Monday 28 May 2012

The Mount Stewart Murder

My next book, The Mount Stewart Murder, is to be officially published on June 12th 2012. It can be purchased from The History Press via - the recommended retail price will be £14.99, although the company is selling it there now for just £13.49.

So what's it all about? Here's a wee introduction to set the scene...

Friday, March 30th 1866. In Scotland’s fair city of Perth the authorities prepare to try poacher Joseph Bell at the twice yearly Circuit Court of Justiciary for a murder carried out just a few months before in the neighbouring county of Clackmannanshire. If convicted, Bell will become the first man to be hanged within Perthshire for some seventeen and a half years. As the prosecution readies its case, a nervous agricultural community within the surrounding countryside remains virtually locked down over the deadly cattle plague epidemic currently raging across the whole of Britain. Amidst a climate of fear, by the small village of Forgandenny in the south of the county the situation is suddenly about to take a dramatic turn for the worse...

Two days earlier fifty year old Janet Rogers had arrived at Mount Stewart Farm to help her brother and farmer, William Henderson, with various domestic chores, he having sacked his domestic servant for insubordination within the previous week. As her brother sets off for the Perth market on the Friday morning, Janet remains behind to place the farmhouse in order, as ploughman James Crichton sets to work on an adjacent field. Many hours later, Henderson returns to his property, but finds the kitchen door curiously locked. Forced to gain entry to the building through an upstairs window, the farmer soon makes the shocking discovery of his sister’s blood soaked corpse, she having been brutally clubbed to death with a kitchen axe.

In this account of one of Britain’s most horrific murders, one of the victim’s direct descendants, family historian Chris Paton, pulls together surviving contemporary evidence to detail what has since been identified as the longest open murder investigation by a modern British police force. In the course of a year long investigation, and a national manhunt for the killer, the farm’s ploughman was formally indicted for the killing on the sudden shock testimony of the sacked servant, Christina Miller, many months after the murder had occurred. Tried in Perth in April 1867, the case against him was subsequently and controversially found to be ‘non-proven’, a unique verdict allowed within Scots Law which implied a possible involvement, but without enough evidence to formally pass a sentence confirming the ploughman’s guilt.

In The Mount Stewart Murder, the author explores each twist and turn of the failed investigation and sets it against a backdrop of a fearful Perthshire community increasingly finding itself under siege, with a stretched police force barely able to cope and with forensic science only in its infancy. And in the aftermath of the failed trial, he reveals that there was in fact a second and forgotten victim of the crime, the legacy of the murder reaching decades beyond the original event...

This is a bit of a departure for me, having previously only written genealogical guide books. In this case, I wanted to tell the story of the investigation into Janet's unfortunate demise, she being my three times great grandmother, but also to explore Victorian Perthshire throughout 1866, the year of the investigation into her murder. Although centred on the investigation, I also explain many other events along the way, such as the cattle plague epidemic, the hanging of Joseph Bell (the penultimate public execution in Scotland), and more, as well as describe the nature of the police, the judicial systems and the press in Scotland at that point. It's  more a portrait of one community, using the murder as the focal point, rather than an episode of Columbo, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

I have just created a Facebook page for the book at, and once it has been published I will update this page with various facts and other aspects of the research to add a wee bit more info!


British GENES on Facebook at and Twitter @chrismpaton


  1. Sounds like you're setting the story firmly in the surrounding social history, which is just how I like it. (I've never been under any illusion that people will be interested in my relatives - but their social setting might transfer to other people's settings, so maybe providing something of interest after all.)

    And I'm guessing that I might have a connection to your Janet Rogers, as my 5G grandmother, Janet Roger, lived at Little Burnbane/Burnbean in the 1770s, which is, you told me once, where your Rogie/Roger family came from. (Assuming it's the same branch!)

  2. Will your book be available for sale in the US?

  3. Not sure about stores etc, but I see a listing for it on the US version of Amazon - see

    Should be available from The History Press though at the address given above