The Janet Rogers Murder

Episode Summary

In March 1866, Janet Rogers had gone to her brother’s farm to help him out for a while. Two days after her arrival, Janet was found savagely and brutally murdered.

Please Be Advised – This episode may contain content that some may find distressing. As always, we advise listener discretion. This episode it not suitable for anyone under the age of 13.

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The Mount Stewart Murder

by Chris Paton

Synopsis

In March 1866, Janet Rogers travelled to the Perthshire-based farm of her brother, William Henderson, to help with chores while he looked for a new domestic servant. Three days later she was found dead in the farm kitchen, killed by multiple blows from an axe. Ploughman James Crichton was suspected of the atrocity, and after a lengthy investigation was arrested and tried in Perth, with the case duly found non-proven.

Was Crichton the guilty party? If not, why did William Henderson try to frame him? Why was the previous servant on the farm sacked, and why did she wait eight months to accuse Crichton of being responsible? And what led to Henderson being driven insane, ultimately to end his days in a Perthshire lunatic asylum?

The murder investigation remains the UK’s oldest unsolved murder case. Just who was the killer at Mount Stewart Farm?

Scottish Murders is a production of Cluarantonn

Hosted by Dawn and Cole

Researched and Written by Dawn Young

Produced and Edited by Dawn Young and Peter Bull

Production Company Name by Granny Robertson

Music:

Dawn of the Fairies by Derek & Brandon Fiechter

Gothic Wedding by Derek & Brandon Fiechter

Dawn:

In March 1866 Janet Rogers had gone to help her brother out at his farm. Two days after her arrival Janet was found savagely and brutally murdered.

Dawn and Cole:

Hi Wee Ones, I’m Dawn and I’m Cole, and this is Scottish Murders.

[THEME TUNE]

Dawn:

Janet Rogers, who was 55 years old in 1866, had been happily married to James Rogers for 30 years. James was a labourer by trade and tended to spend a lot of time away from home working on large estates. The couple had five daughters. Their eldest daughter, also called Janet who was 28, was married to William Hay Paton and the couple had three sons, making Janet and James proud grandparents. James and Janet’s two youngest daughters, Anne and Mary, continued to live at home with Janet and James, but they both had secured themselves work as weavers. James and Janet and their two youngest daughters lived in a village called Airntully in Perth.. Airntully is a village in the Perth and Kinross area, west of the River Tay, about eight miles or 12 kilometres north of Perth and about 53 miles or 85 kilometres north west of Edinburgh. Airntully had thrived on cottage weaving from the 18th century, and to this day the village remains a relatively unspoiled charm.  Airntully  village was also where Janet, her younger brother William and their two younger sisters had been brought up. Janet and her three sisters got married and left the family home, but William, who was two years younger than Janet, did not marry and continued to stay with his parents, until his mother’s death of heart disease around 1843. At this time William and his father, Andrew, had been devastated by William’s mum’s death and they had reluctantly made the decision to move away from the long-established home, and indeed the village they had lived in for so many years, to take up a lease at Mount Stewart Farm, which was located just outside the small village of Forgandenny, about 15 miles or 24 kilometres south of Airntully. This decision had proven fruitful for the pair as there was much work to do to make the farm a success and it kept the two happily busy. Over the years their employees had grown to include several labourers to help with the work on the farm, as well as a domestic servant to keep house and clean up after the men and prepare their meals. All of their hard work was paying off and the two men again became financially comfortable and content with life. This was until April 1851 when William’s father, Andrew, suddenly died from influenza. This was yet another blow for William, one that was thought he never recovered from. Following his dad’s death, William took over the lease of Mount Stewart Farm solely and took care of the day-to-day running of the livestock and the crops. He also inherited £164, which is about £23,000  and $31,000 in today’s money, from his father, so he was financially well off. However, now he had nobody else to rely on but himself. William continued to work the farm with his labourers relatively happily until the cattle plague, which was first detected on British shores in July 1865, began to ravage its way through the country. Farmers all across the United Kingdom were having to slaughter their animals to try to stop the spread, but it was all to no avail. While it seemed that the plague had not entered the Forgandenny parish as yet, William did begin to struggle financially due to the plague that was affecting his fellow farmers across the country, and he had to lay off most of his laborers. However, he found that he just couldn’t manage everything by himself, and so in October 1865 William hired John Crichton to be his ploughman, one less job for him to do. William also continued to have a domestic servant to help keep the house in order and to cook his meals, however, he seemed to find them difficult to hold on to. In fact his latest servant had left abruptly on Thursday the 22nd of March 1866. Irritated by the servant’s bad timing of leaving him at a particularly difficult time when he especially needed an extra pair of hands to help him as he had an expectant cow who was due to give birth any day, William travelled by horse and cart to his sister Janet’s home in Airntully, which was 15 miles or 24 kilometres north of Mount Stewart Farm, to ask if one of his nieces would be able to come to Mount Stewart Farm and help him out until he found another domestic servant. His sister Janet wouldn’t hear of it, insisting that she would come herself as there was no one else better able to keep house and tend to the expectant cow than herself. William was delighted and expected the pair to set off back to Mount Stewart Farm that day.  However, Janet told him that she had things to do before she could leave her house for a while, so he could pick her up at the railway station in Perth, about 7 miles or 11 kilometres from Forgandenny, on Wednesday instead. Remember however this was back in 1866 when there was only horse and carts, no main roads or cars, so not only would this have taken longer than it would in a car today but also the going would have been rough.  Anyway, it wasn’t an ideal situation for William as he would have to travel to Perth to pick Janet up, again taking time away from his farm, but it was the best he was going to get. So he travelled back south by himself that day, promising to pick Janet up on Wednesday the 28th from the railway station, which he did, and the pair then travelled back to Mount Stewart Farm. Janet then spent the next couple of days settling in and getting the house in some order. Back in 1866, Wednesdays and Fridays were market days in Perth but Friday’s market was the main event, and so on Friday the 30th of March 1866 William, as usual, planned to spend the day in Perth at the market. Upon waking, William went about his duties in the farm, before giving his ploughman, John Crichton, the tasks he wanted him to do that day, which was to remove fence posts that were erected between two of the farmers fields, before ploughing the whole area. The ploughman would barely have acknowledged William’s demands as the pair were definitely not on speaking terms, as William had had a break-in at the farm in January that year and he had been robbed. He blamed John Crichton for the break-in, although he could never prove it. On the day of the break-in John and William had gone to the market in Perth early on a Friday to buy some farming supplies, however William had business to attend to in Perth so he asked John to take the horse and cart back to Mount Stewart Farm and unload the delivery. William didn’t arrive back at the farm until the evening. When he made his way to his bedroom to change he found that the window in his room had been broken. Upon further inspection of his bedroom, William noted that money he had kept in his room was missing, along with a watch, a chain and a pair of trousers. William reported this break-in and robbery to the police officer in Forgandenny but the culprit was never caught. William however was positive in his own mind that his ploughman, John Crichton, had been behind it, having had plenty of opportunity to break in while William had been away in Perth all day. However, with no evidence what could he do. So, with William no longer trusting John and John obviously being aware of being suspected of the robbery, the relationship grew tense, until they were barely on speaking terms. So, upon William making sure that John had understood the tasks he was to do that day, William then returned to the farmhouse where he and Janet sat and had their breakfast.  Shortly after breakfast William got his horse and cart ready, said bye to his sister and about 10am he set off for Perth. While at the market William attended an auction where he purchased a pig. With business complete he then took himself to his favourite tavern where he met fellow farmers. They then all proceeded to spend the rest of the day having a good old gossip about the state of affairs in the world and closer to home, namely the cattle plague that was inching closer and closer, while obviously partaking in a few drinks. Having enjoyed his afternoon in Perth, William set off for home about 5pm, arriving in Bridge of Earn about 6pm. Bridge of Earn is about four miles or six kilometres south of Perth, and three miles or four kilometres west of Forgandenny. William had stopped here to pick up some supplies, before carrying on towards home. It was about 7pm when William finally made it to Mount Stewart Farm. By this time it was pitch black. William noted that John was still at the farm in the stables and so shouted to him to come and help him unload the supplies and the pig from the cart. Having done this John took off for home and William made for the kitchen door, longing for his bed no doubt. However, when he reached the door he found it to be locked. Again, this might not seem unusual for nowadays, but back then doors were rarely locked. He banged on the door and window to the kitchen shouting to Janet to let him in, but the room beyond remained dark. Getting no response he turned to ask John if he had seen Janet recently as obviously he had still been at the farm, but John had disappeared down the hill towards his cottage already. William made his way round to the other entrance to the house, which was barely used, however this door was locked too. Then something came back to William, something his sister had said to him when he had collected her from the railway station in Perth. She said that she had sent a note to their Uncle who lived in Perth asking if she could visit him, and she said to William just two days earlier that if he replied and said yes you could come and visit she would be taking off.  So William thought perhaps she had heard word and had left to go to Perth, but surely she would have mentioned it to John, the ploughman  before going. But maybe John had been busy in one of the fields and instead she had left the back door key with John’s wife. John and his wife lived in one of the two cottages at the bottom of the hill to Mount Stewart Farm. So, perhaps a bit irritated and most definitely cold by this time, William made his way down the hill to John’s cottage. Upon speaking to the ploughman he found out that John didn’t actually know that Janet was William’s sister.  He said that he had seen her about 11am standing at the kitchen door talking to a man, but that he had not seen her since. Now perhaps thinking that Janet had indeed received a note from their uncle and had taken off to see him, forgetting maybe to leave the keys behind, William accepted that the only way he would be getting into his property that night would be through a window. Knowing that all the windows on the ground floor would be locked, William just hoped that Janet had left the window in her bedroom unlocked. William retrieved a ladder from one of the sheds, he placed the ladder against the side of the house and began to climb tentatively up the ladder in the dark. Upon reaching the top he once again called out Janet’s name just in case she had taken herself to bed unwell, but there was again no reply. He then gently opened the window, which he was grateful to find was unlocked, and made his way through into the house. He glanced in the direction of the bed once again checking to see if Janet was there, but nope the bed was empty. William then slowly made his way down the stairs in the dark and fumbled his way towards the kitchen, bearing in mind there was no electricity back then and he hadn’t had a chance to light any candles yet. As he opened the door to the kitchen it too would have been pitch black if it were not for the remains of a long ago lit fire burning ever so slightly. Once in the kitchen William made his way to one of the drawers to get a candle to light. On the way he tripped over something lying on the floor, it was a wooden chair from around the table that had been knocked over. With his eyes now adjusting to the darkness in the kitchen, William saw something else lying on the floor that looked to be a bundle of clothes. Getting closer to the clothing William realised that it was actually the bedding from a small bed that was in the kitchen for the servants when they worked there.  Wondering what on earth they were doing there he went closer to pick them up, and upon lifting the top sheet up he saw an outstretched hand. He was shocked and dropped the sheet, before composing himself and lifting it up completely to reveal his sister’s face staring back at him with open eyes. William could not process what he was seeing at first. He then realised that he was standing in something wet, and upon closer inspection in the dim light realised to his horror that it was blood. Janet’s blood. He also then noticed that Janet’s hair was covered in blood as well, as well as the caps she was wearing on her head and the blanket that had been covering her. In a state of shock he quickly left the house through the front door, which thankfully did have a key in it, and made his way back to the cottages at the bottom of the hill to Mount Stewart Farm. As he did not get on with the ploughman, William made his way to the cottage next door where a man named James Barlas lived with his wife and two sons, who were in the process of eating a late supper as James had returned late from working in Bridge of Earn that day. By this time William was in a state of hysteria and shouted at the man that he had to come quickly as he had found his sister dead surrounded by blood. The two men and James’s wife made their way back to the farmhouse. James’s wife stayed outside but James went into the farmhouse and saw for himself the horrendous scene in the kitchen. Stepping outside to discuss what to do next, the two men noticed that Crichton was talking to James’s wife. James’s son had apparently gone next door to the Crichtons cottage and had excitedly told the family of what William had said, leaving John feeling that he should come and see if he could help in any way. Upon having the murder confirmed by James, Crichton stated that he would go to Forgandenny and let the police officer there know. It was then decided that William would go to Bridge of Earn and get Dr Laing and let the police officer there know too. William then set off on foot to walk the approximate three miles or four kilometres to Bridge of Earn. When William knocked on Dr Laing’s door he was told by his wife that he wasn’t at home, but that she was expecting him to be on the train due to arrive shortly in Bridge of Earn coming from Edinburgh, which would then go on to Perth. William’s next stop was the police station where he told Constable Alexander Cumming of what he had come across at his farm, and the pair immediately headed to the railway station to await the doctor’s arrival. While they were waiting for the train to arrive, the Constable suggested that William write a note requesting that the Procurator Fiscal in Perth come as soon as possible saying that there had been a murder at the farm.

Cole:

Just so everyone knows, a Procurator Fiscal is a public prosecutor in Scotland.

Dawn:

Yep, it is. This note was then given to a passenger on the station platform waiting for the train to take them to Perth that evening, who agreed to kindly go to the offices of the Procurator Fiscal and give them the note. At about 9.20pm, the train pulled into Bridge of Earn Station and Dr Laing was quickly apprised of the situation, and all three men made their way to the carriage that had been there to pick up Dr Laing to take him home, but instead was used to transport them all to Mount Stewart Farm. Upon arriving back at the farm, Dr Laing and Constable Cumming’s were met by Constable Rowley from Forgandenny. Constable Rowley led the two newcomers into the house via the front door and into the kitchen, where, by the light of a single candle that had been lit, Dr Laing confirmed what was already known, that Janet was indeed dead. It was decided that all that could be done was to secure the crime scene and to await the arrival of the Procurator Fiscal and his team. Unfortunately, the Fiscal was at another location, so the Deputy Procurator Fiscal John Young, Superintendent Henry McDonald, Criminal Officer Sergeant Charles Ross, and a couple of other police officers, finally arrived at Mount Stewart Farm at 12.40am.  Thoughtfully, by this time, the waiting constables from the local area had made sure that the room was illuminated as well as it could be by plenty of candles, to allow for both Janet and the crime scene to be carefully examined. Dr Laing was then given permission to go back into the kitchen and have a rudimentary perusal of Janet’s body, and he was shocked by the sight that awaited him. His observations were that Janet’s body was still warm to the touch, estimating that Janet may have died somewhere between afternoon to late evening. He noted a wound stretching from her earlobe to her cheek, and that due to the amount of blood on the back of the caps you wore on her head there most likely were more wounds on the back of her head. He stated that the wounds had most likely been caused by a weapon hitting her and not something she would have sustained from merely falling over. Dr Laing would need to wait for a warrant to be delivered to him before he could move or examine Janet’s body any further, which the Deputy Fiscal John Young planned on obtaining once the crime scene had been examined and secured. Dr Laing left the kitchen area to allow for a full examination of the kitchen to take place by Superintendent Henry McDonald and Sergeant Charles Ross. Upon examination of the kitchen, it was noted that an axe with blood and hair on its blade was leaning against a wall, bloodied footprints were seen in front of the fire, blood drops had spattered on items around the room, a pair of women’s bloodied leather boots were found near the bed in the kitchen, which were assumed to have been removed from Janet’s feet after she had been killed but it wasn’t clear why. They also found three paper bags on the table, two empty and one with snuff in it bought by Janet.

Cole:

Okay, so what’s snuff?

Dawn:

It’s tobacco made from ground or pulverized tobacco leaves. It’s not smoked but inhaled up the nose. Snuffed.

Cole:

Okay, I’ve never heard of that before.

Dawn:

Yeah, I hadn’t either, but our gran had. I asked her, she told me.

Cole:

Oh did she.

Dawn:

Yeah. That’s because she’s a wrong-un. She must have been snuffing in her time.

Dawn:

(Laughs) Two of the bags were covered with blood having been touched by the murderer. They also found under a pillow on the floor in the kitchen a broken clay pipe with pieces missing and a tin top. A tin top has holes in it like a pepper or salt shaker, and it’s placed over the end of the pipe to keep the tobacco good. The men noticed that the room looked like it had been pulled apart, as if somebody had been looking for something, the furniture was overturned and drawers were removed from the cabinets. A mental note was made to ask William if anything was missing, or was this perhaps just an attempt at misdirection. For completeness, an architect, by the name of David Smart, was also called upon to draw plans of both the house and all the rooms, taking extra time to record the exact placement of the items in the crime scene. David went as far as re-enacting how William had gained entry to the house the previous evening, assuring himself and the police officers that it could actually be done. The two officers, having examined the kitchen thoroughly and making extensive notes, as well as being confident that the crime scene was secure, decided that the Deputy Fiscal would head back to Perth to secure a warrant for Dr Laing to examine Janet’s body fully. Just before the Deputy Fiscal climbed into the waiting carriage, he firstly wanted to speak to Constables Cumming and Rowley about their opinions of William Henderson and John Crichton, upon being summoned by each man to come to the farm. Constable Cumming stated that William had told him that he had been at the market all day, before returning to the farm about 7pm and describing what happened when he got there. Constable Cumming said that obviously William had been agitated at this time. However, the Constable did note that when he had asked William if he thought the killer had still been on the property he had said no, but had gone red at the same time, something the Constable had found strange. Constable Rowley said that John Crichton had been calm and simply told him of what had occurred at the farm that evening, although when relaying the story he said that he believed it was William who had killed his sister, stating that he believed that William had plenty of time to kill Janet in the time he had left William at the farm and William had appeared at the cottages saying he had found Janet. Constable Rowley did admit though that the pair didn’t exactly get on. The Deputy Fiscal then departed for Perth, while William Henderson, John Crichton and James Barlas were asked to go into the parlour and wait to be questioned. While a police officer stood guard at Mount Stewart Farm to preserve the crime scene and William Henderson, John Crichton and James Barlas remained in the parlour to be questioned, back in Perth the Deputy Fiscal was relaying his findings to Chief Constable Gordon and Mr Hugh Barcley, who was the Sheriff substitute of the county. Following the briefing, a warrant to enable the post-mortem of Janet’s body to be carried out was sought, which would be delivered to Mount Stewart Farm within a few hours. Chief Constable Gordon, a second physician Dr George Absolon, the Deputy Fiscal and a couple of constables then set off for Mount Stewart Farm, arriving shortly before 7am on the Saturday morning. Chief Constable Gordon first went to the crime scene to look around for himself, as well as asking for a debrief from Dr Laing, Superintendent Henry McDonald and Sergeant Charles Ross, who had all stayed at the farm and had informally spoken to all three men being held in the parlour. It was reported that Crichton had remained calm and quiet, and it was felt that if he had committed the murder he would have been more agitated, especially at having to stay put in the house where the murder had been committed, but he had an air of almost being uninterested in what had taken place or was going on. William Henderson was said to have been in shock, and that James Barlas had no real part in what had happened other than to be informed of the death by William and had come to check that Janet was indeed dead. It again was noted that the kitchen had been upended as if someone had been searching for something, and again it was to be determined if anything was actually missing or had this simply been done to suggest robbery was the motive for the murder. But then what other motive could there possibly have been? Following Chief Constable Gordon being appraised by his colleagues, he finally ventured in to talk to the three men waiting in the parlour.  Firstly though, as it had been determined that James Barlas had nothing actually to do with the investigation, he was allowed to leave and go home. William Henderson and John Crichton were asked for their versions of events of what had happened the evening before. William was asked if he or Janet had smoked but he said they didn’t. Both men were then asked to remove their clothes so they could be examined for blood. It was noticed as the pair began to remove their clothes that there was a vast difference in their cleanliness, with William’s appearing to have been worn continuously without being washed for weeks, whereas John’s clothing appeared to have been put on fresh. Neither men’s clothes were noted to have any blood on them and they were returned to the men to put back on. William was then asked to accompany the officers through the house to try to determine if anything had been taken. This is when it was noted that it wasn’t just the kitchen area that looked like it had been turned upside down as William’s bedroom was in the same state. Upon searching the strewn about contents of William’s bedroom, he determined that money he had kept there was missing, however, everything else seemed to be accounted for. With William and John  having had their clothes examined, been questioned and William’s bedroom having been checked for anything missing, and no sign of the warrant as yet, there was nothing left to do but wait for the Procurator Fiscal and the warrant to arrive, which both did just before 9am, accompanied also by Constable John Cameron who was also a criminal investigator with Perth Constabulary. Dr Laing and Dr Absolon set about the task of fully examining Janet’s body.

Cole:

Oh so Janet’s body was going to be examined at the farm?

Dawn:

Yes, it was. Post-mortems were typically carried out at the actual location of the incident. And so tables within the kitchen area were used to lay Janet’s body on, they were replaced as close to the window as possible to ensure the most light. The kitchen door would have been opened to give even more light but unfortunately the key to this door was still missing. Once Janet’s body was on the table and everyone had been asked to leave the kitchen, apart from the two doctors, the Fiscal, Constable Cameron and Chief Constable Gordon, Janet’s clothes were then removed, including the two caps she still had on her head which were covered in blood. A small snuff box was found between Janet’s breasts and was given to the officers present outside as evidence.

Cole:

Right, okay, so a snuff box, is that where you keep your snuff?

Dawn:

Exactly. It’s just a wee tin box.

Cole:

Got you.

Dawn:

From the post-mortem, the doctors found that there had been bleeding around the eye causing discoloration to Janet’s skin, that there was a cut from the lobe of Janet’s ear to the back of her ear, which had gone all the way through to her brain tissue. Many wounds were also found on the top of Janet’s head, some larger than others but between one and five inches in length, as well as cuts on the other side of Janet’s head. She had clearly been struck many times. With the post-mortem completed, the doctors told the waiting police officers that they determined that Janet had died due to the blows to the head she had sustained, with bone going into her brain tissue, and that time of death was between 2pm and 3pm. The Fiscal, Constable Cameron and Chief Constable Gordon were all thinking the same thing, that the murder could not have been carried out by William Henderson as he had been at the market in Perth all day and did not return home until 7pm, which both James Barlas and John Crichton had confirmed. Following this revelation, Chief Constable Gordon ordered that an immediate search be carried out to determine if there were any strangers present in the area on the Friday, and if so they should be found. While police officers went door to door in the local and surrounding areas trying to find any information they could, back at Mount Stewart Farm all the evidence found was recorded and labelled.

Cole:

Now, with the shock of what had happened to Janet and the police trying to coordinate to get the right people and paperwork in place, Janet’s husband, James Rogers, had been forgotten. Now, it’s not as if someone could have just given him a phone call or popped round in the car being back in 1866, but maybe it would have been nice if a police officer in the area had been told to tell him that his wife had been brutally murdered.  Unfortunately they didn’t manage to do that, he found out from Janet’s brother-in-law, Peter, while he was at work. In a state and initially not believing what he was being told, James eventually arrived at Mount Stewart Farm about 12 noon on Saturday with Peter and Peter’s eldest daughter Mary. James and Mary found William inside and immediately broke down, James was in complete shock. James and William were allowed to go into the kitchen where Janet still lay on the table, with the crime scene still as it was when she was found. This further shocked James to see the room in such a disarray and his wife’s blood scattered around, but he composed himself and went to his wife. Having spent a few minutes with Janet he then turned to William and asked him to tell him what had happened. The pair spent some time together in the kitchen talking, trying to make sense of the senseless, before agreeing that the kitchen couldn’t stay the way it was and that they were going to have to clean it for Janet leaving. But before Janet, now having been washed and placed in a dress found in a room in the farmhouse, could be taken from the farm for burial on Sunday morning, William and James found themselves in the barn helping the cow give birth, the very reason that William had asked Janet to come and help him on the farm in the first place due to the imminent birth. Upon the birth of the cow, William finally broke down having held in the tears over the last couple of days. The two men comforted each other before carrying on quietly with their tasks, lost in their own thoughts, before finally exhausted and having worked up an appetite began to make their way to the farmhouse in the dark for their tea. Upon entering the front door, the kitchen door key still being missing, they heard a noise coming from the kitchen. When they opened the door they were surprised to see a woman there obviously looking for something within the bedding on the bed in the kitchen. When the men came through the door she let out a yelp and rushed past the two and out the door, disappearing into the night before either men could get a word out. It turned out the woman was called Christina Miller and had been William’s previous servant that had left the Thursday before, another reason why William had sought the help of his sister at the farm. William was pretty angry at the cheek of this woman to have walked out on him suddenly only to find her in his house without his permission, rummaging through stuff. But the incident was soon forgotten as the pair set about preparing and eating their meal. The following morning, now Monday, James happened to come across William’s ploughman, John Crichton. They spent a moment chatting, with John making it clear he was not fond of William and that he suspected him of the killing. James asked John if he had seen anyone around the farmhouse on the Friday, to which John replied that yes, he had seen a man at the kitchen door talking to Janet about 11am.

Dawn:

Which was the exact same thing that he’d said to William himself on the night William found his sister dead.

Cole:

The pair parted company and it wasn’t long before the undertaker’s carriage arrived to collect Janet and take her and James back home to Airntully, where Janet’s funeral would take place. James said bye to William, with William replying that he would see him in Airntully for the funeral, before Janet started her journey taking her to her final resting place. Janet’s funeral took place on Thursday the 5th of April, six days after her body had been found. Many friends and family gathered outside Janet and James’s home in Airntully to see Janet’s coffin be carried from her home to the waiting hearse. Janet’s husband, her brother and her uncles followed behind in a coach, followed by other male mourners who walked behind. It was a custom that women would not attend a funeral, and so Janet’s female relative stayed behind at Janet’s home already having said their goodbyes. Hopefully it wouldn’t be long before Janet’s murderer would be caught and her family could finally grieve in peace.

Dawn:

Now, upon door-to-door inquiries been carried out in the area, it was quickly established by Constable Cumming that there had been a visitor seen in the area on the Friday, not just that but that they had been seen walking up the hill to Mount Stewart Farm at about 11.30am. The visitor’s name was Betsy Riley and she was a hawker who lived in Perth.

Cole:

Okay, so what’s a hawker?

Dawn:

It’s a person who has various items to sell and travels about the place going door to door trying to get a buyer. In Betsy’s case she was selling pottery. Now, Betsy, who was 48 and married, was quickly located at her address in Perth and brought to the Fiscal’s office for questioning by the Fiscal himself, John McLean, also Sheriff Barclay and Superintendent McDonald.

Cole:

That must have been really intimidating for her to be sat in front of all of them.

Dawn:

Yeah, it must have been, I would have been intimidated. Anyway, they told her that there had been a murder at Mount Stewart Farm and that they’d been told she had been at the farm on the same day and could she tell them if she saw anything or anyone strange while she was there.  Betsy explained that she’d only gone up towards Mount Stewart Farm to get access to a footpath on the other side of the yard, and that she hadn’t actually gone up to the farm to sell her wares as she had seen William Henderson heading for market so she hadn’t expected anyone to be in the farmhouse. However, she went on to say that as she was walking towards the farm she saw a woman, who was presumed to have been Janet, standing at the kitchen door speaking to a man. She approached the pair but was told that nothing was needed and so she kept walking. When she was asked for a description of the man, Betsy said that she had only got a brief look at the side of his face, which she thought hadn’t been shaved, that he might have been about 40 years old, about five foot eight inches, wore a dark coat, dirty trousers and a dark cap with a long peak. She also said that there was a dog lying there too, but she didn’t know who it belonged to. Betsy advised that she hadn’t come back via Mount Stewart Farm and that she hadn’t seen the man again. Betsy also said something a bit scathing about William, she implied that he couldn’t keep a servant as he was always trying to get a bit more for his money, as in bed them. The men in the room quickly shut this down as it was not helpful to the investigation and they were not interested in that kind of gossip. Upon Betsy leaving the room it was immediately decided that Betsy’s description of the man seen at the kitchen door talking to Janet would be circulated, which it was on the 2nd of April 1866, five days after Janet had been found brutally murdered. Journalists by this time had also heard about the murder and the details of Janet’s brutal murder was printed in newspapers far and wide. With this, along with a description of the man seen by Betsy being circulated, it wasn’t long before telegrams from police stations throughout Scotland started to arrive at Perth. One of which advised that a man meeting the description circulated had been caught and was in custody at Burntisland police station in Fife. Deciding that the only way to determine if the man being held at Burntisland was indeed the man Betsy had described was for Constable Cameron and Superintendent McDonald to travel there by train and bring the suspect back to Perth with them for Betsy to identify. Upon seeing the man Betsy immediately said that it wasn’t the man she had seen. Plus, this man also had an alibi, he had been about 22 miles or 35 kilometres away in Longforgan, not far from Dundee, where he had spent the night in a local inn, which was confirmed. Two days later on the 4th of April, full details of who had been murdered, a description of the murder scene, the fact that the kitchen door key was missing and its description and again the description of the man seen speaking to Janet at the kitchen door on the day of her murder, was circulated to the newspapers and the surrounding areas, again asking for anyone with any information to come forward. Also on the 4th of April, Detective Officer James Leadbetter from the Edinburgh police arrived in Perth to help the investigation and cast his more experienced eye over the evidence and details of the case. Upon being updated on the case so far, Detective Leadbetter, Constable Cameron and the Fiscal made their way to Mount Stewart Farm to formally interview William Henderson and John Crichton, where Leadbetter could also take the opportunity to familiarise himself with the farm and farmhouse. While Detective Leadbetter was being shown around the farm, Constable Cameron decided to have a chat with John Crichton. While the pair were chatting, Cameron took out his pipe and lit it, before asking if Crichton would also like a light for his pipe, to which Crichton replied that he didn’t smoke.

Cole:

Alright, I see, so he’s kind of sneakily trying to determine if maybe that broken pipe that was found in the farmhouse kitchen could have been his?

Dawn:

Yes, exactly. Detective Cameron then told Crichton that he would be interviewed next and they would see him at his cottage. The

Cole:

Three police officers then went to the farmhouse with William Henderson to interview him. William went over the events again of his day leading up to Janet being found, but there was no change, his story remained the same. Detective Leadbetter then asked William about his domestic servants and the fact that there had been rumors that he may have been trying to have relations with some of them, to which William angrily denied that this was rubbish, he had no interest, despite the best efforts of his last servant Christina Miller. He went on to say that she had basically tried to throw herself at him but that he just wasn’t interested and so shunned her. Only for her then to turn her attention onto John Crichton and turn nasty against William, trying to show him up in front of Crichton and generally make his life impossible. He continued that the day before he had sacked Christina she had just disappeared, before appearing again the next day. A fight had ensued again, getting so bad that John Crichton stepped in to ensure that William would not strike Christina. William then promptly sacked Christina and told her to collect her things, items which she had in her chest from the kitchen, and leave at once. Crichton apparently had taken Christina’s chest to his house for her to collect at a suitable time. William then was asked to tell them about his relationship with Crichton, to which William repeated the story of the robbery months earlier at his home and his suspicions, as well as the fact that he suspected Crichton may have murdered Janet too. He was however unable to offer any proof of either allegations. When asked if there was anything else he would like to say, William said that before finding Janet’s body Crichton had said to him that he’d seen Janet talking to a man at the kitchen door about 11am, a fact which he had repeated in the presence of Janet’s husband, James. This was new information to the police. William went on to say that he had noticed when he had returned from the market on Friday night that Crichton had changed his clothes, having worn darker, dirtier items in the morning before William had set off to the market, but had been wearing new clean clothes on his return, namely a white jacket and a shirt, as well as different trousers. All men agreed that this was new information and would be followed up. Next up was Crichton himself. The three officers ventured down the hill from Mount Stewart Farm to Crichton’s cottage, where they were met at the door and brought into the kitchen, where to their surprise was not only Crichton’s wife but Christina Miller.

Dawn:

Oh right, had she come back for her chest?

Cole:

So yes, and no. She’d come back for her chest but had decided to stay with the Crichtons for a few days, as it turned out she was the cousin of Crichton’s wife.

Dawn:

Oh Okay.

Cole:

Once Christina and Crichton’s wife had left the kitchen the interview began. Crichton was first asked when he had saw Janet, to which he had replied that he had seen her talking to William just before he left for the market. When asked if he had seen Janet again that day he replied no. Upon being told that William had reported Crichton had told him he had seen Janet about 11am talking to a man he replied that William was mistaken.

Dawn:

Hang on a second, but he had told not only William that but Janet’s husband, James. I wonder why he’s changing his story now.

Cole:

He did. However, he did go on to say that he had seen a man walking along a footpath near to where he was ploughing a field at about 3pm. Unfortunately he was too far away for Crichton to give a description of this man, although he did say he wore dark clothing and could have been middle-aged.

Dawn:

Okay, well that’s new information.

Cole:

We haven’t heard that before, but it’s a bit funny that his story is changing now. Crichton was then asked what clothes he’d been wearing that day. He replied he had worn a white jacket, white vest and trousers. [laughs]

Dawn:

What?

Cole:

Just… [laughs]  in my mind I went, oh kinky asking him what he was wearing.

Dawn:

[laughs] Trust you.

Cole:

When it was put to him that they had been advised he had been wearing darker clothes in the morning and that he had perhaps changed clothing throughout the day he denied this, going on to say that on Thursday he had changed his clothes midway through the day and put on these same clothes on the Friday morning, but insisted that he didn’t change his clothes throughout Friday. Upon being asked to describe his relationship with William, Crichton confirmed that there had been some tension between the two, and that there were apparently clear signs of contempt shown for William.  Crichton further bad-mouthed his employer by backing up the rumours that Betsy had told the police about William having a reputation for trying to get his servants into bed. Regardless of the gossip about William’s reputation with his servants, William was not considered a suspect in Janet’s murder at all, he had definitely been at the market in Perth all day and he had not returned home until after Janet had been murdered. This didn’t stop the gossips talking and speculating about William’s involvement. Crichton on the other hand the police still had doubts about and questions that needed answering regarding his movements on the Friday, and what of the claims that he had definitely changed his clothes on the Friday. Of course though there was always still the man that Betsy had seen talking to Janet on the Friday to find. 

Dawn:

Hoping for more information from Crichton’s next door neighbours, James, his wife Jean and their son Robert, they too were interviewed. James had been at work all day and so wasn’t able to really give any information about the Friday, however, he did confirm that Crichton did smoke pipes, mainly at meal times.

Cole:

Oh, but didn’t Crichton tell the police officers that he didn’t smoke? 

Dawn:

Yes, he did. I think the police took note of this for now, maybe hoping to confirm that at a later date. He also confirmed the rumours about William’s ways with his servants. More interestingly though he said he had noticed a pair of Crichton’s trousers drying on the grass outside his house having been washed on the Friday.

Cole:

Oh he’s a very naughty man. [laughs] That’s very odd isn’t it?

Dawn:

Well, yes, it could be odd, but Crichton did say that he’d changed his clothes the day before, so maybe they were just getting round to washing the clothes on the Friday.

Cole:

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

Dawn:

But with other witnesses saying that Crichton had been wearing different clothes on the Friday then, yes, it does seem a bit strange.

Cole:

Or, I guess witnesses could just be confusing their days.

Dawn:

Yeah, cause he did say he’d changed his clothes on the Thursday, maybe they got mixed up between Thursday and Friday. I don’t know.

Cole:

It’s a possibility.

Dawn:

So James’s wife, Jean, said that she had been in Perth most of the day, but on returning at about 5pm she said she had seen a tub at the Crichtons back door and assumed that Mrs Crichton must have been washing that day, something Mrs Crichton didn’t normally do.

Cole:

What, wash?

Dawn:

[laughs] No! She didn’t normally wash clothes on a Friday.

Cole:

Alright, okay.

Dwan:

However, their son, Robert, had been at the house that day in the garden and he said that he too had seen an elderly man about 3pm walking near the farm.

Cole:

Alright, so that backs up what Crichton had said.

Dawn:

Yeah, it does. Robert also said that he had seen Crichton smoking a pipe, but couldn’t remember if this had been before or after Janet’s murder. He also couldn’t describe the pipe that Crichton had used.

Cole:

The pipe again! The pipe! I mean the pipe! It’s all about the pipe! They were really determined to establish if Crichton actually smoked because of the pipe under Janet’s body.

Dawn:

They were, they needed to know this.

Cole:

I need to know.

Dawn:

(laughs) So much so that Sergeant Ross attended the local shop to try to establish if Crichton or his family had ever bought tobacco there and this is what he found out. One shopkeeper remembered that following Janet’s murder Crichton had bought tobacco from his shop, but couldn’t remember if he had done so prior to the murder. However, he did say that the tobacco would have come with a new pipe.

Cole:

Oh, so it could have been Crichton’s pipe found at the farm and this was him getting a new pipe. Also, he said that he didn’t smoke so, you know, that seems like important information, seems like he’s trying to cover his back.

Dawn:

Well I just think they’re trying to establish if he smoked before, during, after the murder and what he smoked, what kind of pipe it was.

Cole:

They asked him straight out do you smoke? And he said no. So he’s a liar.

Dawn:

Another shop owner also said that he had sold Crichton tobacco a few times, but again couldn’t remember if this had been before or after Janet’s murder. Another shopkeeper questioned said that before the night of the murder she hadn’t even known Crichton, but apparently on the night of the murder he had come to the shop late asking for candles, at which point he told the lady about what had transpired at the farm and that he had seen someone talking to Janet about 11am.

Cole:

Okay, so he’s told William and James this, then he’s denied it to the police, now a completely independent shopkeeper is saying that he also told her this. Is he okay?

Dawn:

(laughs) I have no idea. I think he’s getting himself a wee bit confused as to what he’s told to whom by the sounds of it.

Cole:

I think that’s correct too, and do you know what it is Dawn, you can’t lie about the truth, you can’t get confused about the truth.

Dawn:

This is it, Colel. However, another man did confirm that Crichton had smoked a pipe on many an occasion in the past, as well as using snuff now and again, but that he hadn’t seen Crichton for quite some time so didn’t know if this was still the case.

Cole:

Oh god he’s a snuffler too. (laughs)

Dawn:

It just sounds disgusting.

Cole:

Okay, so we’re no further forward. He’s saying to the police that he doesn’t smoke a pipe, but he’s actively been seen buying tobacco, so I mean it sounds like he’s lying.

Dawn:

Yeah. It’s anyone’s guess at this point, does he smoke does he not smoke?

Cole:

But it’s not anyone’s guess, he smokes. [laughs] It’s not a guess, it’s fact, he smokes.

Dawn:

But was he smoking at the time of Janet’s death?

Cole:
Why is he telling me that he doesn’t smoke if he smokes? 

Dawn:

Yes, why lie? Why lie, unless you’ve got something to hide.

Cole:

And also, you know, if there’s a murder investigation going on and the police come to my door and say do you smoke? I’ll say occasionally, like, not often. I maybe did like two months ago, but I don’t anymore. Because it’s a murder investigation and I’d be pooing my pants by this point. I’d be open and honest. I wouldn’t say no, I don’t smoke, because then they’d go into my car and they’d find a packet of cigarettes and they’d say well, well well, what do we have here?

Dawn:

The other thing that the police were determined to establish is what Crichton had actually been wearing on the day of the murder, as there had been two different versions already. And so the police again visited local farmers to see if anyone had seen Crichton working in the fields on Friday, and more importantly what he had been wearing. And this is what they found out. One man had seen Crichton ploughing a field at about 11.30am and he said he had been wearing dirty working clothes. Another man had seen Crichton about 12 noon working with his horses on the land and had been wearing a jacket and dirty trousers. A third man had seen Crichton between 4 and 5pm ploughing the field, but this time wearing remarkably clean white clothing. 

Cole:

Alright, so he had changed his clothes that day and not on the Thursday like he said?

Dawn:

Well, that’s what it’s beginning to look like, yes. However, it wasn’t enough. Determined to keep the momentum going on the case and find Janet’s killer, a reward of £100, or about £12,000 or $16,500 in today’s money, was offered to anyone with information that led to a conviction. Following the reward being publicised, there were numerous names given of potential suspects from all over Scotland matching the description of the man in question. Each time the men in question were detained and police officers from Perth would collect the men and take them back to Perth station to be questioned, where, after having their alibis corroborated, Betsy would be sought to try and identify if it was the man she had seen at Mount Stewart Farm, each time answering in the negative, no. Until Tuesday the 17th of April when Betsy was once again asked to attend the police station to see if she could identify their latest potential suspect, a Mr John Henderson a hatter from Aberdeen.  This time after studying the man’s face closely Betsy’s reply was different. Betsy was convinced this was the man she had seen. The man had finally been caught! Although John Henderson vehemently denied the allegation, proclaiming he hadn’t even been in the area. Superintendent Henry McDonald though wasn’t quite as convinced that this was their man.  He decided to reserve judgment until after John Henderson had been questioned.

Cole:

What made him not so sure, do you know?

Dawn:

I think his feelings were that Betsy was a bit of a gossip, she liked to be the centre of attention and she also had a poorly husband and they badly needed some money. Now that there was a reward he maybe just wondered if there was an ulterior motive.

Cole:

Okay. Well did he have an alibi upon being questioned?

Dawn:

He did, yes. He said that he’d been in Edinburgh the day of the murder, as well as the days before and after, where he had been selling clothes. Fortunately he had the names and addresses of the places he had stayed whilst there, as well as the names of witnesses who could vouch for him being there. However, before John Henderson’s alibi could be corroborated, the newspapers got hold of the fact that John Henderson was being held in Perth station, and they were questioning why he was being detained longer than any of the previous men who’d been brought there to be identified by Betsy. Had the killer been caught? Now, you remember how I said that there had been gossip about William’s involvement in his sister’s murder, even though he’d had an alibi and was miles away at the time of death?

Cole:

Yeah.

Dawn:

Well, his brother-in-law, Janet’s husband, had gotten wind of this too and was none too pleased. He made a statement, which was reported in one of the newspapers, where he basically said that William had nothing to do with Janet’s death, saying what state William had been in when James had arrived on the farm and asking what his motive could possibly have been.  He urged people to stop the rumours and suspicions as William had nothing to do with it and the family didn’t need this. However, James didn’t stop there, he went on to basically rip apart the police from start to finish, right from when he had had to find out about Janet’s murder from a family member and not the police down to how he had serious concerns about the police’s efforts in finding Janet’s killer.

Cole:

But from what you’ve told me they’ve done everything right, they’ve done everything that they could so far.

Dawn:

Yeah, I feel the same, but James was grieving and he obviously wanted answers, they just weren’t coming quick enough for him.

Cole:

I understand that, but it seems like they’d already been under stress and pressure due to all the potential suspects that they had to eliminate, like, maybe he could just give them a little break.

Dawn:

Yeah, I think they were doing their absolute best. They wanted to solve the murderer too. Anyway, now the pressure was really on to be seen to be doing something and to bring Janet’s killer to justice as soon as possible.  However, the man that they currently had in their cells, who had been identified by Betsy as speaking to Janet the morning she died, and their best lead, was about to be blown apart. Following a thorough investigation in Edinburgh speaking to the accommodation owners where John Henderson said he’d been staying at the time of the murder, as well as the days before and after, everybody corroborated what he had said, that he had been staying there throughout this time. John was well known in Edinburgh and frequented the taverns and so there were many many witnesses who could also back up the fact that he had been drinking in taverns around the time the murder happened. Now, again, remember it’s back in 1866 so while it’s only 42 miles or 67 kilometres from Edinburgh to Forgandenny, that would have taken a lot longer back then by walking or by horse and cart than it would nowadays by car. For example, to walk that distance it would take about 14 hours.

Cole:

Yeah, there’s absolutely no way John could have walked 14 hours to Mount Stewart Farm, killed Janet, then walked all the way back to Edinburgh, firstly because someone would have seen him, secondly because it’s just too long to get there and back and not be missed in Edinburgh, it’s more than a whole day, even if he didn’t stop.

Dawn:

Exactly. And the police must have known this too, this wasn’t their man. Betsy had lied. 

Cole:
Well, you know that I think the man’s Crichton, so she was clearly just after the money wasn’t she?

Dawn:

Well, I think there’s two possibilities; she could have genuinely thought that this was the man or, yes, she did it for the money.

Cole:

Yeah. And obviously this is in a time where he would have been hanged for his crimes and she knew that and was still willing to commit him to that fate. What if he didn’t have an alibi and there were no witnesses?

Dawn:

Yeah, it doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d like to think that if that had been the case surely Betsy would have owned up about it. Thankfully though we’ll never know, as, following John Henderson’s account being corroborated, he was released.

Cole:

I bet the police were so disappointed. But, you know, they are looking in the wrong place, because it was Crichton.

Dawn:

You’re just determined aren’t you?

Cole:

I know who it was and my mind will not be changed.

Dawn:

Okay. Well, for the police it was back to the drawing board.

Cole:

It’s not, it shouldn’t be a very big drawing board, it should just have Crichton on. So what happened to Betsy?

Dawn:

Well, nothing, other than her testimony now was deemed not enough to make an arrest. Even worse though, thoughts started to creep in that if Betsy could lie about John Henderson being the man she had seen at the farm, what else could she lie about. Was her testimony one big lie?

Cole:

I mean, she did say that she saw the man at the farm before the reward was offered, so it could have been the truth.

Dawn:

Yeah, you’re right, it could have been but, because of the lie there were doubts cast. It’s a shame. After the police’s best suspect had been released the newspapers went to town and the pressure really mounted for the police. Now, do you remember that both James Crichton and Robert Barlas said that they saw an elderly man walking across the fields about 3pm on the Friday?

Cole:

Correct.

Dawn:

Well, this man was identified to be William Gormack, a 77 year old farmer who resided in Forgandenny. He had been walking across the field to get to a house nearby that he wanted to look at. When questioned he said that he’d seen Crichton come from the stables with two horses, where he harnessed them and started to plough the field, but that he couldn’t remember what he was wearing. He did add that he thought that as he had passed Mount Stewart Farm he had noticed that the kitchen door had been shut.

Cole:

So was this man a suspect at all?

Dawn:

No, no not at all, he was frail and very ill. No, the police saw him more as a potential witness, because he’d said that he thought at the time Crichton must have had a long lunch as 3pm was quite a late time to be starting back ploughing, his break should have been over by 2pm.

Cole:

Alright, okay, so do you think that he’d been up to something or was he just, you know, skiving? 

Dawn:

Who knows. However, with little actual evidence other than suspicions that Crichton may have changed his clothes in the middle of Friday and that he may have smoked a pipe in the past, it was felt that a conviction would not be sought if Mr Crichton was arrested at this stage, and so the case began to go cold. Just as the case began to halt, departmental changes were undertaken. Many of the officers involved in the Mount Stewart Farm case were moved to other departments and completely new officers were to take over. The Fiscal himself became so ill that he had to retire, eventually dying in February 1867. It was an unsettling time for all involved. These reshuffles would certainly contribute to the Mount Stewart Farm case going off the boil. Why on earth would you remove officers who had been investigating the murder case from day one and who knew all the ins and outs of it? Something was bound to be missed. Anyway, in May 1866, Crichton left Mount Stewart Farm to find work elsewhere, something that he would struggle with locally as many still had suspicions that he had been involved with Janet’s murder. Crichton eventually found work at a farm on the outskirts of Dunfermline, about 24 miles or 38 kilometres south of Forgandenny. Crichton wasn’t the only one who was struggling, William was finding it harder and harder to stay at the farm where his sister had been murdered in the kitchen, where he had to sit every night and eat.

Cole:

I think I’d have problems with that too you know.

Dawn:

(laughs) Yeah, it was definitely time for William to move on. In October 1866 William left Mount Stewart Farm for the last time, moving to Perth where he had rented a couple of rooms. Now, in November 1866 an interim Fiscal for Perth was appointed, James Barty, and he requested that all witnesses in the Mount Stewart Farm murder be re-interviewed, and this is where Betsy changed her story. She now wasn’t sure if the man she had seen at the door was indeed a stranger, he might actually have been someone from the area, but she hadn’t got a good look at him so couldn’t really say, before eventually admitting that her eyesight was failing and she didn’t see very well.

Cole:

She was adamant that that man, she had seen a man and he was going to hang for it, but now she’s saying oh my eyesight’s not too good.

Dawn:

Yeah, it was a bit of a blow. The other witnesses were also questioned but nothing new came up. The only person that hadn’t been questioned at all was William Henderson’s previous servant, Christina Miller.

Cole:

Oh yes, I’d forgotten about her. She’s not to be trusted either. I know she wasn’t in the area at the time but she was staying at Crichton’s house following Janet’s murder, maybe she had heard something.

Dawn:

That’s what the police thought too, and they certainly were concerned that the previous officers hadn’t thought it prudent to interview her. Anyway, Christina was brought in for questioning by James Barty himself, as well as Superintendent Henry McDonald. Christina began to tell about her time working for William Henderson at Mount Stewart Farm and it became clear that there was no love lost between them.  She reiterated that he had fired her and that her chest was taken to the Crichtons for her to collect at a later date. Christina was then asked whether Crichton had smoked a pipe before the murder, to which she confirmed that Crichton had, he regularly walked about the farm smoking his pipe. She also advised that it had been slightly broken and had a tin top.

Cole:

What a shocker, he smoked a pipe which was slightly broken and had a tin top, who would have thunk it. Hmm.

Dawn:

Hang on though, there’s more. She also said that on her return to the Crichtons house to collect her chest,following Janet’s murder, Crichton was still smoking but now he was using a new pipe, looking to only be a few days old.

Cole:

Well my, my, my, what do we have here? We’ve got ourselves a little liar, don’t we? He said that he didn’t smoke, remember that?

Dawn:

Oh but the best is yet to come. Christina was then asked whether the Crichtons had mentioned anything about Janet’s murder during the time she had stayed with them for a few days. Christina was initially hesitant as Mrs Crichton was her cousin and she didn’t want to get involved, however, she eventually said that she thought James Crichton was responsible for Janet’s murder. Christina said that while both Crichton and his wife spoke openly while Christina was there saying that they both believed William had killed Janet, an entirely different conversation took place between the husband and wife once Christina had gone to bed. In the kitchen of Crichton’s cottage there were two beds where the family slept, during the time Christina stayed there she slept in a bed with Mrs Crichton while John slept with his sons in the other. One night Christina went to bed at the same time as the boys, leaving Mr and Mrs Crichton in the kitchen by themselves. There was no living room, the kitchen was the living room, the kitchen and bedroom rolled into one. After a while had passed when the couple thought that Christina and the boys had gone to sleep, they began to talk. She heard Crichton tell his wife that if anyone found out that he had killed Janet he would be hanged, with Mrs Crichton replying that if it was found out that he had killed Janet she didn’t know what she would do, it would be a disgrace for the whole family.

Cole:

Why would she keep that to herself? Had she fallen out with Crichton and maybe this was payback? Was she wanting the reward money?

Dawn:

Well, no, they were still friendly, nothing had happened, but yeah the reward money, it could have been that. Or it could have been that she just couldn’t keep the secret any longer, despite them being her relations. However, there was a problem.

Cole:

Of course there was.

Dawn:

Christina was a single woman who enjoyed the company of men, lots of men. She was young and single and quite happy, but of course this was looked down on and of course her morals were brought into question.

Cole:

I mean in this day and age you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at that, but I imagine that was a big problem back in 1866.

Dawn:

Yeah, it seems to have been. However, the police believed that despite this Christina was still a credible witness. So, on Saturday the 15th of December detectives travelled to the farm near Dunfermline where Crichton was now working and he was arrested and transported back to Perth police station for questioning. The following day John Crichton was questioned as to his movements on Friday the 30th of March, to which Crichton reiterated what he’d already told police officers. Again, he was asked what he’d been wearing on the Friday morning, to which he again adamantly replied dark trousers and a white jacket, and no he had not changed his clothes at all on the Friday. He then said that at 2pm after his lunch he had firstly removed large posts from between two fields before then ploughing the field until the light faded. When it was put to him that he had actually smoked a pipe at the time of Janet’s murder as Christina had said that he’d let her use it even though he denied this to the police officers at the time, he simply said that Christina was mistaken. The questioning continued for three hours before Crichton was taken back to his cell. After the information and evidence was looked over by the Fiscal to determine if there was enough evidence to secure a conviction, on Saturday the 22nd of December a warrant to further detain Crichton for trial was agreed. Crichton was then taken to prison where he would stay until the trial.

Cole:

Oh my God, I’m so shocked that he got taken to jail and would stay there until his trial, he’s quite clearly an innocent man.

Dawn:

Oh my God you’re so sarcastic. However, before the trial could take place a couple of worrying things happened. Firstly, you remember William Gormack the elderly man walking across the field on the day of Janet’s murder?

Cole:

Yes.

Dawn:

Well he had been deemed a particularly important witness as he had said that he thought the fact that Crichton was just starting back at work again at 3pm was strange, however, on Wednesday the 19th of December he died. Although all was not lost. Mr Gormack had told his daughter the story and she was willing to testify on his behalf.

Cole:

Alright, that’s… I mean that’s good. it’s a shame he passed away, but obviously that’s good that she can testify on his behalf. So, what’s the other thing?

Dawn:

Apparently once Christina had finished giving evidence to the police she decided to stay in Perth, where she visited a pub and met a soldier she had previously known. The couple stayed drinking for most of the evening before then getting a room and spending the next two nights together, which in the eyes of her peers would have been bad enough, however, while drunk Christina had been very vocal about the fact she would be coming into some money very soon and that she planned to emigrate to America. This soon got back to James Barty, the interim Fiscal, and a warrant for Christina to be apprehended was drawn up. Christina was then escorted to Perth where she denied the claims that she had said she was coming into money and planned to emigrate to America. However, scared that she would do just that upon receiving the reward money and the case against Crichton would collapse, the deputy Fiscal said she would only be released if she paid £20, which is about £2,500 and $3,500  in today’s money, knowing full well that she couldn’t afford this. So Christina was to be held in prison until the trial.

Cole:

Okay, can they do that?

Dawn:

Apparently so. On Tuesday the 9th of April 1867 the trial began, with Sir Dees presiding over the trial. The courtroom was filled with locals and reporters alike, as well as the 15 male jurors. William Henderson was the first witness called where he recounted the events leading up to the murder as well as the day itself, which William did with obvious emotion. On cross-examination, William was asked to describe his relationships with his previous female servants, obviously having listened to the gossip and implying that he had tried to bed them. William refused to rise to this and simply explained their roles, ending in the circumstances surrounding Christina’s dismissal. Janet’s husband and eldest daughter were also witnesses, where they were asked to describe Janet and William’s demeanour on the run-up to the murder, the day off and afterwards. James Barlas was questioned where he too was asked to describe William’s reaction upon finding Janet’s body, as well as confirming that he had seen Crichton smoking on several occasions. Dr Laing was called to the witness stand where he described in great detail the state of Janet’s body, with gasps being heard in the courtroom at this, before stating that death would have been almost immediate and it would have been no later than 3pm.  He also noted that when William Henderson and Crichton’s clothing had been examined he was surprised to see just how clean Crichton’s were. Jean Barlas was also called to testify that she had seen washed clothes lying on the grass outside the Crichton’s cottage on the day of the murder. Then it was Superintendent McDonald’s turn on the stand, where he outlined the police’s findings and evidence that had been found throughout the investigation. And then finally it was Christina Miller’s turn to take the stand, the key witness. Christina firstly told that Crichton had in fact smoked a pipe, before recounting her story from being sacked by William Henderson to overhearing the Crichtons talking about how Mr Crichton had murdered Janet. This was damning evidence indeed for Crichton, but his Council, Charles Scott, would soon put paid to the credibility of this testimony. He then proceeded to systematically destroy Christina Miller’s name by providing account after account that she basically slept with any man who came her way, including the soldier she had met and spent two nights with, going as far as asking her if she could remember any of the mens names, to which she said she couldn’t, and therefore her testimony should be deemed as not credible.

Cole:

What’s that got to do with anything there?

Dawn:

Absolutely nothing, but he destroyed her, much to the amusement of the people in attendance at the trial. Christina was left humiliated.

Cole:

Well I do feel a bit sorry for Christina, I still don’t think she’s to be trusted, I think she wants that money, but, you know, let her sleep with who she wants to sleep with, it’s no one else’s business.

Dawn:

Well it’s not, but what he did worked. Their star witness’s testimony was reduced to nothing.

Cole:

That’s some bull[ __ ].

Dawn:

John Crichton didn’t testify, but a declaration following him being questioned by the police was read out in court. The court was then adjourned until the next day. Wednesday the 10th of April at 10am everyone was back in court for more witness testimony. First up it was Betsy.

Cole:

Alright, but it’s been determined that she’s been lying.

Dawn:

Well, yes, she had lied when she had wrongly identified the man she had seen at Mount Stewart Farm’s kitchen door so she could get the reward money, but it still hadn’t been determined if she had lied about seeing someone there in the morning Janet was murdered.

Cole:

But didn’t she say in the end that she didn’t get a good look at the man and that her eyesight was failing?

Dawn:

Mmh hmm she did, but it was believed that by not having her testify as a witness it would cause more damage than if she did.

Cole:

So, you get the woman who has the proof of the pipe smoking and the overhearing conversations about him murdering Janet and you throw that out because she sleeps with loads of people, right?

Dawn:

Yeah.

Cole:

Then you get the woman who has openly said yeah, yeah I’ve lied about that, but you get her to testify anyway because you think it’ll look bad if you don’t get her to testify?

Dawn:

Yep, that’s it pretty much.

Cole:

That makes so much sense.

Dawn:

I’m not in charge of this trial. I’m sorry. [laughs]

Cole:

I don’t think it appears that anyone’s in charge of this trial.

Dawn:

So, Betsy recounted her story, saying that she was adamant she had seen a man at the kitchen door speaking to Janet about 11.30am. Neither side pressed her and she was only on the stand briefly. People thought this was because they didn’t feel her testimony held much weight so it wasn’t worth bothering about.

Cole:

Wait a minute. So, they found out that she was lying, right? Because she wanted the reward money. Then they decided to put her on the trial anyway because they thought that it would be better to hear from her than not hear from her at all. Then she’s adamant that she saw someone at 11 o’clock in the morning, even though she said that her eyesight isn’t good and she can’t confirm whether she did see someone or not. And now you’re telling me that they didn’t spend much time on her because they didn’t feel that her testimony had much weight?

Dawn:

Yeah, that’s, that’s right, yeah.

Cole:

Okay, next.

Dawn:

Throughout the day there were more witnesses, including William Gormack’s daughter, Christine, who testified to what her father had said about Crichton on the Friday, repeating that her dad had thought it strange that Crichton was only starting the ploughing at 3pm in the afternoon. However, another neighbour countered this by saying that going by the tasks Crichton had completed upon his lunch break finishing at 2pm, it was entirely plausible that he would only be taking the horses out to plough the field at 3pm. After two days of witness statements and cross-examination and both sides having summed up their case, the jury retired to deliberate. What do you think was the verdict, Cole, based on the evidence you’ve heard so far, and why?

Cole:

Is that a serious question, Dawn?

Dawn:

(laughs)

Cole:

I think I’ve made my views very clear on this subject.

Dawn:

So you think it would be guilty?

Cole:

Yes. (laugh) Well, I mean, if anyone’s got any sense. The man smoked a pipe, he lied about it. He smoked a pipe that looked exactly like the one that was found under Janet’s blood. He was missing for like an hour or something, no one knows what he was up to. He had a change of clothes. I don’t care whether he said he didn’t have a change of clothes or not, he did have a change of clothes. The man even said that they were too clean to be working in a field all day, which I agree with. So, I would say Crichton’s guilty and that’s that.

Dawn:

Okay, well thanks for that little sum up. So, after only 11 minutes the jury returned with a verdict of not proven, which is a verdict only found in Scotland meaning that the accused might indeed be guilty but that there is not enough evidence to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Cole:

Can I just say, right, if this was modern day times, which it’s not that’s fine, um, if it was modern day times you get the pipe, you take it into DNA analysis, bish bash bosh you’ve got your man, right?

Dawn:

Right.

Cole:

How can they say there wasn’t enough evidence? His pipe was under Janet.

Dawn:

Well, they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was his pipe, they just couldn’t. Like you say, short of forensics.

Cole:

Well, no. Yeah, that’s true, but if you found my boyfriend’s car keys under my body when I was found dead you’d certainly be going, huh.

Dawn:

But…

Cole:

But nothing. Okay. He did it.

Dawn:

The keys are quite identifiable, a pipe is just a pipe.

Cole:

No, that’s incorrect, because they didn’t have car keys back then, what did they have to identify them? Pipes!

Dawn:

Yeah, I can see why that wouldn’t have stood up in court either mind.

Cole:

Why? It’s a small place, it’s not like it’s, you know, America, there’s loads of people, it’s a tiny place. 1860 something whatever. Um, I think we could have proved this.

Dawn:

But why? This is what the r… Why would he have killed her? What would have been the reason?

Cole:

Why not?

Dawn:

What would it have gained? He’s not done it in the past as far as anybody knows.

Cole:

As far as anybody knows.  I know who did it, I know why he did it and that’s that.

Dawn:

Anyway, John Crichton was acquitted of the murder of Janet Rogers. People, including Cole, were shocked by this verdict, but none more so than William Henderson who had always been convinced of Crichton’s guilt. Crichton would be the only man to ever be brought to trial for the murder of Janet Rogers. Over the next few days, while Janet’s family came to terms with the fact that Janet’s killer was still on the loose, the newspapers dissected every last detail about the case and evidence provided, and of course Christina Miller’s testimony was debated back and forth, had she been lying or had she told the absolute truth. The implications of Christina’s character being attacked and therefore her testimony, if in fact true, being disregarded was clearly felt. The police’s investigation was also attacked, putting the Perth police uncomfortably in the spotlight. I have to say here, and obviously I’m not a police officer and I wasn’t around back in the 19th century, but from what I’ve read and of course the fact that back in the 19th century there were no forensics, fingerprints and nobody actually witnessed the murder, I think the police officers back then did everything they could possibly do, they looked at every avenue.

Cole:

I don’t disagree with you, I just think people were unhappy that they didn’t have definite answers. Shame that I wasn’t there though because if I was they would have the definite answers, and it would be Crichton.

Dawn:

Okay. Eventually things calmed down, life went back to normal and Janet Rogers’ murder faded from people’s minds, all minds except her family, and for a time Crichton. It was reported that he had been harassed for quite some time afterwards, not being able to walk along the street for being chased, many people believing wholeheartedly that he had been Janet’s killer. Crichton moved to Fife about 19 miles or 30 kilometres away from Forgandenny and continued to work as a labourer, until his death in 1894. William Henderson eventually moved to New Scone, about nine miles or 14 kilometres away from Forgandenny. For all William was financially secure and lived in a substantial house in the country, he never got over the murder of his beloved sister Janet, or of Crichton, who he was sure had killed her, not being brought to justice. In 1881, 15 years after Janet’s murder, William was detained in an asylum having been deemed to be mentally unsound, where he stayed for three months before being released into the care of his family, who hoped they could help him. William however continued to go downhill and was readmitted to the asylum many times over the years, until his eventual death on the 22nd of January 1890, aged 77.

Cole:

It’s really sad he didn’t get any definitive answers or justice.

Dawn:

Yes, it is. But Janet would never be forgotten and she lived on through her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even as far as her great, great great grandchildren. One of these great, great, great grandchildren is a man called Chris Paton. Almost all of the information for this story I got through reading a book called The Mount Stewart Murder, which was written by none other than Chris Paton. I really enjoyed this book. I have a real interest in history and knowing how people lived back then and Chris’s writing in this book really transported me back there, describing everything brilliantly. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to know more about Janet’s story or what it was like living in Scotland in the 19th century. There is so much more information in The Mount Stewart Murder book that I just wasn’t able to cover in this episode.  Let us know if you’ve read it and what your thoughts are.

Cole:

Are you sure you didn’t cover the whole book in this episode?

Dawn:

[Laughter] I really didn’t, Cole. You’ve no idea how much I’ve had to miss out.

Cole:

Well thank you so much for condensing that book into a short hour and a half, maybe two hour podcast for us all.

Dawn:

[laughs] You’re very very welcome.

Cole:

You’re so kind.

Dawn:

And that’s the end. If you’ve enjoyed this episode and know just the person who’d also like it, please share it with them don’t keep it to yourself.

Cole:

Please also get in touch on social media if you have any questions, comments or suggestions and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. All social media and contact details are on our website scottishmurders.com, as well as all the source material and photos related to this episode.

Dawn:

So that’s it, come back next time for another episode of Scottish Murders.

Dawn and Cole:

Join us there. Bye.

Granny Robertson:

Scottish Murders is a production of Cluarantonn.

Scottish Murders is an award short listed, fortnightly true crime podcast that focuses entirely on murders carried out in Scotland or involving Scottish people, hosted by Dawn, and occasionally her sister Cole.

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