Those with an interest in the darker side of Glasgow’s history might be starting to recognise some names and places associated with one of its most notorious criminals - Dr Edward Pritchard, the last man to be publicly hanged in Scotland. Ten thousand Glaswegians showed up to see him swing for the murder of his wife and her mother- and the truth might never have been known if an anonymous tip-off hadn’t prompted the Procurator Fiscal to exhume the bodies to find the traces of antimony the good doctor had administered to end their lives. Despite weeping convincingly in the dock and demanding that the coffin be opened so that he could tearfully kiss his wife goodbye, the so-called Human Crocodile eventually confessed to poisoning them both - claiming that a terrible madness had come over him. But what could have driven the doctor to such dreadful deeds? Maybe it was the sizeable sum he stood to inherit from his wife’s estate… or maybe it was something much older and more terrible than the temptation of money alone.
The Pritchard case was one of four famous murder investigations that took place in the latter part of the 19th and the first few years of the 20th Century, over a small area that came to be called Glasgow’s Square Mile of Murder. Astute listeners might have picked up on at least one more character drawn from this period of Glasgow’s murky history - but more on that later.