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The Scotland, Criminal Database 1801-1917 includes records of Crown Office Precognitions and High Court Trial Papers.
Crown Office Precognitions are factual statements that have been given by witnesses to both the prosecution and defence before the case goes to trial.
Precognitions differ from a witness statement, a witness statement is an account of what the witness has said or seen were as a precognition is an account of the witness’s evidence. Precognitions are not put the witnesses during a trial.
The High Court is the highest court in Scotland, it has jurisdiction over the most serious crimes such as murder, rape, treason, heresy, counterfeiting, and crimes of a sexual nature. A single judge hears cases with a jury of 15 people.
Sitting in cities and larger towns around Scotland, the High Court also has a permanent base in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.
The High Court is also a court of appeal from criminal proceedings in the sheriff courts. As an appeal court, it sits only in Edinburgh.
Edward William Pritchard was a doctor who was convicted in 1865 for murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poison, his record is available in the High Court Trial Papers.
Dr Pritchard's wife Mary Jane became ill in early 1864 and her mother, Jane Taylor, was called in from Edinburgh in order to nurse her daughter back to health. His wife died in February 1864, followed less than a month later by 70-year-old Jane, Pritchard inherited a substantial sum.
An anonymous letter to the Fiscal prompted further investigation and an examination of the bodies concluded that both women had been poisoned.
Dr Pritchard was also suspected of murdering a servant girl however, was not tried for this crime.
On the 28 July 1865, Edward William Pritchard was executed by hanging in Glasgow. He was the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow.
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