In November 1832, the Hull Packet, a local newspaper, reported a curious incident of body snatching from Cottingham. The body in question was that of Sarah Harper, wife of Edward Harper, a miller in the employment of Mr Dunning of Bishop Burton. She was the daughter of the sexton (a gravedigger) of Cottingham and had recently died at the age of 37. Her body was discovered by two constables when they halted the mail coach bound for Edinburgh on the Westwood. Sarah was found in a box on the coach.

The constables secured the box and went to a public house in Beverley town and apprehended three men thought to be involved in the theft of the body. They were William Ware a.k.a. Edinburgh Bill, George Newton and Joseph Noblett. Newton was identified by a waiter from the Beverley Arms as the person who had delivered the box to the mail. Ware was found to have incriminating materials in his possession, including a bundle of hair that matched that of Sarah Harper. He also possessed a letter advising him to send packages to Edinburgh via Carlisle rather than Newcastle since they were being opened at Newcastle for inspection.

This was the time when body snatching was rife in Edinburgh and graveyards were robbed of bodies which were then sold to meet the growing demand of schools of anatomy. The notorious Burke had gone further than that by killing people so that their bodies could be sold. He was hanged in 1829.   

 

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