Perpetrator : Alexander Balfour
Crime : Murder
The Victim : The husband of Mrs Syme (a
woman he was infatuated with)
Weapon of Choice: Gun
Motive : Unrequited love
Date : 1700's
Punishment : Due to his nobility he was to be
beheaded by a Maiden (similar to a guillotine) but this cunning crim escaped before the deed could be
THE case of this criminal is worthy of some attention, from the very remarkable circumstances by
which it was attended. The subject of this sketch was born in 1687, at the seat of his father, Lord Burley, near
Kinross ; and having studied successively at Orwell, near the place of his birth, and at St. Andrews, so
successfully as to obtain considerable credit, he returned home, being intended by his father to join the army of
the Duke of Marlborough, then in Flanders.
Here he became enamoured of Miss Robertson, the governess of his sisters, however ; and in order to
break off the connexion he was sent to make the tour through France and Italy, that young lady being dismissed from
the house of her patron. Balfour, before his quitting Scotland, declared his intention, if ever the young lady
should marry, to murder her husband ; but deeming this to be merely an empty threat, she was, during his absence,
united to a Mr. Syme, with whom she went to live at Inverkeithing.
On his return to his father's house, Balfour learned this fact, and immediately proceeded to
put his threat into execution. Mrs. Syme, on seeing him, remembering his expressed determination, screamed with
affright ; but her husband, unconscious of offence, advanced to her aid, and in the interim, Balfour entering the
room, shot him through the heart. The offender escaped, but was soon afterwards apprehended near Edinburgh ; and
being tried, was convicted and sentenced to be beheaded by the maiden (similar to a guillotine) , on
account of the nobility of his family.
The subsequent escape of the criminal from an ignominious end is not the least remarkable part of
his case. The scaffold was actually erected for the purpose of his execution; but on the day before it was to take
place his sister went to visit him, and, being very like him in face and stature, they changed clothes, and he
escaped from prison. His friends having provided horses for him, he proceeded to a distant village, where he lay
concealed until an opportunity was eventually offered him of quitting the kingdom. His father died in the reign of
Queen Anne, but he had first obtained a pardon for his son, who succeeded to the title and honours of the family,
and died in the year 1752, sincerely penitent for his crime.