The Arran Murder

On July 17th, 1889, the people of London awoke to the news that an East End “unfortunate”, by the name of Alice McKenzie, had been murdered in Castle Alley, off Whitechapel High Street, and they faced up to the alarming possibility that Jack the Ripper had returned.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to them, 458 miles to the north of London, on the Isle of Arran – an island in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde – another mystery had started to unfold which was not, at that time, even realised as such.


Mr. Edwin Robert Rose, a young clerk from London, had headed to Scotland for a summer break.

Tragically, he was destined never to return.

A photograph of Edwin Rose.
Edwin Robert Roase


In his book The Trial of J. W. Laurie, William Roughhead paints the following picture of Rose’s holiday destination:-

“The Isle of Arran lies in the estuary of the Clyde, between Kintyre and the coast of Ayr. It is the largest and most picturesque of the Clyde islands; the others, Bute and the two Cumbraes, with Ailsa Craig, the Bass Rock of the west, are relatively tame and lack its infinite variety.

The savage grandeur of its hills and glens – one day shrouded in mist, another bathed in sunshine – is only to be matched in Skye; and the outline of the island, seen against the western light, whether from the Ayrshire shore or from some passing vessel in the fairway, is of incredible beauty and enchantment.

Its most striking feature is the great, grey cone of Goatfell, 2866 feet above sea level and the highest peak in that isle of mountains.

Glen Sannox, the finest of its many glens, is comparable in lonely splendour to Glencoe. This delectable land may be approached by steamer either from Ardrossan or from the higher reaches of the Firth.

At the time in question, the favourite “sail” down the Clyde was the daily run of the steamer Ivanhoe from Helensburgh, by Greenock, Gourock, Dunoon, Wemyss Bay, and Rothesay, through the Kyles of Bute to the Arran ports: Corrie, Brodick, Lamlash, and Whiting Bay.”


William Roughhead continued with his narrative thus:-

“On Friday, 12th July, 1889, when the Ivanhoe called at Rothesay on her morning run, there boarded her for Arran two young men.

These two passengers were unknown to each other when they boarded the Ivanhoe, but they made each others acquaintance on the voyage.

One of them was an Englishman by the name of Edwin Robert Rose, a clerk in the employment of Mr. James Goodman, a builder, of Brixton, London.  He was on a fortnight’s holiday in Scotland; thirty-two years of age, of slight build, five feet seven in height, of athletic, active habits and agreeable manners;  and prone to “take up” with strangers. He was in the best of health and in good spirits.

The other young man, though showily dressed, was of the artisan class; a Scotsman, twenty-five years old, half an inch shorter than the other, fresh-complexioned, fair-haired, notably square-shouldered, and wearing a slight moustache and whiskers.

Rose, on the other hand, was dark and affected a heavy moustache.

Which of them took the first step towards the formation of their friendship we do not know; but from what we do know of their respective ways, it was probably not the Scotsman.

He introduced himself to the other as John Annandale.


When the Ivanhoe reached Brodick, the two men landed to spend the time during which the steamer continued on her way to Whiting Bay, the farthest port of call, whence she would return in the afternoon to take up her Brodick passengers.

How Rose employed himself during this time, we do not know; but his companion called at the house of Mrs. Walker, in the village of Invercloy, and inquired for lodgings.

This was Glasgow Fair week, the local trades holidays; all the Clyde resorts were crowded, and Brodick participated to the full in the incursion.

Rooms were not to be had; but Mrs. Walker was able to provide accommodation in a wooden lean-to structure, adjoining her house, which enjoyed the advantage of having a separate entrance of its own, whereby the occupants might come and go at will without disturbance to the landlady.

Mr. Annandale approved the place and took it for a week. He gave his card, stating that he came from Tighnabruaich, in the Kyles of Bute; that he would enter into possession on the following day, Saturday; and that he would then be accompanied by a friend, who, however, could stay no longer than the ensuing Wednesday.

Mrs. Walker agreed to the conditions of let, and it was further arranged that Mr. Annandale should take his meals in the lodging, while his friend should take his “out,” to wit, at the adjacent teashop, locally known as Wooley’s.

A photograph of Invercloy.
Invercloy, Brodick, in 1889. The arrow points to the hut occupied by the two men.


They returned together to Rothesay in the afternoon. Rose was staying at, the Glenburn Hydropathic Hotel, where he had, in his affable way, become friendly with two other visitors; Mr. Mickel and Mr. Thom, both hailing from Linlithgow.

To these gentlemen, he vouchsafed the fact of his new acquaintance, and when in the evening Mr. Annandale called by appointment, Rose introduced him to his friends.

Mickel and Thom were also going to Brodick for the weekend; and on Saturday, the 13th, they met Rose and Annandale on the Ivanhoe and travelled thither in their company.

The Linlithgow men were unable to procure in the village a roof for their heads; but they were fortunate to find a friend’s yacht in the bay, aboard which they obtained shelter.

On Sunday, the 14th, the party did not see much of each other; Mickel and Thom walked over the hill road to Lamlash, Rose and Annandale went up Glen Rosa.

They all met again in the evening.

On Monday, the 15th, Mickel saw Rose breakfasting alone in Wooley’s shop.


The impression made by Annandale on him and his companion was distinctly unfavourable; he was silent and uncommunicative, and they failed to find out who he was or where he came from.

So, when Rose told him that he proposed that day to climb Goatfell with the unknown, Mickel strongly advised him to get rid of him, and, in particular, not to make the ascent in his company.

Rose undertook to act upon this advice and promised not to go up Goatfell with Annandale: he said he would “try” to get rid of him – from which it would appear that Rose had his own misgivings as to the wisdom of the association.

When Mickel and his friend Thom went back to Rothesay by the Ivanhoe that afternoon at half-past three, Rose and Annandale were on the pier to see them off.


The effect of Mickel’s warning must quickly have worn off under the persuasive power of the stranger, for, though the hour was considerably later than that usually chosen for the purpose, the two men set out forthwith to climb Goatfell.

A photograph of the summit of Goatfell.
The Summit Of Goatfell.


When Mrs. Walker and her household went to bed that night, they were unaware whether or not the lodgers had returned.

She had heard of their intended expedition, and she knew they could get into their room when they liked, without reference to her establishment.


In the morning there was no sign of them stirring; doubtless, she thought, they were tired after their excursion and were enjoying what is technically termed “a long lie.”

But, when eleven o’clock came, she thought it time they should be aroused.

She accordingly knocked at their door and, getting no answer, entered the room. It was empty. The one bed seemed to have been occupied overnight by two persons, but her lodgers had vanished, taking with them their respective bags.

A straw hat, a pair of slippers, an old waterproof, and a tennis racket had been left behind, sole mementoes of their visitation.

Annandale had undertaken to pay 17s. for the week, with a further 3s. in respect of Rose’s presence.

Mrs. Walker perceived that she had been “done ” – such incidents were not unprecedented during the Fair week – and decided to bear her loss in silence. She did not report the matter to the police, deeming the loss of her rent the most serious feature of the affair.


On Thursday, 18th July, Edwin Rose was due in London on the termination of his holiday, and his brother went to the station to meet him.

His non-arrival alarmed his relatives, who telegraphed to the Rev. Mr. Goodman, a brother of his employer.

This gentleman was staying at the Glenburn Hydropathic, a fact which, as they were intimate friends, had induced Rose to visit Rothesay.

On Tuesday, the 16th, Mr. Goodman had received from him [Rose] a letter, addressed from “Mrs. Walker’s, Brodick,” stating that he would be back at Rothesay on the Wednesday for his letters and to say good-bye.


On Monday, the 22nd, Mr. Goodman got the telegram from Rose’s brother, informing him that Rose had not returned.

He went at once to Brodick, learned what Mrs, Walker had to tell, and communicated with the police.

On Saturday, the 27th, Mr. Benjamin Rose, of Balham, arrived from London at Brodick to find out what had become of his brother.”


News that an English tourist had gone missing on the Isle of Arran began to be reported in the newspapers over the course of the next few days.

The Northern Daily Telegraph, published the following article about the mystery on Wednesday, 31st July, 1889:-

“A strange story has just reached us from the Island of Arran.

On Glasgow Fair Monday, 15th July, a young English tourist named Rose landed from the steamer Ivanhoe at Brodick.

On the journey thither he seems to have made the acquaintance of a man who gave the name of Arrandale, evidently a Fair excursionist, and said to be Scotchman, and so when they disembarked they made a joint search for lodgings, which they were successful in securing.

After having refreshed themselves, they went out for a stroll.

It proved to be a very lengthened one, so much so that the people in the house retired to rest.

At length, at a very late hour, Arrendale [sic] turned up. but without his young English comrade.


In the early morning, this person took French leave, carrying with him the two bags and the other man’s waterproof, in place of which he left his own, much older one and considerably worn. He also left his bill unpaid.

He is said to have taken the road to Corrie, but his course from thence is unknown.

The bag belonging to Rose is now reported to have been found at Port Bannatyne.

To return, however, to Brodick.

When the bedroom assigned to Rose and his chance acquaintance was entered on the Tuesday morning, although only one of them was supposed to have come in, both beds were left in such a way as to give the appearance that they had been slept in, while the two washstand basins also looked as if they had been used.


What has become of the young man Rose is shrouded in mystery. He has not returned to his friends in England, and there is growing suspicion that he never left the island.

Alarmed at his long absence, his brother reached Arran on Saturday, and has been making an anxious search, but so far no trace has been found of the missing man.


On Sunday a volunteer search party, numbering close on 100, accompanied by Captain M’Kay, of the County Constabulary, and police constables of the island, started and searched the hills minutely, arriving the top of Goatfell at midday.

Here the party separated into two bands, and searched the rugged precipices behind Goatfell, but without finding any trace of the missing man, their view being greatly interrupted by a thick mist which entirely covered the hilltops.

Another search will be made on the north-west side of Goatfell.”

A portrait of Edwin Rose.
Edwin Rose. From The Dundee Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, 6th August, 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The mystery of what had become of Edwin Rose was finally solved on Sunday, 4th August, 1889.

The Glasgow Herald, Monday, on Monday, 5th August, 1889, reported that peoples worst fears concerning his fate had, indeed, been realised:-

“The painful suspense and anxiety regarding the fate of the missing tourist, Mr Edwin R. Rose, of London, has now been ended, and the worst fears realised, by the discovery of his remains near the head of Glen Sannox yesterday afternoon, under circumstances which leave little room for doubt that his death has not been the result of an accident.

It will be remembered that the deceased gentleman left his lodgings at Invercloy, Brodick, on the afternoon of Monday, 15th July, to make the ascent of Goatfell, in company with another man who stayed with him, and whose acquaintance he had casually made a few days previously.

The two were seen and spoken with on the hilltop in the evening, but never afterwards.

On the morning following, Mrs Walker, from whom they had taken the room, on entering found that apparently two had slept and washed in it, but all their effects, with a trifling exception, were gone.

Little inquiry was made at the time, and not until the friends of the deceased in London became alarmed.

It was soon ascertained that Mr Rose’s companion had arrived at Port Bannatyne on the Tuesday, and, it is alleged, was seen wearing clothes similar to those known to have been in the possession of Mr. Rose.

He subsequently left Bute, leaving his landlady’s bill unpaid, and his whereabouts is at present unknown.


The matter having been put into the hands of the police, Chief- Constable M’Kay organised a search party on Sunday, 28th July, who failed to find any trace of the missing man; and the police, with voluntary assistance, have continued the search daily since, with the like result, until yesterday, when, in response to a public notice, a large company of the inhabitants of Brodick and Lamlash, with a goodly number of visitors, assembled at the Kennels at 9 a.m. to make a more extensive search.

These were divided into three bands.

One, under the superintendence of Mr. Dewar, head gamekeeper, took Maoldon and the east side of Goatfell; a second, under Constable Munro, went more directly up; and a third, guided by Messrs Davidson and M’Kinnon, searched the west side by Shant Rocks.


According to arrangements, another party from Corrie district came up Glen Sannox to meet the rest, and it was after this meeting had taken place, and when the Corrie party had started upon their return journey, that a young man named Logan felt the effluvia from the remains, which were soon discovered under a ledge of granite rock, carefully concealed from observation by upwards of forty large stones built up in front of and against the body, which was found face downwards, with the jacket turned upwards so as to cover the head.

A few yards off, the deceased’s walking-stick was found, and a hundred yards or so further up his waterproof coat rent in two.

A photograph of the boulder beneath which the body of Rose was hidden.
The Boulder Beneath Which The Body Was Found.


The place is near the head of Glen Sannox, and at the foot of one of the precipices between Goatfell summit and the Saddell.

The fall must have been a fearful one, however caused, but of necessity the body was not interfered with, and the police immediately communicated with the procurator-fiscal.

Dr Fullerton, of Lamlas, and Dr Campbell, presently residing at Corrie, were summoned last night to make a post-mortem examination, the result of which has not yet been ascertained.

The tidings soon reached Brodick, where the excitement and horror are intense, nothing of a like nature having ever occurred on the island before, and all classes look eagerly forward to the further unravelling of this mysterious affair, while the greatest sympathy is felt for the deceased’s brother, who was with the party.

The utmost sympathy, which is widespread over the island, is being expressed for the relatives of Mr Rose, a brother of whom accompanied the search expedition on various occasions and, however anxious he was to have the fate of his brother made known, he completely broke down when the intelligence was given him that the body had been found.”


The excitement on the island of Arran in connection with the mysterious tragedy that was brought to light on Sunday afternoon has not in the least degree abated since the discovery of the body of Mr. Rose.

The result of the post-mortem examination is said to show that death must have been caused by a heavy blow on the head with a stone or other heavy missile, and after being stunned by the first blow the victim was finished by some heavy instrument crashing through his skull. It is suspected that the murderer must then have dragged the body down the cliff to the spot where it was found, and attempted to conceal all evidence of the crime by placing it under the boulder, and building up the wall of stones in front.


The Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday, 6th August, 1889:-

“Interest now centres on the capture of Annandale.

The utmost confidence is expressed by the authorities that Annandale will be arrested within the next 24 hours and the Glasgow detectives are hopeful that the capture will be effected by them. Indeed, the police in all parts of the kingdom have been put in possession of his description, and are otherwise so placed on the alert that is impossible that he can escape.

It is alleged that Annandale is a false name.

Chief-Constable Boyd is actively co-operating with Chief-Constable  M’Kay, head of the Buteshire police. Both, it is stated, had, even before the discovery of the body, come to the conclusion that Mr Rose had been murdered.

A gentleman from Bo’ness noticed Annandale when he crossed from Brodick to Ardrossan, on the morning the 16th, and after he had seen the articles in the newspapers on the subject of Rose’s disappearance, he communicated his knowledge to the authorities.

It is believed this has helped them greatly.”


Meanwhile, the criminal authorities of Bute and Glasgow had not been idle; but their activities concerned the personality and present whereabouts of John Annandale.


Researches at Rothesay disclosed that, on Saturday, 6th July, a man giving that name and of appearance similar to that of Rose’s companion, engaged a room from Mrs. Currie, Iona Place, Port Bannatyne, a village contiguous to the capital of Bute, on the north side of Rothesay Bay.

He lodged there till Tuesday, the 9th, when he went up to Glasgow, returning the next day with a brown knickerbocker suit and stylish stockings, in place of his previous attire.

On Thursday, the 11th, he informed his landlady that he was going to Inveraray.


Next day, Friday, 12th July, he told her that he had been invited by a friend to visit Arran, that he meant to “do” Goatfell, and that he would probably not be back till Tuesday.

He then left for his weekend trip, taking with him his brown leather bag, and wearing his knickerbocker suit and a straw hat.


On the afternoon of Tuesday, the 16th, he reappeared at his Port Bannatyne lodgings, wearing a grey felt hat and carrying a brown-paper parcel containing, as his landlady later learned, a white serge yachting-cap and a chocolate-and-brown striped tennis blazer.

These were the clothes he wore for the remainder of his stay.

He talked “quite pleasantly” to Mrs. Currie about his visit to Arran, saying he had been up Goatfell, and had enjoyed himself.


On Friday evening, the 19th, he asked to have his breakfast at half-past eight next morning, as he intended to see a friend off by the nine o’clock steamer.

That day his fortnight’s occupation of the room expired; he ordered his dinner for one o’clock and asked the landlady to prepare his bill, which amounted to £3 3s. 8d.

This she duly did; but the lodger never returned from his morning stroll, and all that Mrs. Currie got in respect of board and lodging was the yachting-cap and a pair of tennis shoes, which were later identified as Rose’s property.


Annandale had given her his address as No. 6 Cambridge Street, Glasgow, but an application to that address produced no response.

The Glasgow Mail on Tuesday, 6th August 1889, in an article on the facts so far as then ascertained, observed:-

“The story appears to be that of a man without money, reduced to desperate straits, seeking the acquaintance of a gentleman who seemed to be well off, inducing him to go in his company to a distant and lonely place, and there deliberately and of set purpose murdering him for his money.

If there be any other explanation, it is for Annandale to appear and give it.”

Next day that journal was in a position to announce the identification of the mysterious unknown.”


The Next day, Wednesday, 7th August, 1889, The Leicester Daily Mercury, reported that an important breakthrough had been made and that the mysterious Annandale had been identified:-

“Our Glasgow correspondent telegraphs:-

The supposed perpetrator of the Arran murder, Annandale, has been identified as residing in lodgings in North Frederick-street, Glasgow, his real name being John Laurie.

On Wednesday, July 31, he suddenly left his lodgings, taking his box, and, on the same day, he demanded his pay, as he was going to leave his employment at Messrs. Sharp, Stewart, and Co’s Atlas Locomotive Works, Springburn.

It has since transpired that one of his fellow workmen had previously seen Laurie in Rothesay wearing a tennis suit, and remarked upon his resemblance to the description of Annandale. This seems to have precipitated Laurie’s departure.

A letter posted at Hamilton was received on August 2nd to his landlady, remitting a small sum that was due to her, and stating that some persons were trying to get him into trouble, and cautioning her not answer any questions.

A search of Laurie’s rooms has been made by the police with the result of finding some clothes he wore in Rothesay and Arran.

This morning he had not been apprehended, but the police are confident that his arrest will soon be effected.”

A photograph of John Laurie.
John Watson Laurie.


As it transpired, his Glasgow landlady, Mrs. King, was more fortunate than his landladies in Brodick and Port Bannatyne had been, in that she had received the rent he owed her.

The letter, mentioned in the article, was a pencilled note, posted at Hamilton on 2nd August.

It read:-

“Dear Madam,

I beg to enclose P.O.O. [Post Office Order] for my rent, as I can’t call, for I have to go to Leith.

There are 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 very long.

Yours respectfully,



The Edinburgh Evening News, Wednesday, 7th August, 1889:-

“Detectives were in Coatbridge yesterday inquiring after John Laurie, the alleged murderer of the tourist, Rose, on Goatfell.

They elicited that he was at Tillietudlem on Saturday with a respectable young lady belonging to Coatbridge, whom he told that he was being charged with what he was not guilty of.

He would not tell what the accusations were.

The police theory is that he has used the murdered man’s return half ticket and gone to London.

The young lady’s friends suspect that he has taken poison, or that he may do it, as he said he would do so, and he had, it is alleged, previously attempted to take his life by that means.

It appears that Laurie has already been in trouble with the police.

He is known in Coatbridge as a very foppish young man. He was a member the Junior Conservative Club, and was one time its treasurer.

The greatest sympathy is felt for his father, who is a most respectable citizen of Coatbridge, and a member of the School Board.”


The North Daily Mail, on Thursday, 8th August 1889, published an account of another sighting of Annandale which further linked him to John Laurie:-

“Yesterday a young man from the Caledonian Railway Company called at the address in North Frederick Street, where Laurie was lately residing and asked if Mr. John Annandale resided there.

He was surprised to hear that he was not there, and on being asked his business, he said that a gentleman, giving the name of John Annandale and the address of his lodgings in North Frederick Street, was on board the Caledonia on Saturday, July 20th, when that steamer ran down a small boat in Rothesay Bay, and that he volunteered to give evidence if required in the case, at the same time giving his card, bearing the name “John Annandale” and his address in North Frederick Street upon it.”

This is one more link in the chain of evidence incriminating Laurie, as July 20th was the day he left Rothesay, and he had given his fellow-lodger a detailed account of the Caledonia accident, which he said he witnessed.


The excitement caused by the identification of Laurie and his simultaneous vanishing was intense in the district where his name and doings were known.

The general consensus amongst those who knew him was that he had committed suicide.

The hunt for him, which was now being reported daily in the newspapers, brought forth all manner of rumours, and speculation, suggesting that he had been seen here, there, and everywhere.


The fact that the police, despite their initial assurances that the arrest of “Annandale” was imminent, were still, so it appeared, nowhere near finding him, led to press criticism of their activites.

The Northern Daily Mail, for example, on Thursday, 8th August, 1888, opted to take the police sharply to task for their inability to bring the Arran murderer to justice:-

“We had hoped that by this time Laurie would have been in their hands. Short of going about the streets shouting “I am John Annandale,” Laurie did pretty nearly all that was possible to put the police upon his track.

What strikes one most strongly about his conduct since the night of the tragedy is its sheer stupidity. He acted with the utmost recklessness, apparently on the extraordinary assumption that no inquiry would be made regarding the missing gentleman by his relatives, or at least that the murder would remain unknown and that the body would never be discovered.”


The police, however, were, in fact, hot on Laurie’s trail and had discovered that he had made his way to Liverpool on Tuesday the 6th of August, 1889, where he had taken lodgings at 10, Greek Street, paying a week’s rent in advance.

On Thursday, the 8th, he told his landlady, Mrs. Ennitt, that he was leaving that day, as he had obtained a situation at Manchester as a traveller in the cotton trade.

He left behind him a box, which on subsequent examination was found to contain certain white shirts, later identified as Rose’s, having the name of their new owner, “John W. Laurie,” impressed upon them with a rubber stamp, which also was discovered in the box.


However, the Arran mystery was about to take another bizarre twist.

On Monday, 12th August, 1889, The Glasgow Daily Mail published a letter which Laurie had sent them.

It bore the Liverpool postmark, and read:-

“10th Aug. ’89.

Dear Editor,

I feel that I should write a long detailed letter to your paper, but I am in no mood to do so. I rather smile when I read that my arrest is hourly expected.

If things go as I have designed them, I will soon have arrived at that country from whose bourne no traveller returns, and since there has been so much said about me, it is only right that the public should know what are the real circumstances which has brought me to this.

Three years ago I became very much attached to Miss ———-, teacher, ——  School, and residing at——–.

My affection for this girl was at first returned . . . until I discovered that she was encouraging the attentions of another man, ——— teacher,———, who took every opportunity to depreciate me in her estimation.

Since then I have been perfectly careless about what I did, and my one thought was how to punish her enough for the cruel wrong she had done me; and it was to watch her audacious behaviour that I went to Rothesay this and last year.

I may say that I became acquainted with another young lady, whose good qualities I sincerely wish that I had learned to appreciate sooner, as if I had I would have been in a very different position today.

As regards Mr. Rose, poor fellow, no one who knows me will believe for one moment that I had any complicity in his death.

The morning I left for Arran I was in the company of two friends on Rothesay pier when Mr. Rose came to me and said that he was going to spend a few days with me at Arran.

I was very much surprised at this, as my friends could vouch, for I had not invited him.

We went to the top of Goatfell, where I left him in the company of two men who came from Loch Ranza, and were going to Brodick.

I went down to Corrie and met some friends, and we afterwards visited the hotel, where we met several of the gentlemen who were camping out, and I left for Brodick about ten.

I could easily prove that what I say is true, but I decline to bring the names of my friends into this disgraceful affair, so will content myself by wishing them a last adieu.

Yours truly,


A portrait sketch of John Laurie.
From The Dundee People’s Journal, Saturday, 7th September, 1889. Copyright. The British Library Board.


The publication of this letter – which was, so the newspapers assured their readers, in Laurie’s handwriting – led to a renewed public interest in the “Arran mystery,” and Laurie, evidently delighted by the publicity his missive had generated, sent another letter, this time to The Glasgow Herald, which was duly published by that newspaper in its edition of Thursday,  29th August, 1889:-

“27th August, 1889.


I expected that the letter which I so foolishly addressed to the Mail would have been my last, but I read so many absurd and mad things in the daily papers, that I feel it my duty to correct some of them, and the first of these is the assertion . . . that I am kept out of the way by friends.

I have not come across a friend since I left Glasgow, nor have I been in communication with anyone.

I don’t deny the fact that I would like to meet some of my friends again, but I am more careful than to allow myself to be lured like the moth to the flame.

Although I am entirely guiltless of the crime I am so much wanted for, yet I can recognise that I am a ruined man in any case, so it is far from my intention to give myself up.

I first went to Glasgow in the spring of 1882, but being among strangers, I became homesick, so was glad of the offer held out to me of something to do at Uddingston.
Messrs. John Gray & Co. were at that time making a winding engine, also several steam cranes for the underground railway, and during the months of June, July, and August I assisted Mr. John Swan to make the patterns. I remember Mr. Swan as being a very nice gentleman, but I have no recollection of a man the name of Alexander.

I was not at Hamilton eight weeks ago, and I certainly did not smile to Alexander on the way there. If I had travelled in a train where I was known, don’t you think it likely that I would have left at the first sstoppage?

The stories about me being seen are all imagination. I have not been seen by anyone who knows me, and I have been travelling all the time in England and Ireland; and as I can see that this is no land for me, I will be off again.

It is true that I did take a room for a week at 10 Greek Street, Liverpool, which I paid in advance. I only stayed three days. I did not board with the lady of the house, and after destroying my papers, I left my box, with no intention of ever calling for it again, as it was an encumbrance to me.

The Mail takes credit to itself in this case, which does not belong to it at all, for it was a friend of mine who felt it his duty to inform the authorities that Mr. Rose left Rothesay with me; and when I saw from an evening paper that Mr. Rose had not returned to his lodgings, I began at once to arrange for my departure, for I had told so many about him.

Seemingly there was a motive for doing away with poor Rose; it was not to secure his valuables. Mr. Rose was to all appearance worse off than myself; indeed, he assured me that he had spent so much on his tour that he had barely sufficient to last till he got home.

He wore an old Geneva watch with no gold albert attached, and I am sure that no one saw him wear a ring on his tour, and no one saw me wear one, and well knew that he was speaking a lie when he said that he saw me wear a ring at Rothesay.

A nice picture this fellow made of me, surely out of because I had fooled his precious brother. He says that when he saw me I was wearing a ring, and had one of my hands gloved. This is a preposterous falsehood; indeed, his whole story from beginning to end was a lie.

I met him one morning in Shamrock Street, not Cambridge Street, and I caught hold of his arm, when he asked a boy to call a policeman.

There was no striking on either side, but if there had been, I leave those who know us to judge who would come off second best.

———– has changed his opinion about the girl I was more than intimate with from the spring of 1887 to the end of June, 1888. She has now an irreproachable character. It suits him, of course, to say this; but if that were so, this trouble would never have come.

However, these are trivial matters, uninteresting to all but those immediately concerned, and as I am not inclined to say any more, I hope this will be the last the public will hear of me.

Yours truly,

John W. Laurie


As the search for Laurie intensified, newspapers began warning readers of the dangers of taking up with strangers when on holiday, pointing out that, as was evidently the case with Rose, it was nigh on impossible to ascertain a stranger’s intent until it was too late.

The Illustrated Police News, on Saturday, 24th August, 1889, pointed out that these warnings may have been exaggerated, although it did concede that there was another unforeseen danger posed by strangers whom one might meet whilst on holiday:-

“The supposed murderer of the tourist in Arran seems to have been very ingenious.

He returns to the cottage where they had a double-bedded room together, saying that he himself had tired of their mountain walk, but that his companion had gone on and would return presently.

By lying down in both beds, and washing in both basins, and then departing in the early morning, before the household was astir, he gave the impression that the murdered man had returned and departed with him.

If the story had been imagined it would certainly have been a feather in the cap of the novelist to have hit upon this deception.

It will be claimed, no doubt, as a victory of fact over fiction; but the truth is the contest between them is similar to that between heavy guns and defensive armour; if one seems to have got the better of the other today, the other is the victor tomorrow.

As to the moral drawn from the murder by some scribes, concerning the caution we should exercise in choosing our travelling companions, it will be utterly thrown away.

Every summer scores of tourists fall into this error, and, though few are murdered, a good many are bored to death.”


On Wednesday, 4th September, 1889, The Northern Daily Mail, carried the story that people had been waiting for; at long last, the man suspected of the Arran murder had finally been captured:-

“Shortly before the arrival of the Glasgow train, due at the Ferniegair Station of the Hamilton line, on Tuesday, 3rd September, the stationmaster noticed a man hanging about the entrance.

He sent a boy to tell the man, if he were an intending passenger, “to hurry up, as the train was due “; but the man said he did not propose to book, and hastily made off.


At that moment Constable Gordon came into the station with a view to joining the train.

To him the stationmaster said that a man, who looked like the wanted one, had just left.

Gordon went up to the railway bridge over the line, which commanded a prospect of the immediate neighbourhood, and saw the suspect going along the Carlisle road.


He followed at a rapid walk, and was overtaking his quarry, when the man looked round, “and seeing that the officer meant business, bolted through a gate leading into a grass field.”

Traversing this at a headlong pace, the fugitive crossed the railway line and reached the Lanark road.

Along the highway he flew, pursued by Gordon, shouting, “Catch that man; that’s Laurie!”


Presently a party of Larkhall miners from the Bog Colliery nearby, hearing the shouts, joined in the chase. They threw down their tools and darted down the road from the pit at breakneck speed.

On reaching the Quarry Wood, a mile and a half from Ferniegair Station, they found the panting constable and asked him where was Laurie. “There; in that wood,” he gasped.

It was a small plantation of about two acres, sloping down to the Clyde.

The miners were for dashing in at once, but the constable caused them to surround the clump of trees, before anyone entered.


Meanwhile, two boys, who had been in the wood, told how they had seen a man hiding under some bushes in the old quarry from which the plantation is named.

Some of the party then went into the wood, and one of the miners soon detected the fugitive, who lay among the undergrowth, with a razor in his hand and a superficial cut on his throat.

He was dragged out of his hiding-place and given in charge of the constable.

“I am Laurie,” said he; “but not Rose’s murderer. I wish I had got time to do the job right. I intended to commit suicide tonight.”

Cautioned that anything he now said might be used against him, Laurie rejoined, “I robbed the man, but I did not murder him.”

He was then taken to the colliery, where his wound was dressed, and he was afterwards removed to Hamilton and safely locked up.”

Sketches of the Arran murder and the capture of John Laurie.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 14th September, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Lancashire Evening Post, on Thursday, 5th September, 1889, reported on Laurie’s capture and commented on how the Jack the Ripper letters of the previous year had, evidently, inspired him to follow the Whitechapel murderer’s lead:-

“Laurie, the alleged murderer, has at last been captured.

For many weeks there has been a hue and cry after him throughout Scotland. The whole country was up in arms against him, and yet, by a series of extraordinary accidents, he succeeded in eluding justice.

It cannot be said that he did not lighten the task of the detectives in the most obliging manner. Smitten apparently by the love of notoriety, and anxious to emulate the example of “Jack the Ripper,” he seems to have employed his leisure time in corresponding with the police.

Even crime has its fashions, and it is the vogue now for criminals to make long epistolatory communications to the police.

It is, we trust, a fashion which will not die out soon, for it should be of considerable assistance to the detective force.

We say “should be” advisedly, for in the case of the Whitechapel murderer, and also as regards Laurie, the authorities do not seem to have derived much assistance from the letters they received.”


The trial of John Laurie, for the murder of Edwin Rose, began at the High Court of Justiciary, Parliament Street, Edinburgh, on Friday, 8th November, 1889.


One of many bizarre facts to come out in the course of the trial was the fact that, following the completion of the post-mortem on Edwin Rose’s body, the police had removed his boots and had taken them to the seashore at Corrie, where they had been buried beneath the high-water mark.

Sergeant Munro, who had given the instruction for their removal and burial, and  Constable Coll, who had carried out his orders, were both quizzed at the trail as to why this had been done, but both were evasive in their answers,

Munro merely stated that the boots had been “so fully identified” that there was no need to preserve them.

However, several newspapers made enquiries  as to why this would have been done and discovered that, “this curious and irregular interment was due to a Highland superstition, namely, that the dead man’s ghost would thereby be prevented from “walking” to the disturbance of the living!”


The prosecution maintained that Laurie had, in fact, pushed Rose and had then battered him to death with a rock, or that Rose had fallen by accident and Laurie had then killed him.

Laurie did not deny that he had robbed Rose of his possessions, but he maintained in his defence, that he had done so only after Rose had been killed by an accidental fall.

It has to be said that the prosecution case was not a particularly strong one, but the jury agreed with the idea that Rose had been murdered, as opposed to him having died as a result of an accidental fall, and, having retired to consider their verdict, they returned 45 minutes later and pronounced their verdict that John Laurie had been guilty of the murder of Edwin Rose.

A photograph of the gully where Roses's body was found.
The Gully Where Rose Was Found. Did He Fall From The Location Indicated By The X?


At this point, the prisoner stood, to hear the judge’s sentence.

Cleaning his throat, The Lord Justice-Clerk, visibly moved by the task at hand according to several reports, and pronounced:-

“John Watson Laurie, you have been convicted by the jury of one of the most terrible crimes that our country has ever known.

You must be well aware that that conviction can only be followed by one sentence, which it is now my duty to pronounce. I beseech you to turn your thoughts away from this world to the next.

Justice for the crime you have committed will end here, if you will repent of your crime and turn to the God whom you have offended.

Turn to him, I beseech you. It is not too late for you to turn and secure that forgiveness which is freely offered to you.

Our sad duty here is to carry out the law of the land, and, therefore, without further words, I must ask you to listen to the sentence of the Court.

The sentence of the Court upon you is that you be removed to the prison of Edinburgh, and thence transferred to the prison of Greenock, in the precincts of which prison you will be hanged by the neck between the hours of eight and ten in the forenoon of 30th November.

This I pronounce for doom, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”


At this point Laurie turned round in the dock, and, addressing the crowded courtroom, he stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am innocent of this charge.”

The judge rebuked him, “You, cannot be allowed to address the Court.”

The prisoner was then removed, and the Court rose.


However, following several public protests, Laurie’s sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment.

He spent the remaining 41 years of his life incarcerated, dying on 4th October, 1930, and maintaining to his dying day that he was innocent of the murder of Edwin Rose.


Under the above headline, The Dundee Courier published the following brief obituary on Monday, 6th October, 1930:-

“The death took place in Perth Prison during the weekend of John Watson Laurie.

Laurie, who was a native of Coatbridge, was convicted in 1889 of the murder in Arran in July that year of Edwin Robert Rose, a London tourist, and was sentenced to death.

Subsequently, however, the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, and altogether Laurie had spent 41 years in prison.

For 20 years, he was detained at Peterhead, and, early in 1910, he was brought to Perth Penitentiary, where he had since been.


For many years past, Laurie had been an inmate of the lunatic department of the prison, and his death at the age of 69 years was not unexpected.

Although Laurie was only about 28 years of age when he was convicted by a jury at the High Court of Justiciary Edinburgh, the confinement in prison very soon prematurely aged him.

Before he was 50 Laurie had the appearance of a man over 70. His hair was white and his body was bent, and he was more or less incognizant of what went on around him.”