Christmas Day in England and New Years Day in Scotland are statistically bad days for family quarrels. So it was with John Herdman, a 52-year-old print worker. He punched, beat, and stabbed to death his girl friend Jane Calder at their home in Milnes Close, Edinburgh, on New Years Day, 1898.
A police surgeon who examined the body said Jane had been literally torn to pieces by the ferocious attack. She suffered the worst human injuries I have ever seen, he told the jury at Edinburgh High Court.
Herdman, who claimed he was drunk at the time, was hanged on Monday, March 14th, 1898, at Calton Prison in Edinburgh, where he had the dubious distinction of being the last man executed in Scotland during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Despite the horrendous nature of his crime, 11,000 people in the city signed a petition to save him from the gallows on the grounds of the misbehaviour of his girl friend. The petition claimed obliquely that Jane Calder had not been a good woman.