‘13 Yards Off the Big Gate and 37 Yards Up the West Walls’. Crime Scene Investigation in Mid-nineteenth Century Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Clare Sandford-CouchEmail author
  • Helen Rutherford
Part of the Palgrave Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice book series (PHPPJ)


On 27 February 1863, George Vass was convicted of the murder of Margaret Docherty in Newcastle upon Tyne on New Year’s Eve. The crime, trial, and execution were widely reported. The care and skill demonstrated in the police handling of the crime scene runs counter to the popular perception of constables as unskilled men whose chief function was crime prevention rather than detection. There was recognition of the need to gather evidence for the legal process, suggesting a level of professionalism. Research into nineteenth-century policing often focuses on London, but the case considered in this chapter indicates a level of sophistication in policing and a methodical, almost scientific, approach to crime scene analysis in Newcastle in 1863 that has perhaps not previously been appreciated.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Newcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  2. 2.Northumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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