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Henry John Burnett

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Henry John Burnett (5 January 1942 - 15 August 1963) was the last man to be hanged in Scotland, at 8am on 15 August, 1963.[1]

The execution took place at Craiginches Prison (HM Prison Aberdeen), and Burnett was 21 years old when he was hanged.

He had been found guilty of the murder of Thomas Guyan, a merchant seaman who he had shot in the face with a shotgun after his lover, Margaret Guyan, had refused to leave her estranged husband for him.

Burnett had also been the only inmate of Craiginches to die on the prison’s gallows, and became the last man to be hanged in Scotland before the death penalty (for murder) was abolished in the United Kingdom.

The death penalty remained a legally defined punishment (but unused) for certain offences, such as treason, until it was completely abolished in 1998. In 2004, the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights became binding on the United Kingdom, prohibiting the restoration of the death penalty for as long as the UK is a party to the Convention.

Burnett had met Margaret Guyan while they were working at John R Stephen Fish Curers in Aberdeen, and she eventually went to with him at his home in the city’s Skene Terrace. However, Burnett kept her locked in the house, but, on one of the few occasions she was allowed to out on her own, she met her husband, and agreed to return to him.

When Burnett could not make her go back to him, he stole a shotgun from his brother’s house and killed Thomas Guyan on May 31, 1963.

Six days before his execution, Burnett wrote: "Well, my darling, you will be wondering why I did not kill you up in Skene Terrace. “Well, it was because I loved you. I could easily have done it if I had wanted to, but what they were saying in court was a heap of rubbish about me being insane even at the time. I knew exactly what I was doing."

Burnett only outlived his victim by only eleven weeks, during which time both an insanity plea and clemency petitions from not only his own family, but that of the victim, were denied.[2]

His body was buried in an unmarked grave within the prison walls, but in August 2014 his remains were exhumed (the old prison was closed and demolished to make way for housing) and taken to Aberdeen Crematorium, where a private ceremony was held.

Scotland's other 'last' executions

Anthony "Tony" Miller, 19, was the last man to be hanged in Glasgow (second last to be hanged in Scotland) on 22 December 1960.

George Alexander Robertson was the last man to be hanged in Edinburgh, on 23 June 1954.


1 On this day in 1963: Last man to be hanged in Scotland - The Scotsman Retrieved October 07, 2016.

2 ExecutedToday.com » 1963: Henry John Burnett, Scotland’s last hanging Retrieved October 08, 2016.

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