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Malcolm, Sarah (c. 1710–1733)

Malcolm, Sarah (c. 1710–1733)

Irish-born murderer who was executed for the infamous "Temple Murder" in London in 1733. Born in Ireland around 1710 (some sources cite 1711); executed in London, England, on March 7, 1733.

Born in Ireland around 1710, Sarah Malcolm came to London to work as a launderer in the household of Lydia Dunscomb , an elderly widow. For reasons unknown, Malcolm is believed to have gone berserk on the night of February 5, 1733. During her rampage, she is said to have sneaked into the bedroom of her mistress and strangled her to death. Reportedly a strongly built woman, Malcolm then strangled 60-year-old Elizabeth Harrison , another servant in the household, after which she slit the throat of still another servant, 17-year-old Ann Price . The murders of her fellow servants were apparently committed to prevent them from accusing her of her initial crime. Malcolm then tore apart the house looking for anything of value she could steal. She was apprehended in the street not far from the Dunscomb home only a short time after the murders, still carrying the items she had stolen.

Despite the damning evidence against her, Malcolm adamantly insisted that she was innocent. Because the Dunscomb home was located in Tanfield Court, in the Inner Temple of London, the crime came to be known as the "Temple Murder." Malcolm's vehement protestations of innocence swayed no one, and she was quickly convicted of the triple murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

On March 7, 1733, the day of her execution, Malcolm showed little or no expression as she was brought down Fleet Street to the place of execution, a gallows located between Fetter Lane and Mitre Court. As was the custom, the place of execution was intentionally located not far from the scene of the crime. Executions often served as a form of public entertainment during that time, and it was not unusual for enormous crowds of men, women and children to gather to enjoy the show. Among those on hand for Malcolm's execution was the noted English painter and engraver William Hogarth, who had earlier drawn a portrait of the condemned after a visit to her cell. He later commented that Malcolm had seemed to him "capable of any wickedness." Her cheeks heavily rouged for her last public appearance, Sarah Malcolm offered no reaction to the cries of the hundreds of spectators who had gathered to witness her death by hanging, which was then duly carried out.


Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Nash, Jay Robert. Look for the Woman. NY: M. Evans, 1981.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

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