Thursday, 6 May 2010

My three times great granny's murder is oldest unsolved in UK!

I am definitely having one of those days! It turns out that the axe murder in 1866 of my three times great granny in Forgandenny, Perthshire, is in fact the UK's oldest unsolved murder case by the police - I knew that was the case for Perthshire, but had no idea that she had become a national statistic! Janet Henderson was murdered just three days after arriving at her brother William's farm, whilst he was away for the day at nearby Perth at the farmer's market. The killer was never caught, with a trial in 1867 finding a key suspect non-proven of guilt after a year's investigation.

The BBC coverage is at - it is in fact a story about unsolved murders in the UK and the BBC's revelations following a series of Freedom of Information requests. If you fancy reading the whole story, see my research at and, which includes many court documents, newspaper clippings and more.

The story in fact gets more tragic - after Janet's death and the subsequent trial, William could not accept the verdict, and was ultimately driven insane by it, dying at Murray's Royal Lunatic Asylum several years later, with the detailed medical notes held at the University of Dundee graphically describing his rants about it. The story was featured in Digging Up Your Roots on BBC Radio Scotland in January 2009.

Update: she even made the 6.00pm BBC National News! See - the first document shown in the piece is the plan of her brother's farm - there's even a picture of the axe that killed her (I have an A0 sized copy of the plan here)! First bit was filmed at the NAS in Edinburgh...

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Kelly H. said...

Wow! Sad story, but interesting for your tree. I have no murders, well at least that I have found.... but I do have two that were in mental institutions!

Chris Paton said...

Hope you managed to look at the records!

In this case I've always felt that William was the bigger victim. Janet was murdered, which was terrible, but she never saw her murderer and her death was instant. But William lived for 24 years with many thinking he did it, nobody believing him about the person he thought did do it, and eventually dying in complete insanity babbling repeatedly about it - the records in this case were fairly horrifying, but ironically I know more about this family because of the tragedy. I guess that's family history for you!