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Henry John BURNETT





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 31, 1963
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: January 5, 1942
Victim profile: Thomas Guyan (his lover's husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
LocationAberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen on August 15, 1963

Henry John Burnett (executed August 15, 1963) was the last man to be hanged in Scotland and the first in Aberdeen since 1891.

He was tried for the Murder of a merchant seaman; Thomas Guyan. Burnett’s trial was between the 23rd and 25th of July 1963 at the high court in Aberdeen.

He was executed on the 15th of August 1963 at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen and was carried out by the hangman Harry Allen.


On February 2, 1957, Thomas Guyan married Margaret May, a year later they moved into a first floor flat at 14 Jackson Terrace, a house owned by Margaret's grandmother, Annie Henderson.

A son was born in September 1958 and a second in February, 1961 however the father of the second child was not Thomas. This lead to marital problems that came to a head in 1962 when Margaret May Guyan consulted a solicitor about the possibility of a divorce which her husband refused. Then, in December of that same year she went to work at John R. Stephen Fish Curers where she met a new admirer, Henry Burnett.

A relationship soon developed and by May 1963, Margaret had moved out of Jackson Terrace and moved to a new address in Skene Terrace with Burnett and her youngest son.

May 31, 1963

Henry Burnett believed that given the chance, Margaret would leave him so he took to locking her in the house when he went out. It was not a state of affairs which Margaret relished and when she bumped into her estranged husband on May 31, she agreed to go back to him.

Margaret Guyan arrived at 40 Skene Terrace at 4.00pm, to collect her son Keith. A family friend Georgina Cattanagh, went with her for moral support.

As soon as Margaret announced her intention to go back to her husband Burnett cried "Margaret, Margaret, you are not going to leave me." He then drew out a knife and put it to Margaret's throat, closing the door behind him.

Fearful of what was happening inside, Mrs Cattanagh banged repeatedly on the door and demanded the release of Margaret. Minutes later Burnett threw open the door and ran off down the street. Margaret was shaken but relatively unhurt. The two women made their way back to Jackson Terrace.

Burnett went to his brother Frank's work and told him what had happened, his brother urged him to go to the police. But Burnett was set on revenge, he then went to Frank's house in the city's Bridge of Don area to borrow his gun, Frank's wife had been told never to lend the gun to anyone.

Burnett however forced the cabinet open and stole the gun along with shot gun cartridges. He then boarded a bus to take him to 14 Jackson Terrace.

He arrived at the Guyan's flat and forced his way in, Mrs Cattanagh screamed "You can't come in here", Thomas Guyan jumped to his feet to see what the problem was. As he opened the kitchen door he was met by Burnett, carrying the gun.

A shot rang out and Guyan fell, having been shot in the face from close range. Burnett then took Margaret out of the flat at gun point and on the way down the stairs he threatened a young boy from a neighbouring flat.

Burnett dragged Margaret down a lane and as far as a garage on Seaforth Road. There John Innes Irvine was filling his car with petrol when Burnett demanded he would take the car, Irvine tried to stop Burnett stealing the car but was threatened with the shot gun.

The police were soon notified and began following the car which was driving North towards Peterhead. After driving for about 15 miles he pulled the car over near the town of Ellon. He offered no resistance as he was arrested by Constable James G. Reaper and Constable Mitchell.

The trial

At his trial, Burnett's defence was that at the time of the crime he was insane or alternatively, that this was a case of diminished responsibility. Both defences failed after the jury had considered the evidence for 25 minutes.

The court heard about Burnett's mental state and it was revealed he had been violent in the past and had attempted suicide. His mother and father both appeared in the witness box and his mother broke down in the court.

After he was sentenced to death, both his own family and that of the victim petitioned for his reprieve.

There was, however, no appeal from Burnett, and on August 15 he was executed as a crowd of 200 people gathered outside the jail.


Wood, Norman (2003); Blood on the Granite; Black and White Publishing; ISBN 1-902927-64-8



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