Aberdeen Archives: Wanted, Dead or Alive!


Long ago, in a time before BBC Crimewatch and the photo-fit, police ‘wanted’ posters were a common sight, displayed in towns and cities across the country. The extensive records of Grampian Police held by Aberdeen City’s UNESCO-recognised archive, contain a large number of these compelling items.

An exhibition featuring many of these posters is now on at 17 on Belmont Street until 28 February with more to see in the cafe of the Belmont Filmhouse.

Cllr Marie Boulton said: “The posters are a fascinating social document and each hints at an intriguing story. In the days before social media they were one of the principal ways in which information about suspects, lost property or missing persons was disseminated and their short-term purpose meant that the posters were often disposed of after the case had been solved. Many are quite rare and they offer a fascinating insight into crimes of the past.

The exhibition compliments Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s first book festival dedicated to crime fiction which runs from Friday 24-Sunday 26 February. Over three days the festival will look at the enduring appeal of stories that plunge us into the heart of darkness - where morality is ambiguous, motives complicated, and even heroes harbour devastating secrets. We are excited to welcome some big names in crime writing to Aberdeen across the weekend including Stuart McBride, Christopher Brookmyre and Denise Mina for discussions, workshops and even some events for children.

We’re particularly pleased with our Nordic Noir line up with Kristina Ohlsson, Gunnar Staalesen, Kati Hiekkapel and many more joining us to bring an international flavour to Granite Noir and acknowledge the strong connections we have with this region.”

The poster exhibition draws on a collection that, instead of being thrown away, accumulated at police stations in Dufftown, Elgin and the Aberdeen area over many years.

The posters originate from many different police forces and cover a multitude of cases, from petty theft, missing dogs, and stolen motor vehicles through to missing children and violent crimes.

Many of the ones which are on display relate to notorious cases of murder, including that committed by Dr Crippen - an American homeopath, ear and eye specialist who was hanged in Pentonville Prison for the murder of his wife Cora Henrietta Crippen in 1910.