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Our cases deal with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
It was a cold, frost-covered morning of Friday, February 23rd, 1968, when 67-year-old Maurice "Morris" Goodman happened upon a figure lying on the ground on Carmichael Lane in front of lock-up garages, not far from Langside Place in Glasgow, Scotland. Such a sight wasn't that uncommon after ballroom nights, likely someone had had a bit too much to drink and passed out outside. But as Maurice stepped closer intending to wake the person, he realised that was not the case. He was looking at the naked, and terribly pale body of a young woman lying on her back with her head turned to the right. Hoping things would not be as bad as they looked, Maurice nudged the body with his foot—it was then that he knew the woman was long gone as he later recalled:
"It was like touching a block of ice."
In horror, Maurice ran back home to Carmichael Place to call the police. There was no way for him to know it at the time, but he initiated the investigation that would grow to be one of the biggest and most frustrating in Scotland's history.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Johnstone and Detective Constable Norman McDonald arrived at the scene at about 8:10 AM, thinking they were going to deal with a simple case of death from exposure. But as they took a closer look at the body, detectives saw ligature markings on the woman's neck – this was a homicide, not an accident.
According to a police pathologist Dr James Imrie, the victim had been dead for a few hours before the body was discovered. The woman's clothes were nowhere to be seen nor was the murder weapon. The victim had suffered extensive face and head injuries but Dr Imrie speculated she had been strangled to death with a belt. The subsequent autopsy confirmed the cause of death and even though no clear signs of sexual assault were found, it was believed the victim was almost certainly raped. The medical examiner also noted the woman was on her period at the time of death – a detail that may sound insignificant but would prove strangely important later. The investigators discovered a sanitary towel at the crime scene despite the killer carefully taking everything else with him.
Extensive door-to-door inquiries followed in an effort to find potential witnesses and identify the victim. But despite the fact, there had been a big party in the neighbourhood that night, nobody remembered seeing or hearing anything strange. Nobody, but one woman, who told the police that sometime during Thursday evening, she had heard a woman scream "leave me alone" twice. It was possible the woman had heard some of the last words of the victim, but there was no way for the police to tie the account to the unidentified body. In the end, the inquiries left the police practically empty-handed and no closer to finding out who the woman was.
However, a breakthrough soon followed totally by chance when an ambulance driver happened to see the body at the morgue at Victoria Hospital. Due to the severe facial injuries, other employees of the facility had failed to recognize one of their own, but the driver could tell this person was Patricia Docker, a 25-year-old nursing assistant. The driver's suspicion was confirmed the following day when John Wilson, Patricia's father, arrived at the police station to report his daughter missing as she had failed to return home after a night at the Majestic Ballroom. One look at the photo John had with him of Patricia was enough for the detectives to know the young woman had already been found. John was taken to the morgue where he officially identified the body of the murdered young woman as his daughter.
Patricia Docker had been a lively young woman with a cheeky smile, short brown wavy hair, gentle hazel eyes and a slim five-feet-three-inch figure. She worked at Mearnskirk Hospital in Renfrewshire as a nurse, working night shifts which started at 10pm and finished the following morning at eight. Her work, and the fact she was a single mother of a four-year-old son, kept Patricia busy. Patricia had married her son's father, Alex Docker, five years prior but the couple had since separated and Patricia had moved back in with her parents' house in Glasgow at 29 Langside Place.
Having her parents around gave Patricia the opportunity to sometimes have time to herself and enjoy a child-free night dancing at one of Glasglow's dance halls. According to John, that is exactly what his daughter was planning to do on the night of her murder. He told the detectives Patricia had headed out that Thursday evening to meet her friends at the Majestic Ballroom on Hope Street in the centre of Glasgow. Back in the 1960s, ballrooms were the UK's second most popular form of entertainment only passed by the cinema. In Glasgow alone, there were fourteen permanent dance halls, including the Locarno, the Majestic and the Plaza. A newspaper survey at the time showed how important the ballrooms really were, suggesting that as many as 70% of all married couples in the UK had met dancing. Patricia and her estranged husband had also met at a dance hall, but the failed marriage had not reduced her love for dancing.
Knowing the victim's identity and assumed plans before their death, the police began to trace Patricia's last steps. The detectives interviewed people who had visited Majestic Ballroom on Thursday, February 22 and even found a witness who remembered dancing with Patricia. But this person later retracted his statement, saying he got the night wrong. It took several days before the police finally found out that the Majestic wasn't the only dance hall Patricia visited on the night of her murder…
Patricia and her friends had been dancing at the Majestic Ballroom, listening to the resident band Dr Cock and his Crackpots—but at some point, Patricia had changed the location without her friends. Nobody could say for sure if Patricia always intended to go to another dance hall, called Barrowland Ballroom or if something drew her there after the Majestic closed at 10:30pm. That something could have been the fact that Thursdays and Saturdays at the Barrowlands were "Palais Night' when only over-25s were allowed in. These nights had a certain reputation—while single people came to dance, drink and flirt, so did married people, but without their partners. If you were looking for an extramarital affair or tryst of some sort, Barrowland was the place to go. At the time, people were joking about the attendees who stopped at the entrance to slip off their wedding rings before stepping in. One Glasgow resident described the Palais Nights by saying:
"It was well known that if you wanted a bit more than a dance, then Thursday night was the evening to visit the Barrowland. I don't think many used their actual name on a Thursday night, folk were cautious, anything that happened after dancing was finished was usually a one-off."
The Barrowland Ballroom's reputation could have been why Patricia didn't mention it to her parents. Despite the fact she had moved out of her husband's house, Patricia was still technically a married woman and telling her parents about Barrowland could have caused an awkward conversation. Of course, Patricia may have simply wanted to continue the evening at the only dance hall that was still open. Whatever the reason was, by the time the detectives realised Patricia had gone to the Barrowland on that Thursday night, the trail was already getting cold. While several witnesses came forward, saying they saw Patricia in her yellow dress dancing with a number of men—including one with red hair—nobody could remember seeing her leave.
The spot where Patricia's body was later found was about 4.8km from the Barrowland Ballroom and only a few hundred metres from the home of her parents. The police were unable to find anyone recalling seeing a young woman in a yellow dress walking the route, so it was likely Patricia had taken a taxi or had been given a lift—possibly by her killer. Despite extensive searches of the area, the investigators never found Patricia's clothes but they located her brown handbag and her bracelet in a small river around one hundred metres from where she was found. The police were puzzled by why the killer had thrown away some of Patricia's belongings but kept her clothes—perhaps they contained incriminating evidence or they were taken as souvenirs. It seemed that instead of finding answers as time passed there were only more questions. The only potential suspect the police had was Patricia's husband Alex, but he was quickly ruled out when his alibi was confirmed—he had been at RAF Digby in Lincolnshire at the time of the murder, more than 400km away.
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~ Now, let’s resume today’s episode ~
Within weeks, the investigation into Patricia Docker's death began to slow down before eventually coming to a standstill. Little by little, the terrible death of the young woman was not totally forgotten but faded into the background. Eighteen months later, on Saturday, August 16, 1969, when 32-year-old Jemima McDonald was planning to spend a night at the Barrowland Ballroom, the unsolved murder didn't even cross her mind.
Jemima resembled Patricia: she was also attractive, slim, a mother of three children and she loved to dance. The McDonalds lived in a tenement building at 15 MacKeith Street in Bridgeton, near Jemima's sister Margaret. The last two nights, Margaret had looked after Jemima's 12-year-old daughter and nine and seven-year-old sons as she had gone out dancing. Saturday was going to be the same. Jemima dropped her children off with Margaret before heading to the Barrowland Ballroom wearing a black pinafore dress, white blouse, off-white sling-back shoes and warm brown coat. On her head, Jemima had a scarf that covered her curlers that she planned to take off just before entering the dance hall so that her hairdo would look as good as possible.
Due to the fact that many of Jemima's friends were married and faithful to their partners, she was going to the dance hall alone. That didn't bother Jemima, who often went out by herself and knew she was going to find someone to dance with at the over-25s night at the Barrowland. So she stopped at Betty's Bar on the Gallowgate to have something to drink before heading to the dance hall, which at the time didn't serve alcohol. Saturday was the busiest day of the week, with up to two thousand dancers filling the dancefloor. Jemima was quickly lost in the crowd, dancing the night away like there was no tomorrow.
But that tomorrow eventually came and Jemima failed to collect her children from her sister. Margaret immediately became concerned, it was not like Jemima to fall off the grid but perhaps she had simply had an unusually long night. But then, Margaret happened to hear neighbourhood children talking about "the body in the tenement." The timing of a rumour like that couldn't have been worse. The nearby abandoned tenement building at 23 MacKeith Street was a playground for the children but also a home for vagrants and a place for sex workers to serve their clients. If there really was a body in that tenement, it could belong to a homeless person—but the fact this happened just when Jemima went MIA didn't sit right with Margaret. By Monday, as her sister still hadn't returned, Margaret couldn't help but head to the empty building to see if the rumours were true.
When she arrived at 23 MacKeith Street, several other people were gathered around the building. Surprised, Margaret walked inside, where she was directed to a bed recess by one wall on the ground floor. At first, Margaret thought she was looking at a mannequin lying on the floor, but then she recognized the torn black pinafore dress, the white blouse and the bloodied face that belonged to her sister.
Jemima McDonald had been brutally beaten on her head and face, raped and strangled with one of her own stockings in the early hours of Sunday morning. Most of Jemima's clothes were present, but her black patent leather handbag and her headscarf were missing and were not found during subsequent searches. An autopsy confirmed Jemima had been menstruating at the time of her death, just like Patricia Docker, which of course could have been a total coincidence. But as the investigators found a sanitary pad at the crime scene close to the body, they couldn't help but wonder if the two murders were connected.
Upon interviewing people who had been in the area on the night of Jemima's murder, the police learned very little useful information. One woman said she had heard a woman screaming, but she wasn't sure about the time. In addition, another witness said that they had seen a woman who looked like Jemima talking with a man outside the empty tenement at around 12:40am, but nobody could say for sure if this really was Jemima.
Fortunately, this time the authorities knew immediately that Jemima had been at Barrowland Ballroom, so they got to interview the attendees while their memories of the evening were still fresh. Several people did remember seeing Jemima at the dance hall and they also remembered the man she had been with. According to the witnesses, this person stood out because he didn't seem to fit in. The man, around 25 to 35 years of age, was wearing a quality suit with hand-stitched lapels and a white shirt and he had unfashionably short reddish hair. Compared to other dancers, this person seemed a bit too smartly dressed, giving an upscale feeling. Based on the witness reports, it seemed that the same person had been with Jemima at Betty's Bar before the two headed to the Barrowland Ballroom. But none of the people who remembered seeing Jemima and her companion knew who this man was or could remember ever seeing him at the ballroom before.
Witnesses later saw Jemima leaving with this person, walking down Gallowgate before turning right onto Bain Street and then to London Road. The police received reports from people seeing the two walking together on London Road between 12:15 and 12:30am. From there, they took a shortcut by way of Landressy Street and James Street. It should have taken Jemima only about 20 minutes to reach her home at MacKeith Street, but she never made it.
Although the witness reports provided a good description of the man Jemima had been seen with, days kept passing without any potential suspects in the case. In need of a new approach, the head of the City of Glasgow Police CID, Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Goodall asked George Lennox Paterson, Deputy Director of the Glasgow School of Art to create a painting of the red-haired man's face. Something like this had never been done in the history of Scottish criminal investigation and Goodall had to ask for official permissions from the Crown Office in Edinburgh. After getting the green light, the sketch was created based on the witness reports and released to the press on Tuesday, August 26 – ten days after Jemima's death. Lennox Paterson's impression of the suspect in the murder of Jemima McDonald would eventually become infamous. Not just because of how accurate the sketch was thought to be but because of the mocking expression on the supposed killer's face. It was believed that with such a clear image of the suspect's face, somebody would recognize him in no time. But despite the portrait becoming a media sensation, no new leads were produced and the police still had no name for the red-haired man. Soon, just like what had happened with Patricia Docker's murder investigation, Jemima's case hit a brick wall. And then, just two months after the second murder, another young woman lost her life.
29-year-old Helen Puttock had just returned to Glasgow with her husband George and their two young children after a long stay in Germany. George was a corporal in the British army and Helen had initially followed her husband on his posting, but in the end, life as an army wife wasn't for her. So by 1969, Helen and the couple's two sons, David and Michael, had moved back to Glasgow to live temporarily with her mother at 129 Earl Street. To be closer to his family, George applied for a posting near Glasgow and in the meantime, spent all his leaves with his wife and children. On Thursday, October 30, 1969, George was at home in Glasgow and on that night, Helen wanted to go out dancing with her older sister, Jeannie Langford. George wasn’t too keen on Helen going out without him, feeling dancing was a rather inappropriate thing to do as a married woman. But Helen managed to convince George, explaining she just wanted to enjoy herself and have fun with her sister. It wasn't like Helen had a lot of free time for herself as a mother of a five-year-old and an infant.
Before Helen and Jeannie left for the bus at about 8pm, George gave his wife ten shillings to use for a taxi back home. Helen, who was wearing a black sleeveless dress, black shoes and a fake-fur ocelot coat, smiled and assured her husband she would not stay out too late. In the city centre, the two sisters visited a few pubs for drinks before heading to the Barrowland Ballroom where they arrived at approximately 10pm. Although Helen and Jeannie had heard about the murder of Jemima McDonald just ten weeks earlier and the possible connection to the death of another young woman, neither was particularly worried. Unlike Jemima and Patricia, the sisters were not alone and would look after each other. What could go wrong?
The following morning, at 7:30, a man named Archibald MacIntyre was walking his dog along Earl Street into the enclosed garden behind the apartment buildings. It was then that Archibald's dog began sniffing as if there was something left lying on the ground. Archibald followed his pet and soon stumbled upon a grisly scene: the body of a young woman with a pair of stockings knotted around her neck.
When the police arrived, they discovered the woman lying on the ground face down, with her clothes torn and her face so badly beaten she was unrecognisable. A medical examiner later confirmed the woman had been raped before she was strangled to death. She also had bite marks on her body – some reports say they were found on her wrists, some say on her buttocks or thigh – and she had been menstruating at the time of her death. A sanitary pad was found placed underneath the woman's left armpit and there was a semen stain on her tights. The similarities to the deaths of Jemima McDonald and Patricia Docker didn't go unnoticed—it began to seem like there was a serial killer on the loose in Glasgow.
After the discovery of the body, the police set up an incident caravan outside the door of 95, Earl Street. When George Puttock woke up that morning and realised his wife had still not returned home, he glanced out the window and noticed the caravan. While George didn't know why the police were in his neighbourhood, he was glad he could go and speak with an officer straight away about Helen being missing. So George approached the caravan and explained the situation to the nearest officer, who then asked what Helen had been wearing the night before. As soon as George mentioned the faux fur coat, it was realised the badly beaten body belonged to Helen Puttock.
Naturally, the police immediately needed to speak with Jeannie Langford, the person who had gone out with Helen and supposedly stayed with her the whole night. Jeannie however, was so distraught upon hearing the news about her sister's death, it took a while before the detectives were able to interview her. But when they did, it was learned Jeannie had not just seen the potential suspect, she had also spoken to him and they shared a taxi. According to Jeannie, as soon as they had arrived at the Barrowland Ballroom, she got together with a gentleman who said his name was John. Helen also found herself a companion, a tall young man who appeared 'suave and a little sophisticated.' The four of them danced and chatted and the women eventually laughed after learning both of the men were called John—or so they claimed. It wasn't strange for people to use aliases during “over 25” nights and based on Helen's partner's behaviour, Jeannie felt like he wasn't completely honest as she later recalled:
"I don't believe either of them were called John, in fact, the man I was dancing with was first to introduce himself to the others. When it came to Helen's partner he seemed to pause for a second or two before giving his name as John, he seemed a bit apprehensive and it was the only time I saw him look less than confident because he seemed so certain of himself in every other way."
Neither Jeannie nor Helen really cared about whether these men were named John or something else or if they were married or not. The sisters just wanted to dance and have some fun. The four spent just over an hour together at the Barrowland before it was time to leave at 11:30pm. On their way out, Jeannie tried to buy cigarettes from a vending machine but lost her money due to a malfunction. Jeannie later explained to the police that at this point, her sister's red-haired companion became a bit overly irritated and demanded to speak with a manager. But not at any point was this person outraged or shouting—instead he spoke in a collected manner sounding like a schoolteacher speaking to a young child. While Jeannie thought John would end up being kicked out by a bouncer because of speaking to the manager in a way he did, the manager actually agreed with him and said Jeannie should return the following day to get her refund. And so, the four continued their way, Helen's John murmuring something along the line of:
"My father says these places are dens of iniquity."
Outside, Helen, red-haired John and Jeannie walked towards Glasgow Cross to hail a taxi while the other John headed to the city centre as he intended to catch a bus to Castlemilk. During the twenty-minute drive back to Scotstoun, Jeannie noted John seemed even more irritated than before, but perhaps it was because she was a third wheel in this man's eyes.
Jeannie later told the detectives this John was approximately 25 to 30 years old, tall, somewhere around 6 feet with a medium build. He had light auburn reddish hair brushed to the right and greyish-blue eyes. Jeannie also noticed John had good teeth with one imperfection - one of his teeth on the upper right jaw overlapped the next tooth. That night John was wearing a brownish, flecked single-breasted suit, a knee-length brownish coat of tweed or gabardine, a light blue shirt and a dark tie with red diagonal stripes. Jeannie recalled John having a metal badge on the lapel of his jacket that he was constantly touching and rubbing for one reason or another and he had been smoking Embassy brand cigarettes. While John had shared very little about himself back at Barrowland, in the taxi he told the two sisters his surname was either Templeton or Sempleson, he lived in the Castlemilk area with a relative, and he was unmarried. Strangely, when Jeannie asked if John liked dancing, he became almost angry speaking about "adulterous women" attending the city's dance halls. John said he had been raised in a very strict religious household, which explained his habit of quoting religious scripture throughout the conversation. When Jeannie asked what John was planning to do on New Year's Eve or Hogmanay as the Scottish say, he replied:
“I don’t dance at Hogmanay, I pray.”
It was about 12:30am on Friday night that the cab driver left Jeannie at her home on Kelso Street before taking John and Helen to Earl Street. Jeannie found it strange that John insisted the driver took her home first, about 800 metres further on. And when Jeannie was saying goodbye to Helen, telling her they would see each other the following week, John had slammed the door closed, pretty much mid-sentence. The taxi then stopped outside 95, Earl Street—the driver told the police Helen had gotten out and walked toward her home without looking back while John paid the fare and headed after her.
An hour and a half later, a Number six bus stopped between Gardner Street and Fortrose Street and picked up one passenger. The young man with red hair stepped in seemingly embarrassed by his appearance, looking like he had been in a fight – he had a red scratch on his face and his jacket was all muddy. Witnesses on the bus remembered this person repeatedly tucking a short cuff of one sleeve into his jacket sleeve, which was a significant observation as a man's cufflink had been found next to Helen Puttock's body. The man exited the bus a short time later and was last seen walking towards the public ferry to cross the River Clyde to the south side of the city.
A few days later, Glasgow newspapers began publishing articles about the Bible-quoting killer alongside Jeannie's description of "John." Soon, this individual was given the name that we still know today more than five decades later: Bible John.
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~ Now, let’s return to today’s episode ~
After Helen's death, the police were sure they were about to catch Bible John at any moment. There were too many witnesses and too many detailed descriptions of his appearance and behaviour for him to go unidentified for much longer. Jeannie was shown the portrait made by George Lennox Paterson, which she commented on by saying:
"My whole inside just churned. To me, the resemblance was there. When I looked at it, it's a funny feeling, it's like something just turns in your guts, you know, it's like a wee kind of shiver of something. When I saw that I thought, God, that's a terrific resemblance!"
Jeannie's reaction seemed to confirm that whoever had killed her sister was also responsible for the death of Jemima McDonald. George and Jeannie worked together to improve the painting of Bible John and make it even more accurate. This time, George created a full-colour version that was sent to the press and widely distributed throughout the United Kingdom. Jeannie also helped Glasgow City Police Photofit technicians to create another composite image of Bible John's face. Due to the fact this man had been seen wearing a type of watch favoured by servicemen and because of his short and neat hair, Bible John's picture and description were also sent to British Army bases and Royal Navy ships. The authorities felt confident Bible John's reign of terror would finally come to an end.
The appeals resulted in numerous reports from witnesses who had seen or thought they had seen the man known as Bible John. The police spend countless hours investigating these leads and bringing men in for line-ups, but Jeannie didn't recognise any of them. Meanwhile, the Barrowland became a stakeout point where sixteen police officers kept an eye on the attendees of the notorious “over 25” nights. Due to the fact that the investigators had to do everything in their power to blend in, the press eventually dubbed the group as Marine Formation Dance Team. Constable Bruce Forsyth later told a local newspaper:
"When this inquiry started, I could hardly dance a step. Now I get better every week."
But while the officers' dancing skills improved, they failed to identify any viable suspects. The same results came back after detectives analysed British military and NATO records. It was thought that because Patricia and Jemima had been killed 18 months apart, Bible John may have been posted abroad during that time. Unfortunately, nothing helpful was ever found. The police also spoke with over 450 hairdressers in and around Glasgow in addition to numerous tailors and dentists. Bible John's hairstyle wasn't typical for the era, but none of the barbers remembered a client matching his description. The dentist's offices provided records of over five thousand patients with an overlapping front tooth in the upper jaw, but in the end, the inquiry proved fruitless. All five thousand men were located and cleared.
And it was not just that the police weren't able to locate Bible John, they didn't find the other John either. The detectives would have wanted to speak with him, as he was the only other person who had spent time with Bible John's presence that was still alive. The second John eventually became known as "Castlemilk John" because of where he was heading after the night out. The authorities spent a lot of time looking for this individual, but it was thought that "Castlemilk John" was purposely avoiding the police because he didn't want someone to find out he had been at Barrowland that night. Perhaps he was a married man who had used a false name and now refused to help with the murder investigation so that his actions would not become public. Whatever the reason was, the fact that "Castlemilk John" never came forward was a big blow for the police.
But when one line of investigation failed, the detectives moved to another one—no stone was left unturned. Officers visited over four hundred golf courses across Scotland because Jeannie remembered Bible John talking about golf and his cousin achieving a hole-in-one. Numerous churches were also investigated, but no viable suspects were found. In time, the search for Bible John grew to one of the biggest ever undertaken by a Scottish Police force: door-to-door inquiries produced over 50,000 witness statements, more than 5,000 potential suspects were questioned within a year and over one hundred detectives and police officers were involved in the inquiry. And yet, the police it seemed that police never got closer to finding Bible John.
As conventional investigation methods failed, the Scottish Daily Records eventually paid for Dutch psychic and parapsychologist Gerard Croiset to visit Glasgow and hopefully help in the search. According to Gerard, Bible John lived in the Govan area in the particular looking house, but again, door-to-door inquiries yielded nothing. After coming up empty-handed once more, the psychic side-step was described as a waste of time, although nothing else had produced results either. The investigation into the three murders gradually became cold and resources were moved to be used in different cases. The only good thing seemed to be that while the police had failed to locate Bible John, he had also stopped killing.
Because no more murders followed the death of Helen Puttock, it was believed Bible John moved away, continued killing somewhere else, was jailed for an unrelated offence or was incarcerated at a mental hospital. Of course, it was possible that he simply decided to stop due to the massive manhunt. It was difficult for the detectives to understand how nobody had come forward positively identifying this man despite the detailed description and sketch, as Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie said after his retirement in 1976:
"Sometimes you get the ones you shouldn't get and you don't get the ones you should. This was one we should have got. We knew so much about him. It is quite incredible that this man has eluded us."
Still, over the years some names have popped up as potential suspects. One of them was a man known as "John White." This individual was arrested in late 1969 outside the Barrowland Ballroom following an argument with a woman. Detective Les Brown, who was present at the time, noted John's resemblance to Bible John and he was taken to be questioned. But there was one obvious issue—"John White" didn't have notably overlapping front teeth. Still, he was considered a viable suspect for the Bible John Murders for quite some time. Detective Brown's suspicions were further raised because John White's name wasn't really John White, but John Edgar. He had also given a false address to the police. Ultimately, there was no evidence linking him to the crimes of Bible John and he was released without charges. Years later, after Detective Brown published an autobiography including a chapter about "John White," John Edgar contacted authorities and offered to provide a DNA sample to clear his name. Apparently, this was never done, but it seems unlikely John Edgar had anything to do with the murders.
Another suspect was a man named John Irvine McInnes, an ex-soldier and furniture salesman. John came from a strong religious background and was known to be a heavy drinker and a gambler. Witnesses placed John at the Barrowland Ballroom the night before Helen Puttock was murdered and he did resemble the description of Bible John. But the thing is, during the investigation, John McInnes was included in more than one identity parade and Jeannie Langford never picked him out. John also didn't have crooked front teeth and his 'jug ears' didn't match those of the man Jeannie had seen. Eventually, John was eliminated as a suspect in 1969, and yet, almost three decades later in 1996, his body was exhumed after a cold case investigation put him under suspicion again.
John died in 1980 at the age of 41 of a self-inflicted wound that severed the brachial artery in his arm and after a DNA sample taken from Helen's tights was linked to a member of the McInnes family as an "80% match", the investigators wanted to test his DNA too. For a moment, it was thought that Bible John was finally going to be identified and the case closed. But several tests results of the testing conducted proved inconclusive and John McInnes was again cleared as a suspect in July 1996.
Finally, the person who had caused the most speculation was convicted serial killer Peter Tobin. In 2006, Peter raped Polish student Angelika Kluk before beating and stabbing her to death. Investigators had a feeling that the killing wasn't Peter's first. Their suspicion was later confirmed when the bodies of 18-year-old Dinah McNicol and 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton were found buried in the garden of a house in which Peter had previously lived. Once the police investigated Peter's background, they learned he had been living in Glasgow as late as 1969 before marrying and moving to Brighton. And that was not all. Peter was known to visit the Barrowland Ballroom regularly and he was described as a smart dresser. Apparently, Peter also sometimes used a false name, "John Semple" which sounded similar to the name Jeannie had heard in the taxi, "John Sempleson." After the book, The Lost British Serial Killer was published in 2010, stating Peter Tobin was Bible John, several women came forward stating Peter had sexually assaulted them at the Barrowlan Ballroom in the late 1960s. In addition, three of his former wives gave accounts of being imprisoned, throttled, beaten and raped at Peter's hands—and, most notably, he was angered by the female menstrual cycle. Nobody could deny Peter Tobin sounded like the most potential suspect for the Bible John Murders. But many details contradicted the theory…
First of all, Jeannie Langford said that she was certain Peter Tobin wasn't her sister's killer after seeing his picture. Furthermore, Peter moved to Brighton before the murders of Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock. Peter got married on August 6, spent his honeymoon in Brighton and was then arrested on August 20 regarding an unrelated crime—Jemima McDonald was killed on August 16, so it seems Peter couldn't have been responsible for her death. Peter himself refused to cooperate with the police, saying he didn't care about the families of the victims and if they got closure or not. He did, however, eventually open up to a prison pal in 2021:
"I am not Bible John but I did kill others. People just think I am Bible John but I’m not. It wasn’t me. Nothing to do with me. I didn’t kill them."
In the end, no evidence has been found to link Peter Tobin to the Bible John Murders. His DNA was tested and it didn't match the sample taken from Helen Puttock's tights. And so, Peter was finally eliminated as a suspect and the police had to return to the drawing board.
Today, five decades after Bible John killed three young women who had simply wanted to dance and have fun, we are no closer to solving the mystery. The case of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock remain open, waiting for the piece of the puzzle that would finally reveal the real identity of their killer.
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