The story begins with the Liverpool coach on the 6th September 1823. Sadly it overturned and badly injured a little boy. His right leg was amputated at the knee. The child died on the 1st November and was buried in the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s Church.
The body-snatchers Burke and Hare were up to no good in Edinburgh this time exhuming bodies and selling them to the medical world for dissection. Accounts of graves being robbed of their occupants featured in all the newspapers. There was concern that a grave had been tampered with in Stanwix. Before long suspicion focused on ‘two strangers’ who’d hired a room in Long Island. The trail led to the offices of the Edinburgh Carriers where a stoutly corded box to be delivered to Lieutenant Todd in Edinburgh had already been dispatched. Suspicion excited, the box was stopped and opened at Hawick. Inside were the bodies of three children. Another, rather heavier box, had already been refused transportation.
Meanwhile on the 8th of December, another interment was about to occur in St Cuthbert’s. The mourners may have been rather alarmed at what was discovered. The body of a Botchergate Blacksmith wash discovered with cord tied around its feet. He was carefully reburied and a search of the graveyard made. The little boy, killed in the coach accident, was missing as was the body of a cotton spinner.
A twenty guinea reward was offered for the capture of the resurrection men but they disappeared as swiftly as they had arrived. By 1828 body-snatching had reached such a pitch that the Government of the day needed to legalize dissection.