As more significant notice of the disappearances was taken, several organised searches were launched to find the culprits.One search took note of the telltale cave but the men refused to believe anything human could live in it.The body parts and disappearances did not go unnoticed by the local villagers, but the Beans stayed in the caves by day and took their victims at night.The clan was so secretive that the villagers were unaware of the murderers living nearby.Perhaps the dating of the murders was brought forward by the editors and writer of the broadsheets, so as to make the story appear more relevant to the readership ...To add to the intrigue, we do know that cannibalism was not unknown in mediaeval Scotland and that Galloway was in mediaeval times a very lawless place; perhaps nothing on the scale of the Bean legend took place, but every story grows and is embroidered over time.One fateful night, the Beans ambushed a married couple riding from a fayre on one horse, but the man was skilled in combat, deftly holding off the clan with sword and pistol.The clan fatally mauled the wife when she fell to the ground in the conflict.
The legend of Sawney Bean first appeared in the British chapbooks (rumour magazines of the day), which today leads many to argue that the story was a political propaganda tool to denigrate the Scots after the Jacobite rebellions. Another cannibal story from Scotland, even more resembling the Sawney Bean tale than the Christie-Cleek story, is contained in the 1696 work of Nathaniel Crouch, a compiler and popular history writer publishing under the pseudonym "Richard Burton".Thomas disagrees by noting: If the Sawney Bean story is to be read as deliberately anti-Scottish, how do we explain the equal emphasis on English criminals in the same publications? ..about which time a certain thief who lived privately in a den, with his wife and children, were all burned alive, they having made it their practice for many years to kill young people and eat them; one girl only of a year old was saved, and brought up at Dundee, who at twelve years of age being found guilty of the same horrid crime, was condemned to the same punishment, and when the people followed her in great multitudes to execution, wondering at her unnatural villainy, she turned toward them, and with a cruel countenance said, "What do you thus rail at me, as if I had done such an heinous act, contrary to the nature of man?I tell you that if you did but know how pleasant the taste of man's flesh was, none of you all would forbear to eat it;" and thus with an impenitent and stubborn mind she suffered deserved death.He left home with a vicious woman who apparently shared his inclinations.
The couple ended up at a coastal cave in Bennane Head between Girvan and Ballantrae where they lived undiscovered for some twenty-five years.The cave was 200 yards deep and during high tide the entrance was blocked by water.The couple eventually produced eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters. Lacking the inclination for regular labour, the clan thrived by laying careful ambushes at night to rob and murder individuals or small groups.They soon found the Beans' previously overlooked cave in Bennane Head.