Sandyford murder case

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The Sandyford murder case was a well-known proceeding of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United Kingdom. The case revolved around the brutal murder of one Jessie McPherson, a servant, in 17 Sandyford Place, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1862. McPherson's friend Jessie McLachlan 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.[1]

The case went to the Glasgow Circuit Court in 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 jury found McLachlan guilty of murder in less than 15 minutes and Lord Deas, the Judge sentenced her to death, which was to be carried out by hanging on 11 October 1862.[2]

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.

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.

The case is given a passing mention in the last chapter of E.C. Bentley's 1913 detective novel Trent's Last Case and in the third chapter of Gladys Mitchell's 13th Mrs Bradley crime novel, When Last I Died, published in 1941. It was recounted by Jack House in his 1961 book Square Mile of Murder, which was dramatised by the BBC in 1980. The murder, trial and aftermath are covered in scrupulous detail in Heaven Knows Who (1960) by Christianna Brand, otherwise known as a respected writer of mysteries. There are two references to this case in Seeing is Believing (also published as Cross of Murder) a Sir Henry Merrivale novel by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr) first published by Morrow (US, 1941) and Heinemann (UK, 1942). In Chapter 20 there's quite a long account of the Sandyford Murder Mystery.


  1. ^ "The First 100 Years".
  2. ^ "The Life of Calcraft: An Account of the Executions in Scotland for the Past 200 Years".