Body of 'Wild Bill' exhumed to see if he cheated hangman

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The Independent US

Scientists have exhumed the body of a Wild West outlaw to settle a mystery over whether he cheated justice.

Folklore has it that "Wild Bill" Longley managed to escape hanging in 1878, having been sentenced for killing at least 32 people.

The legend goes that friends of the 27-year-old gunfighter equipped him with a special harness that allowed him to survive the execution in Texas and escape to Louisiana.

But after a 15-year inquiry a Smithsonian Institution anthropologist, Douglas Owsley, has concluded that Longley was indeed hanged. "I'm convinced we've got Wild Bill Longley," he said. "It was a project that really required persistence and expertise."

Mr Owsley started his investigation in 1986 when he was approached by a Louisiana man who believed Longley was his grandfather. Eventually Mr Owsley tracked down Longley's grave in Giddings, Texas, and found it contained a skeleton rather than a pile of stones as suggested by the legend.

Proof came when a DNA comparison was made between a sample taken from the skeleton and a great granddaughter of Longley's sister. They were very similar. "The DNA evidence put the final nail in the coffin," Mr Owsley said.