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Case against Oscar Slater, Glasgow (1908-1909)

Case File [Ref. GB 0248 GUA FM/2B/5] consists of reports, correspondence with police forces all over the United Kingdom as well as Germany and Ireland, notes, and newspaper cuttings regarding the case of Oscar Slater.

Oscar Slater was arrested and charged with the murder of the murder of Marion Gilchrist in Glasgow in 1908. He was tried and convicted at the High Court, Edinburgh in 1909. In 1928, after Slater had served over twenty years in prison, the verdict was overturned.

Some of the first items in the Slater case file relate to a 'discreet inquiry' on a potential suspect in the murder of Marion Gilchrist, named John Halley.
Telegrams were sent to Police in Liverpool and Manchester requesting them to be on the look out for a man aged between 25 and 30 years old, clean shaven and wearing a grey overcoat.


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Letter from Chief Superintendent, Glasgow to Chief Constable, Nottingham, 27th December 1908.
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/62

Letter from Glasgow's Chief Superintendent to the Chief Constable of Nottingham in 1908- the first reference to Oscar Slater alias Anderson, who described himself as a dentist. Slater bought a ticket from St Enoch Station, Glasgow to Nottingham. The letter suggests that a gold brooch may be found in Slater's possession.

 


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Telegram of description of suspects from Glasgow's Chief Constable, 26th December 1908.
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/60

 


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Taken from Scrapbooks, 28th December 1908
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/

Police appealed to landladies through advertisements in the press to look out for Slater, and laundry keepers were asked to keep an eye out for blood stained clothing.

 

2nd January 1909
Glasgow Police contact The Chief of Police in Thale, Germany, informing them that Slater may have absconded to America, and that when Slater left Glasgow he let his flat to Louise Quebnau and Else Hoppe. Glasgow Police wished to know the character of these women.

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Letters from the public advancing their theories
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/

People wrote to Glaister advancing theories that the perpetrator was American, that blood hounds should be used in the investigation, that the perpetrator must have been known to Miss Gilchrist otherwise she would not have admitted them to her house, and that Miss Gilchrist's relatives were involved.

A letter from Letter from G.S. on 5th January 1909 stating that he knows the Prince Street murder and another person that knows Slater and 'something about the broch (sic)' and that he was ‘willing to come and give you the details in the first place I don't want my name put in the papers'.


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Letters from the public advancing their theories
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/

Letter from the ‘Prince of Darkness', Edinburgh, 18th January 1909 to 'Mr Stevenson, sir I see advertised in several places about the murder of Mrs Gilchrist well I am at large get I also was in Dublin on the 7 Novr. Last where the woman called Carool (sic) was stabbed there was some description of me in the papers there of my appearance that was quite correct but I went to Cork that night by rail …'


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Letters from the public advancing their theories
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/

'Regarding the murder of the old woman if you look for a relative you will I think come out on top'

1st February, 1909
Ref: GUA FM/2B/5/186

Glasgow's chief constable writes to the Commissioner of Police, Thale, Germany, to inform him that the two women who were renting Slater's flat, Louise Quednau or Freedman and Else Hoppe were returning to Germany, and that extradition was taking place against the suspect Oscar Schalter in New York.

16th February 1909
The ship which was conveying Slater to the UK, would not 'touch Liverpool' but come direct to Glasgow.

25th February, 1909
Oscar Slater's fingerprints were compared with a photograph of prints found on a door handle in connection with the 'Whiteinch Murder'

25th May, 1909

Oscar Slater was convicted by a majority of the Jury at the High Court, Edinburgh and sentenced to death. Slater's sentence was afterwards commuted to one of Penal Servitude for Life. Slater was released on licence in 1927, after serving nearly twenty years in prison. He was awarded six thousand pounds for wrongful conviction.

Associated material:

National Archives of Scotland: Holds numerous items elating to Oscar Slater including criminal appeals, correspondence, newspapers reports, John Glaister's report re the locus, and photographs of Marion Gilchrist's house.

Glasgow City Archives: Dr Jamieson Papers, Reference TD22/1-4, Oscar Slater's letter from Peterhead Prison, 22.3.10 asking Mr Marshall for legal help, and news cutting re-John Thomson Trench (1960-1970).

Publications

Braber, B. (2003) ‘The Trial of Oscar Slater (1909) and Anti-Jewish Prejudices in Edwardian Glasgow', History 88 : 262-279
Crowther, M.A. and White B. (1988) On Soul and Conscience the Medical Expert and Crime: The Medical Expert (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press).
Dickson, C.S., Lord, Cook, D., Trench, J.T. (1916) Verbatim Report of the Lord Justice Clerk's Charge to the Jury; in the Trial ... His Majesty's Advocate Against David Cook and John Thomson Trench (Glasgow).
Doyle, Sir A.C. (1912) The Case of Oscar Slater (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

Hodge, H. (1941) Famous Trials 1: Madeleine Smith, Oscar Slater, Dr Crippen, Dr Palmer (Harmondsworth: Penguin).
Hodge, H., Hodge, J.H. & Mortimer, J. (1984) Famous Trials (Harmondsworth: Middlesex).
Hunt, P. (1951) Oscar Slater: The Great Suspect (London: Carroll & Nicholson).
Hunt, P. (1963) Oscar Slater: The Great Suspect (New York: Collier Books).
House, J. (1961) Square Mile of Murder (Edinburgh: Chambers).
Park, W., & Doyle, Sir A.C. (1927) The Truth About Oscar Slater: With the Prisoner's Own Story (London: Psychic Press).
Roughead, W. (ed.) (1910) Trial of Oscar Slater: Notable British Trials Series (Edinburgh: Hodge).
Roughead, W. (ed.) (1915) Trial of Oscar Slater: Notable British Trials Series (Edinburgh: Hodge).
Roughead, W. (ed.) (1929) Trial of Oscar Slater: Notable British Trials Series (Edinburgh: Hodge).
Roughead, W. (ed.) (1950) Trial of Oscar Slater: Notable British Trials Series (Edinburgh: Hodge).

Toughill, T. (1993) Oscar Slater: The Mystery Solved (Edinburgh: Canongate).
Wallace, E. (1927) 'Release Oscar Slater!', John Bull: 41.
Whittington-Egan, R. (2001) The Oscar Slater Murder Story: New Light on a Classic Miscarriage of Justice (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing).

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