Jessie McTavish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Jessie McTavish is a Scottish former nurse who was convicted in 1974 of murdering a patient with insulin.[1] The conviction was overturned on appeal in 1976. McTavish was dubbed the "Angel of Death" by the press.[2]


McTavish worked in Ward 5 at Glasgow's Ruchill Hospital.[2]


McTavish was tried for the murder in 1974 of an 80-year-old patient, Elizabeth Lyon[2][3] and assaulting three other patients by giving them illegal injections.[4] During the 15-day trial McTavish claimed she had only injected the patient with a placebo of sterile water.[2] The prosecution alleged that McTavish had been inspired by an episode of the detective series A Man Called Ironside, in which a character said that insulin was untraceable as a murder weapon.[1] She was jailed for life in October 1974. An appeal in February 1975 was successful - three appeal judges said there was ample evidence to support the conviction[4] but McTavish's legal team successfully argued that the judge, Lord Robertson, had inadvertently mislead the jury. They said he had failed to highlight the fact that McTavish denied admitting to the police that she had committed a mercy killing.[4] According to the appeal judges it was an omission that “a few words could have cured”.[4]

Apart from the case prosecuted, another 23 cases were deemed suspicious by investigators.[5]


Although acquitted, McTavish's case often is mentioned in lectures at medical colleges in Britain, and is cited in textbooks and academic papers about forensic science and medical malpractice.[6][7][8] Colin Norris, a nurse convicted of four murders in 2008, is said to have been inspired by McTavish's case.[1][2] He murdered his patients using insulin.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Brown, Craig (4 March 2008). "The hatred that turned Colin Norris into serial killer". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Daily Record
  3. ^ Stokes, Paul (2 March 2008). "Colin Norris: From student to deadly abuser". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  4. ^ a b c d Cramb, Auslan (2 March 2008). "Nurse who inspired Colin Norris". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  5. ^ Beatrice Crofts Yorker, Kenneth W. Kizer, Paula Lampe, A.R.W. Forrest, Jacquetta M. Lannan, Donna A. Russell: Serial Murder by Healthcare Professionals, Journal of Forensic Sciences 51 (6), pp1362–1371 (2006)
  6. ^ Fisher, Barry A. J.; William J. Tilstone; Catherine Woytowicz (2009). Introduction to Criminalistics: The Foundation of Forensic Science. Academic Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-12-088591-6. 
  7. ^ Lucy, D.; Aitken, C. (2002). "A review of the role of roster data and evidence of attendance in cases of suspected excess deaths in a medical context" (PDF). Law, Probability and Risk. 1 (2): 141. doi:10.1093/lpr/1.2.141. 
  8. ^ Brownlie, A. (1978). "A Lawyer Looks at Forensic Science: the Expert in Court". Journal of the Forensic Science Society. 18 (1–2): 5–18. PMID 739248. doi:10.1016/S0015-7368(78)71176-X.