Prominent criminal barristers Sasha Wass QC and Jeremy Dein QC investigate an infamous Scottish murder case from 1862. A former domestic servant was sentenced to death for killing one of her friends, despite there being a compelling alternative suspect.
Glasgow, 1862. On a summer’s afternoon, members of the affluent Fleming family returned home from holiday to discover that their housemaid Jess McPherson was missing. They eventually unlocked her bedroom door to find her dead body. She had been viciously beaten with a blunt instrument.
A police investigation revealed that clothing and valuable silver items had been stolen from the house, and the crime scene had been cleaned. The head of the household, known as Old Fleming, had been in the house on the weekend of the murder, yet he claimed not to have seen or heard anything of the attack on Jess.
The missing items were traced to a friend of Jess McPherson’s named Jessie McLachlan, who had been a former maidservant at the Fleming household. In her statements to the police, McLachlan denied being at the house on the night in question, but she was eventually charged with murder. Jessie McLachlan’s trial began on 17 September, and it took the jury just 15 minutes to find her guilty. The judge sentenced her to death. However, Jessie then went on to make a statement that turned the case on its head and implicated a member of the Fleming household.
Today, Jessie McLachlan’s great-great-great-niece Karen and her daughter Chloe are determined to clear their relative’s name. They have asked for the barristers’ help to reassess the evidence that saw Jessie McLachlan sentenced to death for the murder of her friend. They look at the forensic evidence and analyse whether the statement Jessie made to the court following her sentence is to be believed. Could Jessie McLachlan’s case have been a miscarriage of justice? Show less