Hanging and execution in Dundee

273 people were publicly hanged in Scotland between 1800 and 1868. Of these 273, 14 were women. Few of them actually took place in Dundee, with only six recorded hangings, five of them public, the final one private. The last man to be hung in Dundee, William Bury, was the infamous murderer who was suspected by many of actually being Jack the Ripper.

A new gibbet was erected for the execution of Arthur Woods, sentenced for killing his son, John Drew Woods. His execution in 1839 at the new jail at the corner of Bell Steet and Lochee Road, drew a large crowd and cavalry had to be sent from Edinburgh to keep control of the crowd. The treasurers accounts list the expenditures related to this including the erecting of the scaffold which cost £40, 7 shillings and 11 pence (£40 7s11d); John Scott, the executioner was paid £17 5s; meat for the executioner while in the gaol cost 14s 9d; and transport for the executioner back to Edinburgh cost £2 10s.

Perth, tried 16 April, 1801

Date of executionNameCrimePlace
Friday 12th JuneJohn Watt (West)Housebreaking & theftDundee

Tried at Perth on the 20th of April, 1826.

Date of executionNameCrimePlace
Friday 2nd JuneDavid BalfourMurderDundee

Tried at Perth on the 1st of May, 1835.

Date of executionNameCrimePlace
Saturday 30th MayMark DevlinRapeDundee

Tried by the High Court of Justiciary on the 25th of February, 1839.

Date of executionNameCrimePlace
Monday 25th MarchArthur WoodsMurderDundee

Tried by the High Court of Justiciary on the 1st of September, 1847.

Date of executionNameCrimePlace
Tuesday 5th OctoberThomas LeithMurder wifeDundee

After 1868, private executions were still carried out and one last man was executed in Dundee in 1889 – a man who many believed to be the notorious “Jack the Ripper”.

Trial dateNameAgeHanged at/reprievedCrime/Victim
25/03/1889William Bury29Dundee24/04/1889Wife, Ellen

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.


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