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Episode 493             Episode 495
Episode 494

Burke and Hare murders
Tue, 2018-Sep-11 00:37 UTC
Length - 3:02

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Tuesday, 11 September 2018 is Burke and Hare murders.

The Burke and Hare murders were a series of 16 killings committed over a period of about ten months in 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were undertaken by William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses to Doctor Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures.

Edinburgh was a leading European centre of anatomical study in the early 19th century, in a time when the demand for cadavers led to a shortfall in legal supply. Scottish law required that corpses used for medical research should only come from those who had died in prison, suicide victims, or from foundlings and orphans. The shortage of corpses led to an increase in grave robbing by what were known as resurrection men. Measures to ensure graves were left undisturbed exacerbated the shortage. When a lodger in Hare's house died, he turned to his friend Burke for advice and they decided to sell the body to Knox. They received what was, for them, the generous sum of £7 10s. A little over two months later, when Hare was concerned that a lodger suffering from fever would deter others from staying in the house, he and Burke murdered her and sold the body to Knox. The men continued their murder spree, probably with the knowledge of their wives. Burke and Hare's actions were uncovered after other lodgers discovered their last victim, Margaret Docherty, and called the police.

A forensic examination of Docherty's body indicated she had probably been suffocated, but this could not be proven. Although the police suspected Burke and Hare of other murders, there was no evidence on which they could take action. An offer was put to Hare granting immunity from prosecution if he turned king's evidence. He provided the details of Docherty's murder and confessed to all 16 deaths; formal charges were made against Burke and his wife for three murders. At the subsequent trial Burke was found guilty of one murder and sentenced to death. The case against his wife was found not proven—a Scottish legal verdict to acquit an individual but not declare them innocent. Burke was hanged shortly afterwards, his corpse was dissected and his skeleton displayed at the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh Medical School where, as at 2018, it remains.

The murders raised public awareness of the need for bodies for medical research and contributed to the passing of the Anatomy Act 1832. The events have made appearances in literature, and been portrayed on screen, either in heavily fictionalised accounts or as the inspiration for fictional works.

This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 00:37 UTC on Tuesday, 11 September 2018.

For the full current version of the article, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burke_and_Hare_murders.

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