Dressed in a red cape just like Little Red Riding Hood, nine-year-old Thomasina Scott walked through a wood near Cummertrees in Dumfriesshire on her way to do some shopping for her mother when she was seized on by Robert Smith, 19, a labourer, who robbed, raped and strangled her with a bootlace.

Looking up from the little girl’s still warm body, Smith saw a woman in the distance. Had she seen him attack the little girl? Without a second’s thought, he chased after her, threw her to the ground, raped her and tried to murder her. Somehow the woman managed to escape.

An organised posse of about 60 local men, some on horseback, set out to track down the teenage killer. They found him in a lodging-house in Dumfries. He was arrested, convicted of Thomasina’s murder, and hanged outside Dumfries Prison on Tuesday, May 12th, 1868.

The new law prohibiting public executions was due to come into force on May 29th, but the Home Office insisted that Smith’s hanging must take place in public. A large police presence reduced the audience to about 500, who watched Smith become the last man to be publicly hanged in Scotland.