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Title: Plea To Pardon Last Witch Of Scotland
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/18/2009 23:04 PM)
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Plea To Pardon Last Witch Of Scotland

Feb 29 2008 By Dave King

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for a pardon for the last Scot convicted under anti-witchcraft laws have called on Holyrood to help.

Helen Duncan travelled the country holding seances. She was one of Britain's best-known mediums, reputedly counting Winston Churchill among her clients.

But she spent nine months in London's Holloway jail after her trial in April 1944.

Helen, of Callander, Perthshire, was arrested in January that year during a seance in Portsmouth.

Her supporters believe she was targeted by the authorities after a 1941 seance during which she was said to have disclosed, through her spirit-world contacts, the loss of the battleship HMS Barnham.

The sinking, with the loss of most of the crew, had been kept secret to avoid damaging public morale.

It was not officially revealed until two months after Helen's seance.

Her arrest three years later came just months before the D-Day landings and her campaigners say paranoid military officials feared she would reveal the details.

She faced a number of possible charges before prosecuters dusted off the 1735 Witchcraft Act.

Under these laws, she was convicted of fraudulent "spiritual" activity.

Despite Churchill condemning her trial as obsolete tomfoolery, her conviction stood and she was forced to serve her sentence.

Her supporters say it took a toll on her health and she died 12 years later, aged 59 A petition to Westminster last year failed to win a pardon. Campaigners met public petitions convener Frank McAveety yesterday to ask the Scottish parliament to put pressure on the UK Government.

Medium and spiritualist Roberta Gordon said: "Helen Duncan was tried under the Witchcraft Act, which hadn't been used for 100 years.

"She was an ordinary woman - a wife, mother and grandmother. Even Winston Churchill described the use of this Act as 'tomfoolery'.

"If these Acts were still in force today, the same thing could happen tome."

Campaigners also lodged a petition calling for pardons for all Scots convicted under witchcraft laws.

They say 4000 people, mostly women, we re convicted. The worst place for witchhunts was East Lothian.

Roberta said in that area alone in 1590-91, 81 alleged witches - including babies - were executed.

The Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951.

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