EXACTLY 100 years ago, 200 people were scouring the island of Arran

for signs of an English holidaymaker who disappeared while climbing

Goatfell. The body of Edwin Rose, ''the face terribly mangled,'' was to

be found concealed under a boulder. This sparked a huge hunt for John

Laurie, who, while he was on the run, wrote to the editor of the Glasgow

Herald protesting his innocence. The Goatfell Murder captured the public

imagination, created a debate over the conflict in ''scientific''

evidence, and, as WILLIAM COFFEY recalls here, led to rebukes for police

officers who put faith in folklore above their duty.

MURDER most foul was carried out in Arran on July 15, 1889. That was

the considered medical opinion of three doctors who examined the body of

Edwin Robert Rose, a Londoner whose body was found on August 4 concealed

under an overhanging boulder at Corr-na-Fourin, near the head of Glen


The death of the 32-year-old Brixton clerk was caused by a fall,

stated three doctors called by defence counsel for John Watson Laurie at

the High Court in Edinburgh.

The jury was almost equally divided. On November 12, eight members

found Laurie guilty of murder: seven returned verdicts of not proven.

The Judge, Lord Kingsburgh, following a two-day trial, ordered death by

hanging. But the legal controversy was such that the death penalty was

later revoked and Laurie was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died, 41

years later, still protesting innocence, in the lunatic section of Perth


One hundred years later interest in the case has not waned. David Cox,

from Brodick, a National Trust for Scotland guide, still leads parties

to the man-made tomb where Rose's body was discovered, carefully

concealed by 42 rocks covered by turf.

The episode which captured the public imagination began with a chance

meeting on the Arran ferry. Laurie, who had assumed the name of

Annandale and even had calling cards printed to this effect, struck up

an acquaintance with the dashing young Englishman.

They took lodgings together at Invercloy, near Brodick, and, on July

15 set out to climb Goatfell. They were noticed together by several

witnesses during the ascent and at the summit, and that was the last

time Rose was seen alive. Did he fall, as the defence argued, or was he

brutally battered to death with a blunt instrument, probably a boulder,

as the prosecution contended?

The Lord Justice-Clerk said the case was ''almost wholly dependent on

circumstantial evidence.'' It ''presented features which were altogether

peculiar to it and placed it outside

the category of ordinary justice.'' Throughout, Laurie refused to say

anything, except to maintain his innocence of the charge that he ''did

assault Edwin Robert Rose, of Wirist Lodge, Hendon Road, Upper Tooting,

London, and did throw him down, beat him, and did murder him.''

Laurie was seen alone in the Corrie Hotel at 10pm on July 15. He

bought beer and whisky to fortify him on the walk to Brodick. His

landlady at Invercloy testified that his bags, and those of Rose, were

removed from her house on the night of July 15 or early on July 16.

On July 16, Laurie was seen carrying these bags to the pier. He

boarded the steamboat Scotia and returned to Rothesay, where both he and

Rose had been on holiday.

On July 31, he had left his job as a patternmaker in Springburn,

collecting his lying wages. That same day he sold his tools, for 25s, to

a broker in the South Side of Glasgow. He wrote to his landlady,

enclosing a postal order for his rent, saying that there were ''some

people trying to get me into trouble, and I think you should give them

no information at all, and I will prove to them how they are mistaken

before long.''

When the Englishman failed to return home his family raised the alarm

and, following concerted searches involved up to 200 people, the body

was discovered on August 4. When this news was released, Laurie was

already on the run. For a month, sightings of him were reported all over

Scotland and the North of England.

On August 28, the editor of the Glasgow Herald received a letter,

partially reproduced here, postmarked Aberdeen.

On September 3, Police Constable James Gordon spotted Laurie in

Hamilton and, assisted by a group of miners, pursued him to Bogwood. A

boy told the policeman ''there is something in that bush.'' It was

Laurie, his throat slit by the open razor in his hand. The only thing he

was sorry about was that he ''had not done it right.''

When cautioned and charged, he replied: ''I robbed the man, but I did

not murder him.''

The Crown case relied heavily on the evidence of Dr Andrew Gilmour, a

Linlithgow surgeon who had been on holiday in Arran. He and Dr William

Fullerton of Lamlash went to Corr-na-Fourin when the body was

discovered. They stated categorically that death had been caused by

blows inflicted by a blunt instrument. However, under cross-examination,

they admitted it was possible that the injuries could have been caused

by a fall.

On September 27, the body had been exhumed in the presence of Dr Henry

Littlejohn, medical officer of health for Edinburgh and police surgeon

for Edinburgh. He, too, stated that Rose had been murdered. And he, too,

agreed with defence counsel that a fall might have caused the terrible

injuries to the head and face.

For its part, the defence put up three doctors who believed that a

fall was the most likely cause of death. None of these doctors had

examined the body, and agreed with the prosecution that the injuries

could have been caused by blows inflicted by a blunt instrument.

The evidence of the police officers present when the body was

discovered provided a strange twist to the grisly tale. Sergeant William

Munro, of Lamlash, was reluctant to answer questions about the

whereabouts of Rose's boots.

The Solicitor-General asked: ''Where are the boots now?'' Munro: ''I

cannot say.''

Finally, the Lord Justice-Clerk demanded: ''Do you know?'' Munro: ''I

believe they were buried . . . on the beach above the high-water mark.''

Police Constable Duncan Coll had buried them. Munro said he did not

know who had given the order to do so, but the chief constable had been

present at the time.

Folklore has it that if a man is murdered on Arran his ghost will walk

the hills unless his boots are buried at the high-water mark.

The trial lasted two days, but it might as well have ended at the

conclusion of the first day's evidence, before defence had its say. At

the end of the first day, the Solicitor-General said: ''I wish you

distinctly to understand, gentlemen, and I am sure the jury will agree

with me, that I mean to finish the case tomorrow.'' (Hear, hear from the

jury box.)

After only 45 minutes deliberation, the jury returned its majority

verdict. The public was on tenterhooks for the decision.

The Glasgow Herald, which carried a page and a half of the case each

day, reported:

''The verdict was intimated over the telephone to the head office of

the Evening Times where it was received about 10.25pm, and in a very few

minutes the late edition was on sale in the streets, a large staff of

boys being in attendance. Fifteen minutes afterwards, heavy parcels were

despatched throughout the city. The various district offices of the

Evening Times were literally besieged about eleven o'clock at night,

crowds extending half way across each street, and in retail shops the

papers were snatched up as soon as they came to hand. The printing

machines at the head office were kept working till midnight, at which

hour 167,000 copies had been sent out and distributed.

There follows reports of street scenes. At Airdrie, police were called

to control the crowd as the crush became dangerous. In Hamilton, four

pence was given for single copies, and the response at Greenock was

unprecedented. Most members of the public expected a verdict of not