The execution of William Burke in the Lawnmarket, 28 January 1829; as depicted on a contemporary broadsheet
The Burke and Hare murders (nickname West Port murders) were serial murders perpetrated in Edinburgh, Scotland, from November 1827 to October 31, 1828. The killings were attributed to Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses of their 17 victims to provide material for dissection. Their purchaser was Doctor Robert Knox, a private anatomy lecturer whose students were drawn from Edinburgh Medical College. Their accomplices included Burke’s mistress, Helen McDougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret Laird. From their infamous method of killing their victims has come the word “burking”, meaning to purposefully smother and compress the chest of a victim, and a derived meaning, to quietly suppress.