow Police.

The case was heard at the Glasgow Circuit Court between Wednesday 17 and Saturday 20 September 1862. During the trial, McLachlan resolutely declared her innocence, and accused the father of the woman's employer, one James Fleming, age 87, of having committed the crime, perhaps in a fit of passion when McPherson refused his amorous advances. The summing-up of the evidence, delivered by Judge Lord Deas, lasted for more than four hours and, after nineteen minutes' deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Before sentence was passed, a final statement was read on behalf of the prisoner, giving her detailed account of what had happened on the night of the murder. However, the Judge denounced it as a "tissue of wicked falsehoods" and sentenced her to death, which was to be carried out by hanging on 11 October 1862. You can find the trial transcripts below.

pdfEvidence and opening of the prosecution - first day of the trial6.39 MB
pdfEvidence of the prosecution - 2nd and third day6.77 MB
pdfEvidence for the defence6.07 MB
pdfThe Advocate Depute's address for the Crown to the jury3.35 MB
pdfAndrew Rotherford Clarke's closing address for the defence6.11 MB
pdfLord Deas charge to the jury and verdict4.44 MB
pdfJessie McLachlan's statement giving her account3.17 MB
pdfThe Sentence1.26 MB

However, due to a public outcry, in an unprecedented action, a Court Commission was appointed to investigate the evidence in the case. The commission did not declare her innocent, but did commute her sentence to life imprisonment. The papers relating to Jessie McLachlan's statement and the subsequent Court Commission are detailed in the Appendices which you can find below, and which include a number of witness statements.

pdfAppendices 1-36.34 MB
pdfAppendices 3-66.27 MB

What's your view - did Jessie McLachlan commit the murder or not? 

McLachlan served 15 years in Perth General Prison before being released on ticket-of-leave on 5 October 1877. She emigrated to the United States and married again. She died in Port Huron, Michigan, on New Year's Day in 1899.

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