Monday, 10 July 2017

Toryglen Street, Oatlands, March 28th 1961



It was around 5.30pm on the wet afternoon of the 28th March 1961 that a report of a child having fallen from a third storey window at 39 Toryglen Street, Oatlands, Glasgow, came through the ambulance  radio to driver Jack Kirkland. He would later recall that accidents of this kind weren't particularly unusual at that time, he would tell a reporter in the 1980s: 'Accidents of that nature were a common occurrence in those days, especially with the old fashioned windows.' But it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary fall, and this was no accident. Before the ambulance had even reached the scene, a second call came over the radio reporting that not one, but several children had fallen from the same window, as the emergency services fielded dozens of frantic calls from the public. Jack would later recall: 'As we turned into Toryglen Street we were confronted by a nightmare. There was frantic activity, police cars everywhere. The policemen were trying to clear a path for us through the shocked and horrified groups of people ...Women in headscarves and aprons held each other and cried uncontrollably.'



As the responders forced their way through the gathered crowd they were confronted by the sight of five crumpled young bodies lying on the pavement. One of the bodies, four year old Marjorie Hughes, had died on impact and had been mercifully covered by a blanket by onlookers, but miraculously the other four children were still alive, though gravely injured. A neighbour, 45 year old James Haiming, would tell reporters his memories of that day. He had just returned from work when he heard two sickening thuds outside his Toryglen Street home. He would recall: 'I looked out and saw two kiddies lying there.' Having rushed out into the street he saw another child plunging toward the pavement from the third storey window. 'I half caught him on my shoulder before he fell to the ground - but before I could do anything else I looked up and saw two more kiddies on their way down. I felt so helpless, there was nothing I could do.'



 As the paramedics attended to the four injured children, the story of that days events began to emerge. It seemed that the children had been invited by a local woman to her top floor flat to look at a litter of puppies. But once the children were inside, the woman bolted the door, opened the window, and began to throw the children from the window one by one. Once the children began to realise the reality of the situation, they tried to escape. Neighbours hearing the commotion ran up the stairs and began trying to break down the door, while on the other side a sixth child, a young boy, desperately tried to unbolt the door. He would escape unharmed but suffered badly from shock. 


The dead child was Marjorie Hughes (4) of 15 Toryglen Street, and the four injured children, Francis Lennon (7), his sister Margaret Lennon (5) also of 15 Toryglen Street; Thomas Downie Devaney (4) and Daniel McNeill (5). The woman was 37 year old Jean Barclay Waddell, a former hotel receptionist and shorthand typist, she was charged the following day with 1 count of murder and 4 counts of attempted murder at Glasgow's Sheriff Court. During her appearance she was said to have 'bitten her lip but otherwise seemed quite composed.' She would later be found insane and unfit to plead, and was afterwards confined to Carstairs psychiatric hospital.

Jean Barclay Waddell, 37


It would later emerge that Waddell had suffered a complete mental breakdown following the breakup of her marriage to soldier Floyd Oakman. After the end of the second world war she entered a sanatorium to be treated for tuberculous, but while undergoing treatment she assaulted a nurse and was then transferred to a mental institution.  She was said to have suffered from delusions and paranoia, sometimes believing herself t o be Empress of Japan, at other times convinced that she was carrying an illegitimate baby, or that the police were watching her. It would later emerge that she had been subject to electric shock treatment in an attempt to alleviate these symptoms. Afterwards she was said to be so frightened of undergoing shock treatment again that she would tell people that she would rather die, she would attempt suicide by overdose a few days before the murder. Crime writer David Leslie would say of the case: 'What would save Jean from being hung, as much of the public called for, was that by 1961 politicians and most of the public had lost the stomach for marching a female to the scaffold.' She would later fade into anonymity and died in a care home in 2009 at the age of 86.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Partick 1984: The Unsolved Murder of Mary Ann McLaughlin





Craithie Court, Partick


The striking modernist facade of Crathie Court can be found nestled on Laurel Street, Partick. Despite being over 60 years old, it still looks alarmingly modern amongst the surrounding Victorian tenements. Completed in 1952, the grade B listed building was the first high rise public housing project to be built in Glasgow. Designed in 1949 by Ray Bradbury, Glasgow's Director of Housing, Crathie Court was intended to be a prototype of the high rise model that was thought to be the solution to the urgent slum clearance programme, and is today recognised as an important landmark development in Scotland's post war housing programme. Yet despite the optimism of its beginnings, in the 1980s Crathie Court became the site of a brutal, and unsolved murder.
Craithie Court


On the 2nd of October 1984, the body of 58yr old mother Mary Ann McLaughlin was discovered in her home in Crathie Court when a concerned relative noticed a foul smell coming from the apartment. She had been strangled with a ligature, and her body had lain there for six days.






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Following the discovery of the body, detectives began to try to piece together the last movements of the murdered woman. She had been last seen the previous Wednesday evening, around 11pm in The Hyndland Bar, situated at the corner of Hyndland Street and Forsythe Street in the company of a young man. (In the 1990s the Hyndland Bar was renamed Brian's Bar, then it became The Rio Cafe, and very recently it became The Partick Duck Club)

The Hyndland Bar, 1980s


After leaving the Hyndland Bar, it was believed that Mary visited a chip shop, Arnandos, on Dumbarton Road and bought a bag of fritters and some cigarettes. Lead detective Iain Wishart would later say: 'Mary was in a good mood that night and was laughing and joking with staff. She would always ask them to say goodnight to her in Italian.'
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Mary was next seen around 100 yards from the chip shop walking down Crown Road in the company of a young man, it was the last time Mary was seen alive. The police issued the following description of the man seen in Mary's company that night: he was slightly built, aged between 22 and 26, 5ft10 to 6ft tall, clean shaven with brownish neat cut hair worn bushy at the sides, possibly with a prominent nose. He was described as wearing a bomber or anorak style jacket, green or grey in colour, with green collar and cuffs, the remainder of his clothing was light coloured.


Despite police efforts this man was never traced and despite strenuous police efforts, the case soon went cold.


Detective Iain Wishart would later describe how the case continued to haunt him for years afterwards. To him it was 'the one that got away'. He would tell reporters: 'It was


“It was a baffling case at the time and has remained so to this day. Mary Ann’s murder is the only one I didn't solve. I was senior investigating officer for around 25 and worked on about 100 murders in total, but the big question then and now was who would want to murder Wee Mary? I remember it being a difficult inquiry. We didn’t have forensics back then and I had a suspect very early on but after questioning him many times I knew he didn’t do it. There wasn’t any help from the locals either. We were disappointed in the lack of response. The area was busy at the time but not one person came forward.” To this day, Wishart is adamant: 'I'm certain the answer to Mary's murder lies locally.'


Three days after Mary's body was discovered, detectives uncovered what was believed to be her bra in the back garden of Crathie Court. Wishart later reported: “It wasn’t 100 per cent conclusive it was hers but Mary’s boyfriend at the time thought it might have been. We didn’t even know if there was any significance to the find as there was no evidence of a sexual assault but it frustrated me then that the area wasn’t searched completely. Policing back then was very different to modern methods.”


Detective Wishart was not the only one haunted by Mary's death, Mary's daughter Gina McGavin has vowed never to stop looking for answers to her mother's murder. She even wrote a book about her mum's murder, named 'Diamonds and Frills' after a lyric in her mother's favourite song 'Little Things Mean a Lot' by Kitty Kallen.



At the time of her mother's murder, Gina was mourning the death of her father who had died just a few weeks before. She would later tell reporters: "I still remember the day I got the phone call to say my mother was dead. I couldn't believe it because my father had just been buried about three weeks earlier, aged 68. I said to the police in disbelief, "but my father had just died - he has only been buried a few weeks, how can my mum be dead?'"

Gina at Craithie Court

Mary left Gina's father Joe Mullen when Gina was only two but despite her tough upbringing (during which they were briefly homeless after Joe lost his job when Brown's shipyard closed down) she speaks warmly of her mother:'I wasn’t as close to her as I’d have liked. She was a poor soul but not a bad person.'


Gina describes her mother as a 'lost soul' and admits that her mother's life at the time of her murder was 'chaotic.' She added: "She wasn't working, she liked to go out to pubs, she liked parties. Basically whatever went wrong in her life she still liked to have fun.' Yet '"I feel like she never really showed her true self. She wore a painted smile.'


Gina is adamant that her mother was killed by someone she knew: 'I’m convinced that whoever killed her knew her. She wouldn’t have let a stranger into her house. I just hope that one day we can find out who and why.” She is determined to never stop looking for answers in her mother's case: 'I want my mother to know that somebody cared enough about her to keep trying. I have never given up.'


There have never been any arrests made in Mary Ann McLaughlin's case, but despite this police maintain that the case remains open, and is subject to periodic review.




























Tuesday, 14 March 2017

1924: Murder in Maryhill: The Crimes of Charles Boyle


On the 2nd of June 1924 an article appeared in the Glasgow Herald decrying a recent wave of violent crime in Glasgow. Chief Constable A.D Smith reported 1245 instances of ‘crimes against the person’ in 1923, up from 1136 in 1922, and 801 in 1921. Furthermore, a series of high profile crimes, the attack on a prison wagon on High Street which resulted in several deaths in 1921, the particularly grisly murder of 15 year old Elizabeth Benjamin in Whiteinch later that same year, and the Susan Newell case in 1923 – led many Glaswegians to believe that their city was degenerating into depravity and lawlessness. Only a few inches below this article denouncing this recent wave of crime, lay the news of one further senseless and brutal killing – the apparently motiveless murder of a woman and two young children. Dubbed ‘The Glasgow Tragedy’ by the newspapers, the story of Charles Boyle’s murder of his own mother, Susan Boyle, and the senseless slaying of William and May Devlin, the two young children of a neighbour, really is tragic. It is a sad story of alcoholism, mental illness, physical disability, and misery played out in a single room slum at 3 Springfield Place, Maryhill.



In 1924 Charles Boyle was 22 years old, from a very early age he had suffered from a form of infantile paralysis which left his left leg useless and required the use of a crutch. On the 31st of May 1924, Boyle was discharged from Stobhill Hospital, a Poor Law Hospital in Springburn, after undergoing surgery to have his left leg amputated at the ankle. Following his release from hospital, his first priority was to place several bets on a number of horse races to be ran that day, but not having enough money for all the bets he wished to place, Boyle decides pay a visit to his brother-in-law in the hope of asking for some money. Apparently successful in his quest, Boyle is next seen by his father when he returns to their single room apartment at 3 Springfield Place, a cul de sac off Garscube Road, claiming to have acquired 5s and smelling strongly of drink. At home, Boyle fills out several betting slips and then he and his father, Charles Boyle senior, embark on a tour of the local drinking dens, stopping off to collect Boyle junior’s winnings at the local bookmakers. At around 8pm, father and son are refused service in two pubs due to their advanced drunkenness, around this time the two become separated and Charles Boyle senior returns home alone.

Garscube Road, Maryhill


Once home, Charles Boyle senior - who was by the point heavily intoxicated - has a heated argument with his wife, Susan Boyle (51).Arguments between the pair were not an unusual occurrence, neighbours would later report often hearing heated domestic disputes, even cries of ‘murder’ from the Boyle home. Charles Boyle senior had had several run ins with the law for beating his wife, the latest of which had resulted in a prison sentence only 4 weeks previously. During the argument Susan Boyle complained about her husband and son’s drinking and was reportedly angry that Charles Boyle senior had not taken a portion of his son’s gambling winnings in lieu of housekeeping money. During the course of the quarrel, Susan Boyle flees the apartment, shortly followed by Boyle senior, who perhaps was afraid that she had gone to the police. He catches up with his wife on the close stairs, the argument continues and this time it is Charles Boyle senior who leaves the close, intending to spend the night at the home of a work colleague.

Glasgow 1920s

Charles Boyle junior arrives home at 10pm, so drunk that in combination with his missing limp he had difficulty climbing the stairs that led to the flat, by this point Susan Boyle was also drunk, and perhaps still stewing after the earlier altercation with her husband. An argument between mother and son ensues, during which Charles Junior silences his mother for good, by slashing her throat with an open razor. But when the macabre scene was discovered a few hours later, there was not one body, but three. Lying only a few feet from the body of Mrs Boyle were the two small bodies of 5 year old William Devlin, and his 3 year old sister May, the young children of a widowed neighbour. To this day it remains unclear exactly how to two Devlin children ending up in the Boyle home that night – had they been visiting with Mrs Boyle when Charles Jnr returned home? Neighbours would later report that they were known to play daily in the common stairwell, perhaps they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. 



After slashing the throats of his mother and the two Devlin children, Charles Boyle Junior calmly gathered up his crutch, put on his jacket and locked the door on the macabre scene within. He stopped in the close to wash his hands and crutch of blood at the common wash basin, he dried his hands and with that left the close of Springfield Place and stepped into the night. The ghastly scene would not be discovered for another hour, when Charles’s younger sister, eleven year old Sarah Boyle returned home at 11pm, after viewing a movie at the local picture house with a friend. She had in fact returned one hour before, around 10pm, but glimpsing her older brother at the close sink, she left unnoticed. She later admitted that she was scared of her brother because of his drinking, and because of the way he was always ‘getting on’ at their mother. When Susan returned at 11pm she found the flat door locked, and despite her persistent knocking, there was no response within. She called at the home of a neighbour to fetch a spare key, and opened the door upon the ghastly spectacle inside.

The room was covered in blood, the body of Mrs Boyle was found lying in front of the bed, the body of William Devlin was found lying across the hearth and that of May Devlin near the door. A bloodstained razor was found lying near the door and the floor was strewn with broken dishes, suggesting a violent struggle had taken place. Upon discovering this macabre scene, Sarah Boyle immediately ran upstairs to alert William Devlin senior, the father of the two murdered children. Soon other neighbours were awake to the commotion taking place in the close, and someone was sent to alert the police at the nearby Camperdown police station. By this time news had spread and large and excited crowd of locals had gathered in the close and spilling out into the street. These curious onlookers were quickly moved along when police arrived to secure the crime scene. A message had been sent to Charles Boyle senior at his work colleague’s home, asking him to return at once to Springfield Place, but before he even reached the door of the close he had been arrested by police. Just as quickly as he was apprehended, Charles senior was released when it was established he had a cast iron alibi.

Amidst all this police activity, Charles Boyle junior hobbled into Camperdown police station and calmly confessed to the murders of his mother and the two young children of his neighbour, whereupon he was immediately detained. He was reported to have said ‘I done it. I did it purposefully to get myself the rope. I had not the courage to do myself in and I wanted someone to do it for me.’

Charles Boyle (centre) at trial


A mere four weeks later Charles Boyle found himself standing in the dock of the High Court of Glasgow charged with 3 counts of murder, he entered a plea of insanity. During the course of the day a seemingly endless stream of neighbours provided a sad litany of reports of the Boyle’s chaotic home life, tales of constant drunkenness and domestic violence. One neighbour provided important evidence that on the night of the murders she heard a violent exchange (not uncommon) and the cry of a child, then the sound of Boyle’s crutch tapping on the close stairwell before the running of a tap.

Professor John Glaister


Next to present their findings was the eminent forensic scientist Professor John Glaister. He confirmed that both of the Devlin children had died due to the loss of blood incurred form the throat wounds, William Devlin’s wound was so severe that the head was almost severed from the body, but that there were no other injuries on either of the children’s’ bodies. However, although Susan Boyle had also died due to loss of blood from the throat wound, Professor Glaister argued that it was evident that Mrs Boyle had fought fiercely for her life, she had suffered numerous defensive wounds on her arms and hands. When asked his opinion on the sanity or otherwise of the killer the professor replied: ‘anything abnormal in Boyle or his conduct that day was due to alcohol.’

The defence presented evidence from a number of experts with the intention of establishing Boyle’s insanity. They urged the jury to consider Boyle’s long history of mental illness, including suicide attempts. During one of these attempts, Boyle deliberately consumed ammonia and was as a result committed to a Stonyetts Mental Institution (from which he escaped, the hospital made no attempt to recapture him). Later Boyle would again attempt suicide by throwing himself in a canal. One medical expert claimed that Boyle suffered from ‘psychic epilepsy’ – a condition in which the sufferer does not undergo a physical seizure but one that occurs solely in the mind. As evidence of this the expert pointed to the fact that Boyle’s memory of the events of that night were almost entirely blank, he claimed that he could only remember being in the pub and then being arrested, and nothing whatsoever of the crime itself.

At the start of the second day, probably due to the strength of the prosecution’s evidence the previous day, it was announced that Charles Boyle wished to change his plea to guilty, not of murder, but to reduced charges of culpable homicide. Lord Ormindale, the judge who presided over the case, accepted that while it was Boyle and no other who committed the horrible crime, there was evidence that the accused suffered from ‘certain aberrations of mind or mental unsoundness’. Furthermore, the judge argued that while Boyle had been intoxicated on the evening in question, the court took the view that ‘intoxication was no excuse whatever, and in no way warranted the court from regarding the crime as a most atrocious and highly unjustifiable one.’ Charles Boyle was sentenced to 15 years of penal servitude.


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Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Disappearance of Moira Anderson 1957

Moira Anderson


It was a bitterly cold snowy  afternoon on Saturday the 23rd of February 1957 when Moira Anderson, 12, left her grandmother’s house at No.207 Muiryhall Street, Coatbridge to travel the short distance to the nearby Co-op on Laird Street to buy some butter. When Moira left her grandmother’s house that day she was wearing a fawn-blue belted raincoat, a navy blue woollen pixie hat with red bands, a blue scarf, brown shoes, a fawn tweed skirt, a blue jumper and a yellow cardigan. She was a slight, pretty girl with fair hair and blue eyes, somewhat of a tomboy who enjoyed swimming and playing marbles, and she would never be seen again.

Moira’s grandmother had asked her to run to the shop at approximately 4pm that afternoon, the Co-op was only a short distance from Moira’s grandmother’s house, less than a 10 minute walk, but there is no evidence that Moira ever arrived there. Police would later interview the manager of the store, along with all the assistants who worked that day, and no one had any recollection of seeing the girl in the store that afternoon.


When Moira failed to return home on Saturday evening, a search party was organised by neighbours and the police. All the surrounding districts were combed and a careful search of Dunbeth Public Park was ordered. Bushes were probed and the slaghills near the nearby iron works were thoroughly searched but there was no sign of the 12 year old. In the days that followed, police would ask all managers of nearby cinemas to carefully search their premises just in case Moira had accidentally been locked in overnight.



Andrew Anderson, Moira’s father, a storeman in one of Coatbridge’s iron works, would tell reporters ‘Moira is a high-spirited little girl, but at no time has she ever given us any bother. We always know where she is and you could almost set the clock with her returning. Like my other two children she has been well drilled not to speak to strangers.’
The local Coatbridge community came together in a desperate search to locate the girl, a group of almost 80 Corporation cleansing workers who had been on strike broke their protest to appear at Coatbridge police headquarters to offer their services in the search for Moira. Scores of people telephoned the police with their tips and sightings of Moira, sending detectives to Shettleston, Gourock even as far as Doncaster, following alleged sighting – all led to nothing. Police were quick to attempt to calm fears, telling reporters ‘We have no reason to suspect foul play.’Townsfolk criticised the effort of the police, and in the absence of hard evidence, suspicion began to fall, unfairly, on Moira’s family.


On the 1st of March, newspapers reported an important ‘break’ in the case, two people, a man and a woman, had come forward to report having seen Moira on a bus near her home at 5.15pm on the day she went missing. Police said of the development: ‘It puts forward the hour of her disappearance by 65 minutes – up until now all we knew was that she had left her grandmother’s home in Muiryhall Street at 4.10pm to go an errand – and it rather riles out the fears previously entertained that she may have been snatched during the course of that errand.’


But the bus sightings didn’t appear to come to much, by March 4th The Evening Times reported that the search for Moira was now ‘a forlorn home’ adding ‘there is little hope that the 12year old…will be found alive.’ Police too had accepted the worst, a senior police officer told reporters ‘You have to apply your common sense to matters like this and considering the time she has been missing, it is unlikely that she is alive, unless she is being held captive somewhere.’ In the days that followed the column inches on the search for the missing 12 year old would decrease before the story dropped from the newspapers entirely.



Had police detectives followed up those sightings of Moira on the local bus, they
would have discovered that the driver of that bus was one Alexander Gartshore, who was on bail at the time facing charges of raping his children’s babysitter. Gartshore had long been suspected of being a ‘flasher’ in local parks, on the 23rd of January, exactly one month before Moira disappeared, Gartshore was charged with ‘having carnal knowledge of a minor and other offences of a sexual nature.’ He would be convicted in April and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Alexander Gartshore
It was not until his estranged daughter, Sandra Brown, discovered this terrible family secret that the search for the truth really began. Recalling events in her book Where There is Evil, Mrs Brown describes how she confronted her father about his failings as a parent. To her astonishment, Gartshore replied that his own father would never ‘forgive me for Moira Anderson.’ He continued: ‘Grandpa was always convinced that I’d done it…He said to me to tell the polis where I’d put the wee lassie….I was the driver of the bus the day she went missing. I told grandpa I didn’t even know her, but she got on my bus, in all that snow. And I was the last to speak to her. I was the last person to see her…’


Horrified by this conversation, and now convinced that her own father was the killer, Sandra began a long campaign to bring her father to justice. When Gartshore was interviewed by police in 1992, he claimed that Moira had boarded his bus to buy a surprise birthday card for her mother in Woolworths. It was indeed Maisie Anderson’s 40th birthday the day after Moira disappeared, but how would Gartshore have known this had he not spoken to Moira (as he claimed to police)?

Despite police suspicions, detectives concluded that they did not have enough evidence to charge Gartshore with any crime, and he died in 2006. In 2013, the case was given fresh impetus when police and prosecutors from Scotland’s cold case unit exhumed a grave in Old Monkland Cemetery where a friend of Gartshore had been buried around the same time that Moira had disappeared. The theory being that Gartshore had used the funeral to move Moira’s body from a ditch and to hide her where no one would think to look – a graveyard. But Moira’s remains were not in the plot.

Despite this disappointment, the renewed press attention that accompanied the search led to two new witnesses coming forward. The first witness alleged that as a young girl in Coatbridge, Gartshore had exposed himself to her and Moira Anderson in a local park in 1956, and furthermore that during this incident he had called Moira by name. Even more importantly, the second witness stated that late in the afternoon on the 23rd Feb 1957, near the Carnbroe bus terminus, he had seen a man ‘dragging a young girl by the arms’. The witness claimed that the girl looked like Moira Anderson, and identified the man as Gartshore. Police stated that both witnesses had ‘credible reasons’ for not coming forward with this information at the time of Moira’s disappearance.

So to this day the mystery remains unsolved, Moira Anderson’s body has never been found and her killer has never been brought to justice.  Gartshore would always deny any involvement in the disappearance, and appears to have taken his secret, if indeed he was responsible for Moira’s murder, to the grave.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Peter Manuel 6: The Smart Family Murders

 
Peter, Doris and Michael Smart

Peter Smart (45) lived with his wife Doris and their 11 year old son Michael at No. 38 Sheepburn Road, Uddingston. Mr Smart worked as an area manager for W. and J.R Watson building contractors, based on London Road, Glasgow. Smart was not due to return to work until the 6th of January 1958 and planned to spent this time either visiting his parents in the town of Ancrum, near Jedburgh in the Scottish borders, or visiting some friends who ran the Dumbuck hotel in Dumbarton. As it was New Years Eve, Smart decided to stock up on a few bottles of whisky for the festivities, he visited a pub in Uddingston in order to buy a few bottles and to have a drink. He left at closing time, 10pm, and made his way home. For the next few hours Peter and Doris Smart entertained visiting neighbours and friends in their home, before retiring to bed around 2.30am. Only a few hours later each member of the Smart family would be murdered in their beds, one by one. They would lie there, undiscovered, for 6 days.


Why did it take 6 days for anyone to realise that something was terribly wrong? Well, Mr Smart’s parents down in the Borders and his friends at the Dumbuck Hotel both assumed that the Smart family had visited the other, and their neighbours in Sheepburn Road were equally unconcerned, for they had seen signs that the Smarts, or at least someone, was in the home, alive and well.
Mr Jackman, who lived across from the Smarts had noticed all the curtains in the Smart home were closed at around 10am on the morning of the 1st of January, 1958. Later that afternoon a dustman would notice that all the curtains were now open. On the 3rd of January, one of Michael’s friends looked in at the house to find all the curtains again closed. Later that day a close friend and neighbour noticed that the lounge curtains were now drawn, but the window was open, something that was uncharacteristic of proud-housekeeper Doris Smart. But when her husband later saw a light on in the lounge, they simply assumed that the Smarts must have come home. Later on the 4th of January Mr Jackman again noticed that the curtains which had previously been closed in the dining room were now open, later that same say a neighbour noticed them closed, but drawn unevenly, something Doris would not have tolerated. The same day the postman attempted to deliver a package to the family, but finding no answer, delivered the package to their neighbour instead, joking: ‘I think they must all be dead in there.’

Doris and Peter Smart

But it was only when Mr Smart failed to turn up for work on the 6th of January that the alarm was raised, fears were heightened when Mr Smart’s car was discovered abandoned several miles away in the Gorbals. Two of Mr Smart’s office staff, accompanied by a police constable, decided to visit the house. They found all the doors and windows locked and no sign of a break in, it was only when the constable broke in the back door that he discovered the massacre inside. Each of the Smart’s had been shot in the head as they lay in their beds, and as the bodies had lain there undiscovered for 6 days, one can only imagine the unmistakable stench of death that must have pervaded the scene.

For the next few days police combed the garden and surrounding areas for clues and turned up little, what they were specifically interested in finding was the murder weapon, supposed to be an Italian style automatic Beretta pistol. Meanwhile the search for Isabelle Cooke continued, and the newspapers started to talk about the two seemingly disparate crimes in the same breath, along with the murder of Anne Kneilands and the Watt murders, but without ever explicitly confirming that police were considering the possibility that all the crimes were the work of a serial killer.
Now let us turn to the behaviour of Peter Manuel on the night of the murders and the days that followed. On New Years Eve 1957, student nurse Mary McDonald on duty as Glasgow Southern General Hospital received a phone call from her friend and fellow student nurse Teresa Manuel. It was clear that the Manuel’s were in high spirits, at one point during the call Teresa’s brother Peter sang down the phone to her the popular song ‘Come Back to Sorrento’ followed by the Al Martino hit ‘Here in my Heart.’ Was this call to Mary a way of establishing an alibi for the crime he would commit in a few hours? Around the same time Peter called Mary, the Smart family were also wishing each other a happy new year, unaware that for them 1958 would last only approximately 6 more hours.
In the first few days of 1958, it was lost on no one that Peter Manuel, who was usual broke, was enjoying a mysterious windfall. He spent the next few days drinking in bars, buying drinks for other customers with abandon, and giving gifts of money to family and friends. At his trial his bank balance for this time was described as amounting to a measly 2s, 2d, so where had all this money come from? During this time when Manuel was described as being in particularly good spirits, he had also been revisiting the scene of the Smart murders to open and close the windows, to feed the cat, and perhaps to gloat at the bodies of his victims.
Manuel was clearly so arrogant, so convinced that he was above suspicion, that he neither had to hide his newly found wealth, or refrain from returning to the scene of the crime. In a supreme act of arrogance he even gave a lift to a police officer who was currently occupied in the search for the body of Isabelle Cooke while driving Peter Smart’s Austin motorcar. But what would finally trip Manuel up was a few bank notes. On the day of the murders Peter Smart had withdrawn £35 in new, sequential bank notes and police were able to determine precisely which serial numbers would appear on these notes. At 6.45am the 14th of January 1958, homicide detectives arrived at the Manuel home with a search warrant, during the search they found several items stolen from previous burglaries and also bank notes matching the serial numbers of those that Peter Smart had withdrawn only hours before he was murdered.

So now the police had concrete evidence that tied Manuel to the Smart murder, but what they really wanted was a confession, and they went about getting it in an ingenious way. They charged Samuel Manuel, Peter’s father, who steadfastly refused to account for the stolen goods found in his home, with burglary. Police must have known that Samuel had had no part in the crime, but must have hoped that the arrest of the father would result in some reaction from the son. And it did. Manuel not only confessed to some of the murders had committed but also led police to the body of the still missing Isabelle Cooke. For the release of his father on the charges of housebreaking, Manuel offered ‘to give information to you to clear up a number of unsolved crimes which occurred in the county of Lanarkshire in the past two years. This promise is given that I might release my father and my family from any obligations or loyalties they may feel on my behalf.’

This was the account that he gave of the Smart murders:
I did it about six o’clock in the morning of New Year’s Day. I got in the kitchen window. I went into a bedroom and got eighteen or twenty pounds in new notes and four or five ten shilling notes in a wallet. It was in a jacket hanging on a chair in the man’s room. I shot the man first then the woman and I then shot the boy…I then went into the living-room and ate a handful of wee biscuits from a tray on a chiffonier and I got about eighteen shillings from a red purse in the woman’s hand-bag. I took the man’s keys and then took the car…I threw the gun I the Clyde and the keys in the Calder….


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Peter Manuel 5: The Murder of Isabelle Cooke

Isabelle Cook (17)

17 year old Isabelle Cooke, a sixth-form pupil at Hamilton Academy, lived with her parents and three younger brothers at 5 Carrick Drive, Mount Vernon. On the afternoon of the 28th December 1957, Mr and Mrs Cooke had left the home at around 4pm, leaving Isabelle, her 3 brothers and Mr Cooke’s mother in the house. The Cookes returned home around 8pm, but Isabelle was not at home. This did not raise immediate concerns, her parents merely assumed she had already arrived safely at the hockey club dance held at the Masonic Hall, Uddingston, which she had planned to attend with her boyfriend, Douglas Bryden (16). But Isabelle had not arrived, and by the time her parents arrived home she was already dead.

She had left home at 6.45pm in order to catch the 7.30pm bus, her father William Cooke would later tell reporters that she almost certainly took a short cut leading from the blind end of the cul-de-sac in which she lived, across the railway, down onto Mount Vernon Avenue and then onto Hamilton Road, otherwise she would not have been able to arrive in time to catch the bus. This short cut would include the same footpath on which Peter Manuel had assaulted a woman and her child 11 years ago in 1946.
When she left home, Isabelle was wearing a blue raincoat, a blue and white dress, a headscarf with a map of France on it, earrings shaped like the Eiffel Tower, nylon stockings and tan slip on shoes. She was carrying a beige vanity case, inside were her dance shoes, her cosmetics bag and a little money. Isabelle had made plans to meet up with her boyfriend, Douglas Bryden, outside the dance. Bryden would later tell police that he had waited 45 minutes outside the hall before giving up and heading inside alone.



That night the family phone was out of order, and the family took a small comfort in the theory that she had had to stay with a friend and could not get in touch to inform them. The Cookes went to bed around midnight puzzled as to why Isabelle had not returned home as expected. William was unable to sleep, however, and would get up and search with a torch, what would later be identified as the very spot on which his daughter had been attacked hours earlier. He found nothing, however, for by this time Isabelle Cook was lying in a shallow grave in a field a quarter mile away.





When Isabelle had still not returned in the morning, her parents reported her disappearance to the police. At around 4.30pm that afternoon police recovered Isabelle Cooke’s purse from the railway line near Barrachnie Road Bridge, Mount Vernon. This discovery was closely followed by the recovery of her underskirts, her coat, her brooch, her underwear, her vanity case, and her cosmetics, scattered in various locations nearby. These items were all duly identified by her parents in the increasingly certain knowledge that their daughter was never coming home. Once Manuel had been identified as the girls killer, it would be discovered that the scattering of Isabelle’s few belongings formed an almost straight line leading from the Cooke home to the Manuel home – a startling example of Manuel’s arrogance and certainty that he was above police suspicion.


Despite locating almost all of Isabelle’s belongings, her body still eluded police. They would search nearby areas of water diligently with frogmen and would even search disused mine shafts – but could find no trace of the body itself. On the 6th of January the ongoing search would be pushed off the frontpages by the senseless massacre of a family of three in Uddingston, few at the time could guess that the two events were the crimes of the same man.




Isabelle’s body would eventually be recovered on January 16th 1958, 19 days after her murder, and if it were not for an arrest the previous day in connection with the Smart family murders, it may never have been recovered at all. Under arrest for the murder of the Smarts, Manuel would lead police directly the spot where Isabelle Cook lay under three foot of dirt in a corner of Burntbroom farm. What his motives were in doing so we can only guess, coupled with the fact that he subtly directed the police almost to his front door in the scattering of Cooke’s belongings, perhaps he was arrogantly demanding that the world acknowledge his handywork, or perhaps he somehow wanted to be caught? We cannot know. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Peter Manuel 4: The Murder of Sydney John Dunn


Often described as ‘the forgotten victim of Peter Manuel’, the 1957 murder of Newcastle taxi driver Sydney John Dunn is a crime that sits uneasily in the series of Manuel’s crimes - it was the only crime to take place outside of Scotland, the victim male rather than female or a family, with no apparent sexual motive or element of stealth burglary – and even though he was convicted for the crime in 1958, for nearly 60 years there have been rumbling doubts as to whether Manuel actually innocent.

Newcastle Central Station 1950s


In the early hours of Sunday the 8th of December 1957 two taxi drivers were waiting under the portico of Newcastle Central Station. The two taxi drivers were Thomas Green and Sydney John Dunn (36), the pair were friends and neighbours – both living on St Thomas Crescent, Newcastle. Thomas Green noticed two men emerge from the station at the same time, one of the men asked to be taken to the Newburn area, six miles away, and the other to a village called Edmondbyers in the moors of County Durham, 22 miles away. Green chose the shorter fare and directed the second man to Dunn’s cab. Green would later describe Dunn’s passenger as approximately 24 years of age, 5 ft 8 inches tall, swarthy, with greased black hair parted to the left, medium build, wearing a single breasted dark suit, no hat, a light shirt, dark tie, and dark grey loose overcoat. Green would later tell police that he had followed Dunn’s cab until they parted company at Scotswood Bridge, what happened after that is still as much a mystery as it was in 1957.

A Pre War Austin 18, the same model driven by Dunn


Dunn’s cab would be found some hours later and several miles away, abandoned in a gulley off the main road to Stanhope. A police cyclist came across the abandoned vehicle which was left at a right angle to the road, both the interior and exterior lights were smashed, and both the front and rear driver’s side doors were lying open. There was blood on the steering wheel and a scarf and a peaked cap lay on the grass besides the car. The policeman initially believed that the scene was nothing more ominous than a traffic accident – and cycled the two miles to Edmondbyers to check whether there were any reports of an accident or anyone admitted to hospital with head injuries – but drew a blank on both.

The desolate Edmondbyers moorland


A search team was quickly assembled and soon a tracker dog found the body of Sydney John Dunn lying in the heather about 150 yards north of the car. He had clearly been dragged to the spot by the tails of his coat, which had been pulled up and left over his head. His wallet lay nearby, but there were no signs of robbery. A pencil, a lighter, and some coins were also found near the body. A post-mortem would later reveal that the cause of death was a bullet wound to the head. The bullet was thought to be either a .32 or .38, of British make, which had likely been fired at a distance of at least 12 inches from a ‘very worn’ revolver. The blood splatters in the car suggested that the shot had been fired from the front passenger seat. After inflicting the fatal shot to the head, the killer had also exacted a 5 inch gash into Dunn’s throat.

Door-to-door enquiries in Edmondbyers and Stanhope lead nowhere, nor did a search of the surrounding moorland. In particular no one came forward to tell of either seeing, or giving a lift to, an inappropriately dressed man walking along the side of the moors in the midst of a gale - for there was a very real risk of exposure for anyone attempting to walk from where the car was found to a place of shelter. Police were at a loss to explain how the killer had left the scene and even suggested he may have fallen into a peat bog and died. They were equally puzzled as to why the killer had not driven away in the car after dumping the body – could it be that the killer was unable to drive, or somehow unable to restart the car after the murder?

So how was it that the murder of a taxi driver in Newcastle came to be attributed to Peter Manuel, a killer who usually limited his crimes to Glasgow and its outskirts?

Peter Manuel, 1958


Well, Manuel had been in the area at the time of the murder, attending a job interview in Newcastle for British Electrical Repairs Limited on the morning of Friday the 6th of December, the day before the murder. And when a serial killer with a preference for using guns happens to be in the same vicinity as a seemingly motiveless shooting, it takes no great leap to draw a connection between the two. Furthermore, the scattering of Dunn’s belongings recalls similar ‘scatterings’ in Manuel’s earlier crimes.

There were several other important pieces of evidence that were used to convict Manuel of the murder. Grass found in the turn-ups of a pair of Manuel’s trousers was found to be ‘similar to’ that found on the Edmondbyer moors. A button with thread attached recovered from the floor of the cab was ‘similar to’ those of a coat belonging to Manuel. Two red fibres and a yellow thread entwined in that button were thought to have possibly came from clothing belonging to Manuel. And we do know that Manuel committed the Watt murders with a .38 revolver, but it could not have been the same weapon as Manuel disposed of that particular gun immediately after the crime. But most convincingly, the taxi driver Green, who had spoken to Dunn’s passenger, was able to identify Manuel as that man.


Case closed? Well, not quite. If Manuel was indeed the killer, the crime stands out so singularly as being the only one of his murders committed out of his ‘comfort zone’ of Glasgow and its outskirts. Unlike his other crimes, there was no apparent sexual motive, or burglary element. Dunn’s passenger was described by Green as 24 years old, 5 ft 8, with greased black hair, and while Manuel certainly had greased black hair he was also 31 at the time, and 5 ft 4. While the identification by Green seems convincing, police did admit to showing Manuel’s photographs to witnesses in Newcastle, and this may have, perhaps unconsciously, influenced Green’s identification.

For what it’s worth, Manuel himself was adamant that he had been misidentified, after he was questioned about the murder at Barlinnie prison, he reportedly turned to a fellow prisoner and asked ‘What the f*ck was that all about?’ Manuel’s mother, while accepting his guilt on the other murder charges, would later single out the Dunn murder as the one in which she was convinced he was innocent. Manuel himself would never confess to the crime during his life, while confessing to all of the others he was convicted of. While awaiting execution in June 1958, Manuel would write to his friend complaining that he was in the frame ‘for every unsolved murder since Cain killed Abel’ and of the Dunn murder specifically he ambiguously remarked: ‘I wonder where I was that night?’

And so lingering doubts as to Manuel’s guilt in the death of Sydney John Dunn remained for nearly 50 years, until Manuel himself appeared to silence them from beyond the grave. In 2009 a poem composed by Manuel while awaiting his execution was unearthed in the personal papers of Duncan MacKenzie, the former Governor of Barlinnie Prison. In it Manuel described himself as ‘the foulest beast on earth’ and ‘Scotland’s Frankenstein’ – but he also confesses, for the first and only time, to the murder of Sydney John Dunn, writing: ‘I murdered Isabella Cook/And young Anne Knielands too/ Shot the Watts and shot the Smarts/ And Sidney Dunn I slew.’