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Source: Nessie's Loch Ness Times 3 Nov 2001

Family's 250 Year Silence is Broken

An 89 year old woman has faithfully kept a family secret about a controversial Highland murder mystery that has baffled historians for 250 years—

but, after reading about the latest book on the subject, she contacted a local newspaper with an astonishing offer to reveal the name of the guilty man to author Jim Hunter.

The eminent historian - and chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise - wrote "Culloden and The Last Clansman" to mark the forthcoming anniversary of the Appin Murder - a real life incident which became a key element in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel "Kidnapped". Dr Hunter re-examines the story of James Stewart - James of the Glens - who, in 1752, was hanged as an accessory to the murder of the notorious Government agent Colin Campbell of Glenure known as "The Red Fox".

In his book, Dr Hunter - who grew up in nearby Duror and has been fascinated by the mystery since childhood - exonerates "Kidnapped" hero Alan Breck Stewart in 1752 and speculates on the real killer - but he is unable to point the finger at the actual murderer. His identity, however, has been handed down through generations of Anda Penman's family and, when she read of Dr Hunter's book, she wrote to the Inverness Courier to reveal that she knew who fired the fatal shot and was prepared to share her secret with the author.

A descendant of the Stewarts of Appin, Miss Penman now lives in a residential home in Fort William and the secret of the murderer's identity passed through generations of her family to her late sister who passed it on to Miss Penman. Now, she wants to pass it on before the secret dies with her.

Miss Penman - who ran the Laroch House Hotel in Ballachulish for many years with her sister is currently threatening to starve herself if she is removed to a council care centre from the private home where she has lived for 14 months - was asked if anyone else knows the killer's identity. "Not a living soul," she replied. "Our grand uncle, he was Dean of Argyll and the Isles and he was the only Stewart to know the name of the man who fired the fatal shot," Miss Penman explained.

"Historians and famous authors came to him to try and divulge the secret, but he never said. "The real killer was very young man who had to be held down in Ballachulish House on the day that they hanged James Stewart because he wanted to confess - but if he confessed there were another three with him who would have been hung."

Shortly before his death in 1932, the Dean had revealed the secret to Miss Penman's sister, Annie, who then passed it on to Miss Penman. "I asked her, now that the great interest in the famous Appin Murder is dying out if I could tell and she said I could to a historian or an author," the 89 year old explained.

She supports Dr Hunter's theory that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Campbell who was preparing to evict members of the Stewart Clan from Duror and revealed that the killer was one of four young lairds of Appin. All descendants of Stewart of Lorne, they practised their shooting skills on a nearby island in order to pick the man with the best chance of success. The three others were to provide an alibi for the killer. "It was Donald Stewart of Ballachulish, the nephew of old Ballachulish," Miss Penman revealed.

"He was the best shot and he had the best chance of bumping off Campbell of Glenure. He was always ashamed he couldn't clear James of the Glens because it would have cost four lives. They knew the Campbells would get the four of them. "Robert Louis Stevenson spent a great deal of time with my grandfather, but never found out who committed the murder.

I would like to pass the secret on now that they are going to note the 250th ]anniversary of James Stewart being hanged for a murder he did not do," she said. "After 250 years, it had to be disclosed now." Dr Hunter said he would be interested to hear Miss Penman's story in full.

"A number of people over the years have claimed to know who carried out the Appin Murder and I will be contacting her as soon as possible," he commented. "There's a long standing tradition that some of the Stewarts of Appin knew that James of the Glens was innocent and knew who was guilty - and that was said when I launched the book."

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