Published On: Sun, Oct 27th, 2019

New suspect found in Appin murder case, says professor | UK | News

It was widely believed the wrong man was executed for the assassination of Colin Campbell of Glenure, a government agent known as The Red Fox. But it was only recently that new evidence was put forward to suggest an alternative culprit – The Red Fox’s own nephew Mungo Campbell. Although the report was written by Allan Macinnes, Professor of Early Modern History at Strathclyde University, much of the detective work was done by Reverend Adrian Fallows.

He immersed himself in the story which inspired the novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson while serving as an Episcopalian priest in Ballachulish and Glencoe.

The murder took place in May 1752, seven years after the Battle of Culloden, amid rumours Campbell – whose family supported the Hanoverian regime – was to evict Jacobite Stewart families from their homes.

He was riding in Lettermore Wood, near Ballachulish, with his nephew, a sheriff officer and a male servant, when he was shot.

Within days, a man named James Stewart was arrested and taken to Inveraray Castle – a Campbell stronghold – where he was tried in front of a mainly Campbell jury and with the Duke of Argyll, the clan chief, as judge.

James was sentenced to death while it was said that his half-brother, Alan Breck Stewart, had to be held down to prevent him from confessing to the murder.

The authorities left his body hanging on the scaffold for 18 months as a warning and, while it was widely agreed the wrong man was executed, it was only three years ago when the spotlight fell on Mungo Campbell.

Rev Fallows, now retired and living on Arran, became fascinated by the Appin Murder as a boy after hearing the historic tale from a friend’s parents.

So, when he moved to the Ballachulish area, he jumped at the chance to take a closer look at the perplexing mystery. “I have some knowledge of ballistics thanks to the first 21 years of my working life when I was a gamekeeper in Moray,” he explains.

“We know two balls entered The Red Fox’s back on both sides of the spine just two inches apart and came through via his chest six inches apart.

“To claim it was a result of a double shot using a single musket is nonsense. It could have only happened if someone was using two weapons, most likely pistols.

“We know his nephew, Mungo Campbell, was among his entourage. When you consider the man servant, John Mackenzie, was sent back to retrieve a coat that had been dropped and a sheriff officer, Donald Kennedy, was sent ahead to ensure it was safe for the riders, there is only one answer.

“Mungo claimed he was ahead of his uncle and turned back on hearing the shot, adding The Red Fox fell and cried, ‘Oh, I’m dead, take care of yourself for he’s going to shoot you’.

“That is impossible. That man would have been dead almost upon hitting the ground.

“It has to be the nephew. Mungo is behind his uncle, draws two pistols, crosses them over, fires the shots and then throws them away or hides them. It is the perfect explanation.”

Rev Fallows points out the nephew was working in Edinburgh at the time but had been sent back to the Highlands for “some curious reason”.

He says: “Clearly Mungo was told to get rid of his uncle. And what happens to him after? He writes a letter and starts it by saying it is terrible the way his uncle was murdered and then asks for a job from the government. He gets a good position in the Army and ends up across the Atlantic doing well for himself. So it was game, set and match.”

Mungo Campbell was killed in the American Revolution in 1777, while there is no record of what happened to Alan Breck Stewart – although some believe he too crossed the Atlantic and fought for the French against the British.

The Appin Murder became one of the most romantic Jacobite tales, especially after it featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy and then became the inspiration for Stevenson’s classic 1886 novel.

There has been a long-running campaign to win a judicial pardon for James Stewart, also known of James of the Glens, with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission even being asked to investigate the crime.

Prof Macinnes, an eminent author and historian, was commissioned to look into the case by former first minister Alex Salmond after a ‘cold case review’ led by Professor Sue Black cleared the Stewarts and blamed two unknown assassins.

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