Bible John. Case unsolved.
Or is it?
The debate rages on. Bible John killed three women in
Glasgow in the late 1960’s and by the 70's
the name had almost drifted into folklore. ‘You’d
better behave or Bible John will get you!’
The story starts on 23rd February 1968 when the naked body of Patricia Docker (25) was found in a lane just yards from her home. She had been raped and strangled after leaving the Barrowland Ballroom in
Early morning, 15th August 1969 a rumour was flying round a Glasgow street that some kids had found a body in an old tenement. Margaret McDonald, knowing her sister had failed to come home from her night dancing at the Barrowland, feared the worst and followed the children. Before the police arrived Margaret had already found the body of her sister Jemima - strangled, raped and beaten.
Then on 31st October 1969, 29-year-old Helen Puttock was found murdered in
Street in Scotstoun. She too had visited the Barrowland Ballroom on the night
she died. Helen and her sister Jean, had been in the company of the killer for
over an hour at the dancehall, in the taxi rank and then on the drive home.
That chit chat in the back of the cab was the birth of both the name and the legend of ‘Bible
John’. The nickname came from the fact
that he quoted scripture at the girls in the dancehall and the taxi.
I was talking to criminologist Prof David Wilson about the case and he made it clear that very few people have actually read the sister’s original statement. It’s often overlooked that she was probably a little worse for drink at the time of the encounter and traumatised by the time the police took her statement. Jeanie’s evidence, maybe wrongly, was considered a huge breakthrough as there had been no other witnesses to ‘John.’ After Jeanie's famous photofit there followed the biggest manhunt in Scottish criminal history; 5,000 men interviewed, 50,000 statements collected.
Then the killings stopped.
Over the years there have been a few false starts to bring the killer to justice. In 1996, the police exhumed the body of a cousin of one of the original suspects to test the DNA against a semen stain on Helen Puttock's tights. (The original suspect had committed suicide aged 41 in 1980). It did not match.
In 2004, police announced they were to DNA test a number of men in a further attempt to solve the case. Again the tests yielded nothing.
The story then moves on to 2006 when the body of a Polish student, Angelika Kluk was found hidden beneath the floorboards of a church in the middle of Glasgow where she was spending her second summer, living in the church house free of charge. She had gone missing several days before. She had been brutally murdered. Many strange stories unfurled during the investigation; Kluk 23, had been having an affair both with the priest 62, and with a 40 year old married man.
However, in May 2006 a man called Pat McLaughlin had called at the church one night during a thunder storm, claiming he was homeless. He asked the priest if he wanted the place 'tidied up a bit' and was accepted as the church handyman. Pat called Angelika his 'wee apprentice'. They were seen laughing and joking together as they painted a shed on the day she disappeared.
Then Pat was admitted to hospital under false pretences. His real name was Peter Tobin. He went on the run.
Tobin was then linked to two other murders; Dinah McNicoll and Vicky Hamilton who’d both been missing since 1991. Vicky's body was found in the back garden of the house Tobin had rented in the early 90's in Margate (490 miles from where she was taken in Scotland). Buried yards from it was a bin bag containing the remains of Dinah.
Tobin was found guilty of all three murders at separate trials.
Vicky, Angelika, Dinah
The similarities of these killings to the Bible John murders did not go unnoticed. Operation Anagram was set up to investigate all similar murders GB wide; they stopped at 38. 38 women who had gone missing where Tobin was living at that time, before deciding it was not in the public interest to go any further. Anagram included the Bible John killings as part of their investigation. Inconclusive.There was a famous artist impression of Bible John... and a picture of Tobin now and Tobin regressed.
Tobin's first wife is convinced that Tobin is not Bible John. She feels that Bible John is either dead or still free. Tobin was a very violent husband so she is not surprised he has been convicted of the murders of Vicky, Dinah and Angelika. But she says they were on honeymoon when the second Bible John killing happened. They were away in England from the 6th for two weeks. The killing was on the fourteenth. But that was a very long time ago and memories are not always accurate. Also he was arrested on his honeymoon so not always 'there'. She also says that Tobin was not religious and that the description of Bible John does not match. Tobin always used a knife, even on his wife who he nearly killed in one attack. Bible John never did use a knife. But killers like everybody else, evolve.
Both David Wilson and Tobin's ex wife agree on one point - Bible John and Tobin had a very similar knowledge of Glasgow. Looking up from the dumpsite of the second victim, the killer would be looking right into the back window of the flat where Tobin's in-laws lived. That is some co-incidence.
More than 42 years have passed. Tobin is saying nothing except to taunt a prison psychiatrist that he had killed 48 women. And then challenged the authorities to prove it.
Among the detectives involved in the triple-murder hunt was Joe Jackson who went on to head Glasgow's CID. He is convinced that Bible John is Tobin. "I saw his photo after the church killing and thought, 'This is as near Bible John as you're going to get'.
Tobin left Scotland in 1969 - the year the killings stopped. His DNA does not match the Puttock semen stains but Jackson does not rule him out because the semen may not have been the killer's in the first place.
David with his book about Tobin. It convinced me.
Prof David Wilson noticed a very interesting thing that convinced him Tobin and Bible John were one and the same. Reading the statement of the sister back in the 60's, she said that Bible John liked to appear superior in a very particular way. When the sister's said they liked to get drunk at Hogmanay, Bible John said he liked to pray. When they joked about Rangers and Celtic. Bible John said he did not like football, he liked golf. All those years later, Dinah's companion recalled similar nuances in conversation with the man who gave them a lift. He had tut-tutted when they said they were going to a rock concert....did they not listen to classical music?
It was a pattern that occurred again and again when witnesses were interviewed.
So indeed it might be Tobin.
Then again it might not.
Caro GB 14/06/2013