The Appin Murder took place on May 14, 1752, while emotions were still running high in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising and defeat by the Hanoverians at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Appin lies to the north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland, and has become known as the site of an infamous and unsolved murder. The story also became the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped.
The murdered man was Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure, Argyllshire, also known as The Red Fox, factor of several estates which had been forfeited from pro-Jacobite clans and who had the challenging task of collecting taxes from the defeated clan leaders. While his work was distasteful, the more fair minded regarded him as a decent man who made the best of a difficult job, although anti-Campbell sentiment was still rife in the west Highlands, as the Campbells were loyal to the Hanoverian monarchy. At Ardsheal, James Stewart, also known as James of the Glen, helped him collect Stewart rents and the two men often worked together.
On the day of the murder, Campbell was going about his usual business of collecting taxes. Some accounts claim he had also intended to to evict some Stewart families from their homes on the Ardsheal Estate, and give the houses to Campbells, however there has never been any proof to back up this claim.
Having disembarked from the Loch Leven ferry, Campbell and four others were passing the road at Lettermore Wood when a musket shot was heard and Campbell fell to the ground dead, while his killer escaped into the wilderness.
Within two days, James Stewart had been arrested and taken to Inveraray, to face trial in the Campbell stronghold of Inveraray Castle.
The result of the trial came as no real surprise. Stewart had presented a defence of alibi, claiming that he had been several miles away from the scene on the day of the murder. No evidence was presented to show that he had been involved in a conspiracy to murder, and the main witness could only state that he had seen a man with a gun some distance away but was unable to identify who the man was. The presiding judge was the chief of clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. The jury of 15 contained 11 Campbells. James Stewart was found guilty of the murder, and sentenced to death. On the day of the hanging, it is said that the man who actually fired the shot had to be held down at a house in Ballachulish to prevent him from giving himself up. Stewart's half-brother, Allan Breck Stewart, was suspected of the killing, and had a reputation as a vengeful young hothead who would stir up anti-Campbell sentiments within the Stewart clan. In Stevenson's Kidnapped, Alan Breck came to be one of the novel's leading characters.
Even after the hanging, the incident was not over, and the body of James Stewart was left to hang on the gibbet for 18 months, in an elevated and highly visible spot at the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry. No-one dared remove it, and the story is that the remains were eventually cut down by the loacl halfwit, and finally buried.
Colin Campbell memorial cairn
A cairn erected on the old road from Ballachulish to Duror marks the place where Colin Campbell was shot.
The plaque on the cairn reads:
|THIS CAIRN IS ERECTED |
ON THE SPOT WHERE
WAS MURDERED ON
14TH MAY 1752
James Stewart memorial
In 1911 a memorial cairn was placed at the site of James Stewart's execution.
The inscriptions reads:
|ERECTED 1911 |
TO THE MEMORY OF
JAMES OF THE GLENS
EXECUTED ON THIS SPOT
NOV 8TH 1757
FOR A CRIME OF WHICH
HE WAS NOT GUILTY
Identity of the murderer
In 2001, a member of the Stewart family claimed to know the identity of the murderer, but was not supported in her claim:
In 2001, nearly 250 years after the incident, an 89-year-old descendant of the Stewarts of Appin, Anda Penman, claimed it was time to break the family silence. She said the murder was planned by four young Stewart lairds and that the gun was fired by the best shot among the four, Donald Stewart of Ballachulish, who had been elected assassin. Penman died soon afterwards and no member of the Stewart family has substantiated her incredible story.
In 2005, the author of a book related to the story claimed to have identified the murderer, but then declined to reveal his finding:
In Walking With Murder: On The Kidnapped Trail (2005), Ian Nimmo has addressed the mystery of who shot Colin Campbell, applying modern police methods to the documents in the case, including two post-mortem reports. According to Nimmo, Alan Stewart did not pull the trigger, and the secret of who did has been handed down through the Stewart family for 250 years. Nimmo does not choose to reveal it, stating that "it is not mine to give away."
In 2002, a new exhibition opened in Edinburgh, aimed at examining one of Scotland's most celebrated miscarriages of justice. The National Archives for Scotland displayed photographs by archivist RM Gibson, together with documents and letters relating to the case, which was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped.
The Will and Testament of Colin Roy Campbell July 13 1753
The Will and Testament of Colin Roy Campbell, dated July 13, 1753, has been placed online by ScotlandsPeople, the official Scottish genealogy resource.
In November 2008, a Glasgow solicitor, John MacAuley, asked the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to look into the case of James Stewart. He described the trial as a "farce" which "needs to be quashed".
Appeal rejected by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC)
In what appears to a non-legal expert to be a less than convincing argument, the SCCRC turned down the request for the Appin Murder to be reviewed, saying that it "fell on the second test which basically is in the interests of justice". They also mentioned the time elapsed since the murder as being a contributing factor in the decision.
Given that that one of the relatives of the victim revealed that the identity of the convicted man was wrong, a finding that the the review was not "in the interests of justice" seems incomprehensible.
Again, and commenting as a non-legal expert who understands that there is no statue of limitations on a capital crime such as murder, rejecting the application on the basis of time elapsed since the crime was committed, implies a statute of limitation on their pursuit, which is surely not within the commission's scope.
There now appears to be two possible routes which can now be pursued. The first being an application for a judicial review; and the second is an appeal to the Justice Secretary, a post current occupied by Kenny MacAskill.
Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-
- In pictures: The Appin Murder, BBC News, November 8, 2002
- Local report of appeal. November 14, 2008.
- The Will and Testament of Colin Roy Campbell - 13 June 1753 Retrieved May 28, 2012.
You may add a comment or offer further details which may be included in the page above.
Commenting has been disabled thanks to the attention of scum known as spam commenters
Recent Page Trail: