The crime which subjected this criminal to condign punishment was that of the murder of an aged, widow and her daughter, to whom he was related by the ties of marriage.
Mr. Franks, at the time of the murders lately deceased, was gamekeeper to the late Lord Elcho; and when age, and consequently frailty, rendered him incompetent to the prompt discharge of his duties, his lordship made such arrangements as enabled his old and respected servant to subsist in an humble but comfortable independence. On the 26th of July, 1829, Mr. Franks was consigned to the grave, and he left the hapless subjects of this notice -- a widow, nearly fifty, and a daughter of fifteen years of age -- to lament his death.
On Sunday, the 25th of October, according to custom, they attended the Rev. Mr. Hogg's chapel, and, no doubt, they had very little suspicion that it was for the last time. The house in which they resided near Haddington was about one hundred yards from the village of Abbey, in East Lothian, and with the garden was enclosed by a wall above six feet in height. The village youth never once thought of stealing fruit from people so warmly beloved, and consequently the garden-door stood always open. On that night they were brutally murdered. His plans carefully matured, the murderer deliberately fastened the garden-door, so that the escape of the intended victims, and any attempts at resistance, were rendered exceedingly difficult. He then scaled the wall, and proceeded to the awful work of homicide. His first attempt to gain admittance was at a window in front of the house. He broke two panes of glass; but the inside shutters were too securely fastened to yield to his efforts. Baffled and disappointed, he had recourse to another window in the same room; and after breaking two panes of glass, and using great exertion, the keeper gave way, and the monster obtained admission. He passed deliberately through the room, through a sinuous passage, through the kitchen, and then burst into the bedroom of Mrs. Franks and her daughter. The unfortunate ladies had been alarmed by the noise the villain made in breaking into their sanctuary. The mother had time to throw her gown over a petticoat; but the daughter, a stranger to the crimes of the world, and naturally possessing a more tranquil mind, and being more soundly asleep, had barely time to clothe herself with the gown she had on at church, ere she was in the grasp of her ruthless murderer. Dread, desperation, and the potent instinct of self-preservation naturally incited a resolute resistance; but the well-prepared and determined murderer prevailed. In the vain and delusive hope of escape the wretched mother fled from the appalling scene of death, and ran to the garden-door, expecting to reach the village; but there she was stopped by the cool and fiendish deliberation of her destroyer. Having despatched the daughter, he followed the mother, seized her at the garden-door, and with one of her own table-knives, ended her life, by nearly severing the head from her body. He then threw the bleeding corpse into a hog sty, which was only ten yards distant; and the marks of the ruffian's gory hands were observable on the entry-door. The bloody tragedy being finished, the scarcely less important consideration next came -- that of plunder. He, coolly locked the kitchen-door inside, turned out the contents of the drawers, and ransacked all the repositories; indeed, so minute and persevering was the search, that a considerable breadth of plaster was torn from the roof of a room in the attic story, where there had previously been a small aperture, in expectation, no doubt, that money was concealed in that unusual place. The rings were torn from the ears of Mrs. Franks; three gold rings, it is said, were taken from her finger, which were carried off, along with a silver watch. Having completed his unhallowed undertaking, and secured all the plunder that suited his purpose, the ruffian retired, as he had entered, by the window.
Neither on the Monday nor Tuesday following was Mrs. Franks or her daughter observed; but this excited no surprise, as it was concluded by those by whom they were missed, that they were absent on a friendly visit to the sister of the former at North Berwick. On Wednesday morning, a woman requested a young man to make his way over the garden-wall, and ascertain if a pig that belonged to Mrs. Franks had any provision. He promptly obeyed; and on looking into the hog sty, was horrified by the sight of the widow's mangled remains. He gave an involuntary but vehement scream, and his employer, Mr. Dudgeon, a miller, and a number more, promptly repaired to the spot. The body was taken out, and, to their inexpressible horror, they discovered that the throat was cut from ear to ear. Alarming suspicions flashed across their minds; they instantly ran to the house, and having obtained an entrance, they discovered the daughter -- pale, dead, lying amidst a quantity of blood, and the brain protruding from her skull.
Suspicions of the guilt of Emond from circumstances which became known to the authorities were at once excited; and efforts were made to secure his apprehension. He had resided for some time at North Berwick, and was married to that very sister of Mrs. Franks, whom it was supposed she had gone to visit; and repeated expressions of dislike on his part towards his sister-in-law, and of threatened revenge for her interference in his family quarrels, were deemed sufficient to justify the course which was taken. In the course of a few days he was apprehended; but it was not until the 8th of February 1830 that he was brought to trial. The investigation took place before the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh, and the wretched criminal was pronounced guilty amidst a tumultuous burst of execration, and was ordered for execution on the 17th of March.
Immediately after his trial the convict confessed that he had committed the dreadful crimes imputed to him, under the circumstances which we have narrated. He appeared, however, to view his murder of Mrs. Franks as an act which her previous conduct towards him justified; but when he alluded to the death of her daughter, he appeared struck with remorse and despair, exclaiming wildly, "Innocent blood calls for vengeance."
On the appointed day the prisoner underwent the punishment due to his crimes, at the end of Libberton's Wynd. On the Friday before his death he was visited by his wife, for the first time during his imprisonment. On being informed she was come, he exclaimed, "Oh, God, how can I meet her -- how can I see her!" She refused to proceed farther than the cell door, and on seeing her husband, said, "Oh, Robert, Robert, you see what you have brought yourself to!" He used some soothing expressions, and going as far as his chains would permit, said, "Mary, will you not shake hands with me?" but she shrunk back, saying, "Oh, no, no; how can I touch you?" However, by the persuasion of the clergyman, she did shake hands with him. He then wished to impress on her, that he always loved her affectionately; but she replied, "Oh, Robert, ye ken your conduct didna look like that." They were beginning to recriminate, when it was thought best to finish the interview. She was again asked to shake hands at parting, but at first refused, exclaiming, "Oh, no, no -- I cannot touch him;" but being advised to extend her hand, which he held firmly, she shuddered and shrieked out, "Oh that hand, that hand!" On being told that a Mrs. Cron was with his wife, he said, "I would to God that infernal woman had been in place of the girl (meaning Magdalene Franks). Were I as free as ever, I would be hanged this night, this instant, if I had her here, and had my revenge." The criminal accused this woman of fomenting differences between him and his wife.
At six o'clock in the morning of the day fixed for the execution, the Rev. Mr. Porteous, who had been unwearied in his attentions to the unhappy man, arrived and performed the religious exercises. About seven o'clock, he was pinioned in the usual form.
The morning was cloudy and drizzling; but at an early hour the crowd began to collect from all quarters, and a perfect stream of people passed up the High-street for nearly two hours. The street, windows, terraces, and chimney-tops, were densely peopled. Some hundreds of persons from Haddington, North Berwick, and the adjacent villages attended.
A few minutes past eight the culprit ascended the scaffold. His appearance elicited a huzza from the boys among the crowd, but no grown-up person joined in the unseemly and appalling shout. He was attended by his brother, who joined him with the reverend gentleman, in psalm-singing and prayer. The unhappy man remained firm and composed throughout, but changed colour frequently when the executioner proceeded to do his duty. He then shook hands with his brother, and the official attendants said he was now ready, and bade them all farewell. After a few moments in private prayer, the signal was dropped, and the platform instantly fell. His struggles were unusually long and violent, and it was apparently four or five minutes before the vital spark had fled. Emond was a man of short stature, with ill-proportioned features, and had, on the whole, a very unprepossessing look. After hanging the usual time, the body was lowered down into the shell, and conveyed to the Lock-up House, whence it was afterwards taken to the College for public dissection.