Friday, July 10, 2015

The World's End Murders


Douglas, as he appears on the TV.
              Dressed for outdoor filming in summer in Scotland.

My guest blogger this week is a bit of a celeb. He is a very famous in Scotland for writing true crime books and looking mean and moody standing outside prisons while filming little true crime slots for TV. Everybody knows his face.

 I first met him at somebody's book launch, he was leaning against a book case trying to be invisible.
'This is Douglas Skelton...' said A N Third Person.
'Oh,' I said and shook his hand. Then the  penny dropped and I realised who he was...'Oh you are THAT Douglas Skelton!'

Anyway, he was two nice dogs and a car with less dog hair than mine(not difficult I know). He is also a very talented photographer so I am going to ask him for a photo flaneur of the Ayrshire countryside where he lives.

I asked him to blog about the World's End Murders- a  case that has horrified and baffled the Scots for a very long time. I recall Ian Rankin being asked once about the most difficult case he had some across -and he answered the World's End case.

Douglas is a bit of an expert on it so he was the go to man for this blog. He has told me in the past that he had, about 1993, linked the Glasgow Murders with the World's End murders, but the police didn't think much of his theory. But, as a well respected journalist from the west coast, the Edinburgh detectives might have given a little more credence to his opinion.....over to you Douglas...

                                                   Wood and Johnston's book after the recent trial.

The two girls had known each other most of their lives. They had played together as children, gone to school together, gone on double dates together.
And thanks to the evil that men do, their names will now be forever linked.
In the end, though, they were found apart, beaten, raped, strangled, their hands tied tightly behind them.

Christine Eadie and Helen Scott were both 17 years of age. Red-haired Christine was an office worker, blonde Helen a shop assistant in a tartan shop on Edinburgh's Princes Street.
They had been with friends in a pub called the World’s End the night before and had left with two men.
Police had detailed descriptions of the suspects but despite launching the most exhaustive manhunt the the city had ever seen, despite thousands of man hours during which 15,000 people were interviewed and 24,000 pages of statements taken, despite appeals in the press and on TV, the brutal murders remained unsolved for over 30 years.
The girls’ families mourned but there was no justice. Someone had taken their loved ones away from them, someone had snuffed out two young lives in a sexual frenzy. But he, or they, remained a shadow in the darkness.

However, as Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said later, justice has no sell-by date.
In 2001, a man called Angus Sinclair was convicted of killing a young woman in Glasgow. Mary Gallagher had been murdered in 1979 but a cold case review had revealed a DNA match.
Sinclair was already known to the police – in 1961, at the age of 16, he’d murdered a seven-year-old girl. The judge said he was ‘callous, cunning and wicked’ and sent him down for ten years.
Then in 1982 he was convicted of a string of sickening sex attacks on children. Following that he’d even requested that he be chemically castrated. The authorities declined the offer.
Four years after his murder conviction, a joint initiative between the Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders and Central police forces was launched. Operation Trinity probed possible links between other Glasgow murders, two killings in Dundee - and the World’s End case.
The Dundee cases were rejected, leaving the Glasgow and Edinburgh murders as the work of one, or two, men.
And the focus narrowed on Sinclair.
As with most cold case reviews, DNA proved the key.
A semen sample had been found on Helen Scott’s coat – and the DNA extracted from it matched Sinclair’s. In addition, fibres from that coat matched the upholstery in a caravanette he owned.
The evidence gleaned by Trinity was strong enough to have him charged with murder, but only of the Edinburgh girls – it was felt there just wasn’t enough to legally link him with the Glasgow cases.
According to the charge, he had acted with his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton, who was by that time dead.
It looked as if the girl’s families would find some measure of closure at last.
However, in September 2007, the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh collapsed and he was dismissed with no case to answer.
The move sent shock waves through Scotland’s legal and political establishment.
 Somehow, the prosecution had fumbled the ball and failed to prove a link between the accused and the tights that were used to strangle them. The DNA samples lodged proved only that he had contact with Helen – it did not prove murder.
Police officers, who said further genetic material was found in the knotted tights, were furious that not all the evidence they had gathered was lodged. The Crown Office countered that the DNA traces on the tights was ‘low copy, low probability’ and therefore they decided not to lead it in court.
Uproar naturally followed and in 2014 Sinclair was back in court again. The Double Jeopardy law had been changed to allow him to be retried with new evidence.
This time, the charge stuck and Sinclair was told he’d spend a minimum of 37 years in jail – the longest ever sentence handed down by a Scottish court.
Police and forensic scientists are convinced that he was also responsible for the murders of Anna Kenny, Hilda MacAuley and Agnes Cooney, who all died in late 1977. They believed he may also have been involved in the murder of Frances Barker earlier that same year.
It was felt that there were striking similarities in the circumstances of their deaths and the methods used to bind, restrain and kill them. As in the World’s End case, they had all been at places of entertainment – a pub, a club or a dance hall – and had all been transported before being found dead.
Sinclair has been in jail since 1982. He should never be a free man again.


 Douglas Skelton   10/07/2015


  1. What an amazing story, Douglas, and at least some kind of justice was eventually served. Thanks for introducing me to Douglas's work, Caro!

  2. Douglas, I like your style of telling it like it is...hope to meet you at Bloody Scotland. Not the country, the Conference. :)

  3. WOW. This truly is an amazing story--and very well-told. Thank you so much, Douglas, for sharing it here at MIE!

  4. The name of the pub, "The World's End" has its origins at the Battle of Flodden, in 1513 where King James IV and most of the Scottish nobility were killed by the English. The citizens of Edinburgh, recognising that the country was now unprotected, built a stone wall – the Flodden wall- around the city. The present pub uses the foundations of the wall. At that time, it was the outer limit of the city i.e. where Edinburgh began and where the world ended!
    Any of you who have visited Edinburgh will have walked past the pub, as it sits right on the High Street.
    And yes Jeff you will see us both at Bloody Scotland on the same panel - A bald, a blonde and a beard!

  5. True-Crime cases like this, interests me. This was a truly fascinating story! I have spent the last few days reading about this case and Angus Sinclair. I have rarely met evil people in my job as a detective, but this man must be a monster.