Burking Law and Legal Definition

Burking means the crime of murdering a person, ordinarily by smothering, for thepurpose of selling the corpse.

The term derives its name from the method William Burke and William Hare, the Scottish murder team of the 19th century, used to kill their victims during the West Port murders. They realized that they could provide fresher bodies to medical schools for research by taking people who were intoxicated and suffocating them because they could not resist. That became known as burking. [Titlow v. Burt, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111459 (D. Mich. 2010)].

They killed the victims by sitting on their chests and suffocating them by putting a hand over their nose and mouth, while using the other hand to push the victim's jaw up. The corpses had only few visible injuries, and this made the corpses more salable to medical schools.

The following is an example of a case law referring to the term:

The term "burking" was named after William Burke, who along with an accomplice in 1815, killed a number of people and sold their bodies to medical schools in Edinburgh, Scotland. Burke and his accomplice would follow and kill intoxicated individuals by one of them holding a hand over the victim's nose and mouth, while the other would sit on the victim's chest until he or she died of asphyxia. [ Tabish v. State, 119 Nev. 293, 321 (Nev. 2003)].