A couple of interesting cases from “Narratives from Criminal Trials in Scotland” by John Hill Burton (Vol II – 1852).
1613 – Robert Erskine and his three sisters – Helen, Isobel and Anges were brought to trial for the murder of their nephews, Laird of Dun and his brother They were the direct descendants of John Erskine of Dun, one of the leaders of the Reformation (d.1591).
Robert was seemingly urged on by his sisters, who were charged with having hired on David Blewhouse to engage a witch to “take away the lives of the said two boys” – in exchange for this service, David would be well-rewarded with land and an payment of 500 merks of silver. David, however, was not inclined to do their bidding, so the sisters found one Janet Irving, “a witch and abuser of the people” – Robert himself also met with Janet. Janet gave them poisonous herbs, steeped in ale – no doubt to disguise their foulness.
At Montrose, the sisters induced the boys to drink the poison – the boys immediately began to convulse and vomit; the elder died first in most painful agony
Robert and two of his sisters were convicted and executed – one, who was deemed the “more penitent” was banished.
1720 – Nichol Mushet was convicted for the (eventual) murder of his wife Margaret
Mushet sold to his fellow accomplice “the honour of his wife”. When she repeatedly baffled their attempts, it was decided to sully her character. She was then drugged with opium and “caused a scene to be enacted and witnessed”. Mushet then attempted to obtain a divorce from his wife – however, his solicitor hinted that there was some suspicion which might lay him open to some awkward questions should the matter come to court.
Despite other attempts at poisoning and personal violence, a new plan was devised. A physician was persuaded to submit the poor woman to “mercurial salivation” and it was recommended that she be given a strong “empyric” as befitted her strong constitution. This course of “treatment” lasted a period of a month – and still she survived.
Finally, her husband dispatched Margaret by means of cutting her throat, nearly severing her head completely – this heinous crime was committed at a place now called Mushet’s Cairn.