The notable skeleton of “The Cramond Murderer”

Photo from Facebook page of the School of Biomedical Sciences (The University of Edinburgh): Skeleton of John Howison.  Click here to see full size image.

Photo via Facebook (School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh): John Howison’s skeleton. Full size image

The skeleton of William Burke has a less famous neighbor at the Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Museum, the articulated skeleton of John Howison, “The Cramond Murderer.”  Howison was accused of entering the home of a woman in Cramond, a suburb of Edinburgh in December 1831, and murdering her with a spade without any apparent motive.   His defense lawyer entered a plea of insanity because Howison claimed to suffer from hallucinations and crippling superstitions, but the court rejected the insanity plea due to a lack of medical evidence.

Howison was found guilty of the murder and hanged on January 21, 1832.  This case is notable because Howison was the last person to be executed before the implementation of the Anatomy Act of 1832, which ended the practice of the public dissection of the bodies of executed murderers and allowed medical schools to obtain cadavers by other means.  Prior to the 1832 law, the Murder Act of 1751 was applied to prevent homicides by encouraging the public dissection of the bodies of executed murderers and specified that their remains could not be buried.

Categories: History

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