The Times - London

Thursday, November 21, 1867



Charged with Murder. - At the High Court of the Justiciary, Edinburgh, on Monday, John Gibson, aged 85, was charged with the murder of Robert Potter, a lad of about 20 years of age. The deceased, with a companion, had a late hour on Saturday night, the 14th of September, been loitering in the neighbourhood of the dairy farm belonging to the prisoner’s son, near the village of Corstorphine, 3 miles west of Edinburgh. At the dairy there were two sleeping apartments, in one of which three young men and in the other three young women slept, and the old man, when at the farm, slept in the same room as the young women, going to bed usually before them. For some time the prisoner had been greatly annoyed with young men coming about the place at night and tapping at the windows by way of signal to the girls. The latter stated that they had discouraged such nocturnal visits when the old man slept at the farm, which he did only at times. He, however, was apparently of very irritable temper, and his irascibility evidently added to the amusement of the young men. On the night referred to, after Musselburgh races, two lads came about midnight, and with tapping and rubbing on the windows wakened not only the girls but their protector. He rose from bed, and taking up a fowling-piece which he kept under his pillow, loaded with small shot, fired it.

This, however, had not the effect of frightening the lads away, and Potter and his companions began "bumming" slates at him. The prisoner, thus provoked, loaded his piece again and fired. Potter fell to the ground insensible, and only survived a few hours, while his companion was slightly injured in the hand. The old man was immediately apprehended, and was now, in point of form, charged with the crime of murder.

The jury, being charged by the Court to consider how far the act was excused or palliated by the provocation received, returned a verdict of "Guilty of Culpable Homicide". The prisoner having been already two months in custody, the Court having regard to his great age and to the extenuating circumstances, imposed the mitigated sentence of four months’ imprisonment. The verdict and sentence were both received with general applause. The prisoner seemed to be much impressed with the gravity of his position, and, not withstanding his deafness, showed eager interest in the proceedings.