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Sawney Bean - Scotland's Most Infamous Cannibal

Alexander 'Sawney' Bean was allegedly born in East Lothian in Scotland in the 16th century, but the debate still reigns as to whether he did in fact exist or was just part of the folklore of the area.

Legend has it that he left his family behind and took up with a vicious woman in a cave near Bannane, shying away from a decent day's work and instead preferring to lie in wait for passersby who would then be murdered and robbed. But their crimes did not end with such gruesome assaults.

The lifeless victims would be taken back to the cave, thought to have been up to 200 yards deep, where Sawney Bean and his wife and family would eat the flesh from the bones of the poor unfortunate. Items would be pickled for later use and stored away, whilst it is rumoured that the bones of victims would wash up on the local beaches.

Their family grew to as large as 48 through over 20 years of incest, and included a great number of grandchildren for Sawney Bean and his wife. All of them indulged in the murder and cannibalism of the unsuspecting travellers to that region.

Their luck finally ran out one night when they assaulted a married couple returning from a fair, but the man was skilled in combat and managed to kill Sawney Bean's wife before the murderous clan fled, chased by a crowd of passing fairgoers.

This brought them to the attention of the King of Scotland, James VI, who instructed 400 men and hunting dogs to search the countryside for the lair of Sawney Bean.

When it was discovered, all of them were taken prisoner and sent to the Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh where they were executed. The men had their genitals, hands and feet removed before being allowed to bleed to death. The women were burned alive.

And so ended the gruesome deeds of Scotland's most notorious cannibal, Sawney Bean.

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