Since 17th April, 1932, the day on which officers of the department identified their first criminal by fingerprints, the department has figured in many thousands of cases. None was more dramatic than that of Dr. Buck Ruxton.
On Sunday, 29th September, 1935, two dismembered bodies were found in a ravine near Moffat in Dumfriesshire. The local police immediately sought assistance from detective officers in Glasgow and Detective Lieutenants William Ewing and Bertie Hammond travelled to Moffat.
Both bodies were so badly mutilated that at first it was difficult to determine their sex. However, while in Dumfries, Mr. Ewing read a newspaper report of the disappearance of two women from Lancaster. In his view there appeared a remarkable similarity between one of the missing women and the physical proportions of one of the Moffat bodies.
Portions of both bodies had been wrapped in newspaper. The newspaper concerned was a national publication, The Sunday Graphic but the edition concerned, it was established, was one which had circulated only in the Lancaster district.
Another important clue was the manner in which dissection had been carried out. Evidently the murderer had an expert knowledge of anatomy. Furthermore, he had made a determined attempt to remove every possible means of identification.
The missing women were Mrs. Isabella Ruxton, wife of Dr. Buck Ruxton, and her maid, Mary Rogerson. There was good reason for suspecting the doctor and in due course he was arrested.
With the arrest of the doctor the police had unrestricted access to his house. In the bathroom and on the stair-carpet they found considerable evidence of bloodstaining. However it still remained to be proved that the mutilated bodies were those of the doctor’s wife and her maid.
If fingerprints from one of the bodies and fingerprints on articles in the house were found to be identical, it would establish beyond doubt that the deceased had lived in the house. But on one body (Rogerson) only the ﬁnger-tips were intact; those belonging to the other (Mrs Ruxton) had been severed and were never recovered.
Detective Lieutenant Hammond and Detective Sergeant Duncan examined the doctor’s house and nothing escaped their attention.
Every article likely to bear fingerprints—from the lamp-shades in the attics to the medicine bottles in the basement—was examined. They found hundreds of prints: on jam jars, bottles, cups, saucers, plates, and dishes of every description. On the bathroom door they found a palm-print which was later found to belong to the maid.
Every article, including the bathroom door, was removed to Glasgow to be photographed. Comparing the prints found on the articles with those of the dead body was simple routine. With few exceptions, these were found to be identical with of those the dead hands of Mary Rogerson.
Professor Glaister, the pathologist, also superimposed x-rays of Mrs. Ruxton’s skull over photographs as an additional aid to her identification.
Dr. Ruxton was found guilty of both murders. In the words of the presiding judge, the fingerprint evidence had proved the most damning of all. In March, 1936, Dr. Ruxton was hanged.
Copyright GPHS 2020 ; Source: The Thin Blue Line by Douglas Grant (1973)