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. 

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