British Executions

Alexander Edmundstone

Age: 23

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 16 Jul 1909

Crime Location: East Wemyss, Fifeshire

Execution Place: Perth

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Alexander Edmundstone murdered Michael Swinton Brown 16 who he battered to death in a public lavatory on School Wynd, East Wemyss, Fife on 19 February 1909.

Michael Brown worked at Messrs Johnson's linen factory in East Wemyss and it was their custom to send him into Buckhaven every Friday to the Royal Bank there to collect money for the staff wages. The bank was about a mile and a half away from the factory. East Wemyss and Buckhaven were connected by a tram line run by the Wemyss District Tramways Company (Limited). It was said that the fact that Michael Brown made the regular journey was well known amongst the villagers.

Michael Brown made the journey to Buckhaven on the tram on 19 February 1909, taking with him an ordinary brief bag into which he put the £85 that he collected. The money consisted of £25 in single notes, £20 in half sovereigns and £40 in silver.

On his way back, he met Alexander Edmundstone on the tram. They got off at the top of School Wynd, which was a steep thoroughfare which led directly onto main street of the village, and through which Michael Brown would have had to pass to get back to the factory.

However, within 30 minutes of him leaving the tram, he was found dead in a public lavatory on School Wynd.

He had been beaten about the head and face and had had his cap shoved down his throat and a handkerchief tied tightly about his neck. He was found in a pool of blood and the brief bag and money as well as his watch and chain were all missing.

It was noted that although School Wynd was closed to vehicular traffic, it was much frequented by pedestrians and the lavatory itself was overlooked on three sides by houses.

The bag was later found between 4pm and 5pm that evening about a mile away among the whins just below Macduff Castle, to the east of East Wemyss and towards Buckhaven and the Wemyss shore.

Alexander Edmundstone was soon identified as the man that he had been with on the tram and it was found that he had since gone missing.

He was described as 23 years of age, 5ft. 9in. in height with auburn hair, dark eyes, a full ruddy face and wearing a brown jacket suit, trousers with a patched seat, a sweater with a fall-down collar which he wore turned up and fastened with a safety pin, a green cap and black lacing boots. He was also wanting three teeth in his front upper jaw and had the letters A. E. tattooed on his forearm.

He was later arrested at a lodging house in Brunswick Street in Ardwick on 26 March 1909. He had been there for the previous two weeks and was identified after a fellow lodger went to the police station to apply for a pedlar's certificate and saw his photograph. The lodger went back to the lodging house to scrutinise Alexander Edmundstone and then went to inform the police.

When he was arrested he said 'I did not know what I was doing'. Police found a Gladstone bag in his possession which contained a sandbag, a long piece of rough canvas shaped like a stocking, that was thought to have been used to hit Michael Brown with as well as £35 in £1 bank notes, £17 10s in cash and a metal watch and chain which were thought to have belonged to Michael Brown. The three cash bags that had been carried by Michael Brown were also found in his Gladstone bag.

At his trial he pleaded insanity but was found to have been sane and was sentenced to death.

A £100 reward had been offered for information that led to his capture.

see Leeds Mercury - Saturday 27 March 1909

see The Scotsman - Saturday 20 February 1909

see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 27 February 1909