George Jones and Sarah Lawson

Trial Report


MURDER. 17th Dec. 1827.

For H. McMillan—Leslie Melville.—For Euphemia Lawson or McMillan - Milne

HUGH McMILLAN and EUPHEMIA LAWSON, or McMillan charged with murder ; and under the 6. Geo. IV. cap. 126, by which it is inter alia enacted, 'That if any person in Scotland shall, from and after the first day of July (1825), willfully, maliciously, and unlawfully, throw at, or otherwise apply to any of his Majesty's subjects, any sulphuric acid, or other corrosive substance, calculated, by external application, to burn, or injure the human frame, with intent in so doing, or by means thereof, to murder or maim, or disfigure or disable, such his Majesty's subject or subjects ; and when, in consequence of such acid or other sub­stance being so willfully, maliciously, and unlawfully thrown or applied, with intent as aforesaid, any of his Majesty's subjects shall be maimed, disfigured, or disabled, or receive other grievous bodily harm, such per­son being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be held to be guilty of a ca­pital crime, and shall receive sentence of death accordingly,'—in so far as, upon Wednesday, 17th October 1827, they did, upon the stair lead­ing to their own house, in High Street, and also to the house of the deceased Archibald Campbell, painter, and teacher of dancing, wickedly, &c. throw upon the bead, face, and other parts of the body of the said Archibald Campbell, a quantity of sulphuric acid, or other corrosive or burning substance unknown, which inflamed and burned him in a violent degree ; and he having been immediately taken to the Infirmary of Edinburgh, he there languished from better to worse, and died upon 30th October 1827, in consequence of the injuries thus sustained, and was thereby murdered by them ; or otherwise (on the statutory charge), time and place foresaid, the said Hugh McMillan and Euphemia McMilan or Lawson, did throw a quantity of sulphuric acid, or other corrosive substance (as above-narrated), with intent, in so doing, to murder, or snits, or disfigure the said Archibald Campbell ; and in consequence whereof, his face, bead, and the other parts of his body were burnt and disfigured, and his left eye severely injured ; and he did also, in consequence, re­ceive other grievous bodily injury. Pleaded Not Guilty.

Adam Hunter, physician and surgeon, Abercromby Place.
(The other medical witnesses were ordered to withdraw.)

Witness (one of the surgeons of the Infirmary) saw the deceased Campbell in the Infirmary at 12 o'clock noon of 18th October, and understood that be had been brought in at 3 o'clock of that morning. He died on the morning of the 30th. With Mr Nesbitt witness drew up a Report (the following) : Royal lnfirmary, November  2. 1827.--.Archi­bald Campbell, aged 26, was admitted into the Royal Infirmary at 2 o'clock on the morning of 18th October, complaining of very severe pain and burning heat of the left side of the face and eye. On examination, the skin on this side of the face was found to be partially removed, and the whole presented a white disorganized appearance. The eyelids of both sides were much inflamed, swollen, and very painful, and the left eye seemed to be deeply involved in the mischief ; that of the opposite side was uninjured. The skin of the inside of the lips was white and swollen, presenting appearances similar to those observed on the face. On the back of, and between the fingers of the left band, the skin was excoriated, as if some acrid fluid bad passed over it in streams.

The history he gave of his case was, that whilst ascending some dark stairs at 12 o'clock of the preceding night, he was assaulted by a person, or persons, who threw a liquid, which he said was the oil of vitriol, into his face, and which gave rise to the appearances above described.

On his admission into the Infirmary he was put to bed, and suitable applications were made to the injured parts, from which be obtained much relief ; but as he complained of much pain of the eye and se­vere headache, at the hour of visit, he was ordered to be blooded. The headache and pain continuing on the 19th. although in a lesser degree, be was again ordered to be blooded, and from it derived perfect relief to his sufferings, and the local injuries appeared as well as could be expect­ed. On the night of the 22d October, however, he bad a shivering fit, and in the morning complained of severe pain at the bend of the arm where he had been bled. The orifice of the wound, and parts imme­diately contiguous to it, exhibited marks of acute inflammation ; general swelling of the arm came on, and progressively increased during the three following days, with severe febrile symptoms, difficulty of breath­ing, and a tendency to delirium during the night. Under the treatment adopted to check the progress of this affection, his strength gave way, and he died exhausted on the morning of the 30th October last.

We hereby declare, on soul and conscience, that we believe that Archibald Campbell's death was caused by the inflammation of the arm and accompanying fever, originating from the wound made during the opera­tion of blood-letting. (Signed) ADAM HUNTER, Surgeon, Royal Infirmary -PEARCE R. NESBITT, House Surgeon. Witness was present with Dr Cullen at the inspection of the body, when a Report was drawn up (as follows) : On Wednesday the 31st October, we inspected the body of Archibald Campbell, who died in the Royal Infirmary on the morning of the 30th. The right arm was carefully examined and antomized. We found the vein, from which be bad been blooded, very highly inflamed at the wended part, at the bend of the arm, From this point the inflammation had extended upwards to the great veins of the arm and shoulder, and downwards to the small veins of the fore-arm. These vessels were almost filled with purulent matter, and partly obli­terated. The great veins at the upper part of the chest, and the cavities at the right part of the heart, were natural. There was a small quantity of serum in the cavity of the membrane which invests the heart, but this organ itself was sound. The membrane which covers the lungs and ribs, called the pleura, was inflamed, and covered at the back part with the usual product of inflammation. Sero-purulent fluid was found in both cavities of the pleura. Both lungs, when cut into, were found very high­ly inflamed, and particularly in the upper and lower lobes. The left eye had its anterior part entirely destroyed. Some of the humours had escaped, and the whole organ was disorganised, and absolutely incapa­ble of recovery. Water was found in moderate quantity on the surface, in the cavities, and at the base of the brain. The organ itself was na­tural. No other morbid appearance was any where observed.

 Upon the whole, we are of opinion, upon soul and conscience, that Archibald Campbell died of inflammation of the veins of the right arm, and of inflammation of the lungs. The former caused, according to the best of our judgment, by the wound of the vein in bleeding. (Signed) ADAM HUNTER, Surgeon, Royal Infirmary.—WILLIAM CULLEN, M. D. Surgeon, Royal Infirmary. Dated 2d November 1827.

(Examination.)—His impression was, that the above-described inflammation of the lungs was connected with that of the arm. The bleeding was considered a necessary operation, to check the incipient inflammation of the brain, indicated by the appearance of the injured eye. The inflammation of the arm was in no manner connected with the injury done to the head, or to the eye and its membranes. (J. C.)

Had the inflammation of the arm reference to the state of the patient's body? ' (Ans.) Either that, or the state of the air of the house. It was an evil to which all large establishments were subject ; and the same thing happened a few weeks before.

(Cross-examined by MILNE.)--‘ Did the inflammation of the arm arise from the nature of the wound or incision ? ' Was not aware, as he was not present. It was done by the regular dressers of the house. ' Might it have arisen from the use of an unclean lancet ? ' Certainly it might. (J. C.) The countenance was materially disfigured by the injury. The eye could not have been restored.

Pearce Rogers Nesbitt, physician and surgeon, residing in the Infirmary, Edinburgh.

The evidence of this witness, in so far as he was examined, coincided with that of Dr Hunter.

Robert Christison, physician, Northumberland Street.

Made some experiments on some clothes, and, with Dr Turner, drew up a Report (the following). Edinburgh, 31st October, 1827.—We hereby certify, that we received yesterday, from Archibald Scott, Esq., Procurator-fiscal, several fragments of various articles of dress, on which sulphuric acid was supposed to have been thrown. They bore marks of discoloration and corrosion, like those which are usually produced by that acid ; and, on subjecting them to chemical analysis, we have satis­fied ourselves that a considerable quantity of it still exists in them.

A portion of the front and rim of a hat was cut into small fragments, and boiled in distilled water. The fluid procured by filtration had a yellowish colour, was acid to the taste, reddened strongly litmus paper, and, after the addition of nitric acid, gave a copious white precipitate, with acitate of baryta. This precipitate was then heated with a little charcoal, and subsequently treated with diluted muriatic acid ;---upon which, fumes were emitted that had the odour of sulphuretted hydro­gen, and blackened acetate of lead. A portion of the hat, which had not been corroded or discoloured, was then subjected to the same process, but gave hardly a trace of sulphuric acid. We have likewise ex­amined, by the same processes, a portion of a black stock, and have pro­cured results precisely similar to those obtained with the corroded por­tion of the hat. We have further examined a portion of a sleeve of a coat. In this, too, the presence of the acid was indicated by the same tests, while none could be detected in a part of the coat which was not corroded or discoloured. In the coat, the acid existed in smaller quan­tity ; but in the hat and stock there was an abundance of it. (Signed) H. CHRISTISON, M. D., Prof. of Med. JUR. and Pol.—EDWARD TURNEB, M. D., Lecturer on Chemistry.'

(Examination.)—The hat was corroded quite through at one place ; and, from the appearance of the clothes, especially of the hat and stock, it was evident that a considerable quantity of the acid must have been used, and in a highly concentrated state.

The deposition of the deceased was then read (in substance as follows).   In presence of George Tait, Esq. Sheriff-substitute of Edinburghshire, compeared Archibald Campbell, &c. Depones, That he has known the prisoner, Hugh McMillan, about fourteen or fifteen years, and they have occasionally latterly had differences. He has bad differ­ences also with McMillan's wife ; and, in consequence of some disorder­ly conduct of her's on the night of Monday the 15th current, she was taken to the Police Court, and laid under caution. In the course of Tuesday afternoon, he met McMillan very drunk in the stair, and be damned deponent for a —, and said he would do for him that night. Deponent told him to be quiet, or he would take another way with him, upon which McMillan immediately knocked him down. Upon that oc­casion, and upon the Monday and Tuesday nights, McMillan said that he would wash his hands in the deponent's heart's blood. Depones, That on the night of Wednesday, about 12 o'clock, and when he got within three or four steps from the landing-place, he saw McMillan's door open, and a light flash out from it, as if from a fire or candle, and be saw the hand and arm and shoulder of a person between the door and the lintel, and there was a jug of some kind in the person's hand, and the contents of the jug were immediately thrown at him, and felt like water pouring down the left side of his face. The door was imme­diately closed, and he cannot say whether it was a man or a woman, but be rather thinks that the person had on a blue gown and a white cap, and, upon the whole, rather thought at the time that it was a woman. He is certain that there was only one person, and nothing was said on either side. (Then as to the nature of the injury). It was on the left side he was burnt, although McMillan's door was on the right, because, whenever he saw the door open, he turned to the right to go down, be­ing apprehensive of McMillan coming out to strike him. Depones, that be hopes to recover. McMillan's wife, as well as her husband, often threatened deponent, and said that she would dip her hands in his heart's blood; and, in particular, she did so in the course of the Tuesday.' 

The principal facts sworn to by the witnesses examined for the prosecution, were briefly these.
The house occupied by the deceased and his family was on the fifth floor of a tenement in the High Street, and that of the pannels on the right side of a common passage leading to it. Late on Wednesday night (17th October), the wife of the deceased and her father, while waiting his return, were alarmed by loud cries from the stair. He was found two or three steps from the top, before the panel's door, leaning against a window, and, on being brought into the house, gave an ac­count of what had taken place, similar to that of his deposition.

The female pannel, it appeared from the evidence of a girl who hap­pened to be in their house, had gone out that Wednesday night, in her husband's absence, with a jug, in which they generally kept shoe-black­ing, and returned carrying the jug covered with a piece of flannel. She put it under the bed, warned her son (a child) not to touch it, and soon after put him to bed. The male pannel returned to the house before the girl left it, but she heard no conversation between them. When the alarm was afterwards given, and search was made, the two pannels were found undressed, standing in the kitchen, which was lighted by the fire. Drops of vitriol were traced, from the centre of their door to the top of the stair, where Campbell's cloak was found ; and the fragments of a jug, of a pattern similar to the one described, were found, wet with a sour burning liquid, ascertained to be vitriol, lying in the close, directly under the window of that room or kitchen. There were no other per­sons in their house.

It appeared farther, that the female pannel had called, between 9 and 10 of that night, for a Mrs M'Nab, residing in the same stair, and that, among other things, she said that she was waiting until her husband should go to bed, as she thought he jaloused (suspected) something.

She also repeatedly said, that she would be revenged on Campbell's cloak, and asked if she (Mrs M'Nab) knew what would burn clothes? —if vitriol would do so? To which that witness replied, that she had heard it would burn steel. On the Monday (before she was taken to the Police Office), she had said to the same woman, that she would be revenged on the dancing —'s cloak, and would dip her hands in his heart's blood, or she would be damned for it.

In the cross-examination of Campbell's widow, it came out that, on the Monday evening, the male pannel came to their house, and, in the course of some conversation, said to her husband, ' You ken weel enough she's daft—what need you mind her ?'—adding—' Campbell, you had better let her alone, or she'll have her revenge of you.' They had a dram together on that occasion. Various witnesses corroborated the evidence of the deceased, as to the atrocious expressions used by both pannels. '

For the defence, Mr Aitchison, painter, Hart Street, was called, and gave McMillan, who had worked for him, a good character, as an inof­fensive person. He had never heard of his having any quarrel with the other workmen.

The LORD ADVOCATE addressed the Jury. His Lordship commenced, by observing that, under the circumstances of bleeding being the proper remedy, it might be a nice question of law, whether, as death ensued, the act charged in the indictment did not amount to murder. But he would pass from that, and rest on the statutory charge. His Lordship then proceeded to state, that the clause of the act, on which the second charge was founded, had been introduced by him into Parliament, to meet a species of crime, of which instances oc­curred in the manufacturing towns of the West of Scotland, when combinations were first entered into by the weavers of those districts. This was the first case which had come to trial under that law ; and, however it might be dealt with in another quarter, it was not a case in which he intended to restrict the libel, although that power was reserved to him in the body of the act. The crime was one, the commission of which inferred such black and inhuman malice—so deliberate a waiting and watching for an opportunity—was at once so cowardly and so cruel—so dangerous, because so easily perpe­trated, and so difficult of detection—that he had felt it to be his imperative duty at the time to bring this bill into Parliament. His Lordship went over the heads of the evidence, and argued that the liquid must have been thrown by one of the two pannels. But against the male prisoner there was no direct evidence, neither was there any proof of accession. The whole evidence bore directly against the female. She obtained the article, and every thing went to fix upon her the guilt of having used it. The sole question therefore was,' With what intent?' Was it purely accidental, or was it done with intent, if not to murder, at least to maim, disfigure, and disable? The act it­self was sufficient evidence of the animus.

MILNE, for the female pannel, addressed the Jury, and, ad­mitting that the sulphuric acid was thrown by her, argued, that there was no evidence of its being done with the intent libelled. The law laid down, that certain acts did indicate intention ; and that, in such injuries, the nature of the instrument employed was a most material circumstance, (Burnet, page 6.) The use of a lethal weapon, although death should not ensue, inferred highly malicious intent; and while it was certainly laid down, that the instrument, whatever it might be, was held to be a le­thal instrument if death followed, here the Jury would recol­lect, that death, in the legal sense, did not follow. There was great reason to doubt, whether the woman knew to the full ex­tent the nature and effects of the liquid ; but even granting that she did, he would still maintain, that, from the whole tenor of her expressions, her intent was merely to injure the cloak. This supposition, the most natural, and the most consistent with the proof, was strengthened by one important fact. The deceased had turned, and gone down several steps of the stair, when the liquid was thrown, so that it must have been aimed at, and would have reached a lower part of his body, if he had remained where the woman certainly believed him to be. That it fell on his face, was, from the same reason, rather favourable than otherwise. Some of the expressions sworn to were of a different character ; but, among persons of that class, language, of the most violent and outrageous kind, was every day used without being followed by those acts of which it might seem the inevitable and immediate precursor. The male prisoner had used the same or worse expressions, without any malicious in­tent (as they were now bound to presume), and therefore, those used by the woman were at least not inconsistent with inno­cence.

The LORD JUSTICE CLERK charged the Jury, and warned them to throw all admissions out of view, and to look to the evidence alone. Having gone through it, his Lordship con­cluded by saying, that he never wished to disguise his opinion in any case, and that, in this case, he thought that it was their duty to find the female pannel guilty of the statutory charge as libelled.

Verdict—Find the pannel, Euphemia Lawson, Guilty of the Second Charge as libelled. Find the other pannel Not Guilty.


Source: reports of proceedings in the High Court of Justiciary, from 1826 to 1829
By David Syme, esq. Advocate, Edinburgh.
Printed for Thomas Clark, law-bookseller, 32, George Street and Saunders and Benning, London.