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Forensic expert to tackle mystery of Simon the Fox

Professor Sue Black
Professor Sue Black

The mystery over the burial place of an executed Jacobite clan chief could be solved next month by a renowned forensic expert.

It has long been believed by many people that the remains of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat – aka “the Fox” – lay in a crypt at Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill.

This is despite official records showing the Jacobite sympathiser was buried at the Tower of London, where he was beheaded on April 9, 1747. It is thought he was around 78 when he became the last person to be executed by beheading in Britain.

But if tests prove the remains in a crypt at Wardlaw are those of Simon Fraser, it leaves the question of who, or what, lies buried in his place at the Tower.

The investigation will be carried out by Professor Dame Sue Black of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University.

Professor Black came to Wardlaw Mausoleum last October to discuss the case with curator Erik Lundberg. They opened the coffin and could see that the remains had no head.

After his execution it was reported that Simon Fraser’s was placed on a spike at Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London.

Mr Lundberg said: “I believe Simon Fraser’s body is in our crypt, but we really want to have 100% proof.

“When Professor Black carries out her detailed investigation, it might be difficult to do a DNA test as this is best done when it follows the female line.

“But she will be able to find out the height of the body by examining the bones and will be able to discover if there were old injuries.

“She will also be able to see if there are axe marks at the top of the vertebrae at the neck. There is a Hogarth print of Simon Fraser and several books about him so there should be enough information to see if this is a physical match.”

Mr Lundberg said it is thought Jacobite supporters brought the coffin containing Simon the Fox back to Wardlaw – the traditional burial place of the Lovat Frasers. “During the restoration of the Tower of London in the 19th century, various plaques from coffins were found and one had Simon Fraser’s name on it, so that is why the official line is that he is buried there,” he added.

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