008 - The Bible John Murders
The Barrowland Ballroom originally opened in 1934, east of Glasgow’s city center. The building itself contains large halls at the street level which were used for weekend markets, and a large weatherproof hall above the market area. At the time, the building boasted having the largest animated neon sign in the United Kingdom, though this can neither be confirmed as fact, nor disproven as in 1958, a large fire gutted most of the building.
The Ballroom was rebuilt, and had its grand reopening on Christmas Eve of 1960. As world culture progressed, the United States was embroiled in the so-called “swinging sixties,” but this wasn’t just an American phenomenon. All around the world, the hippie movement was in full effect. Shortly after 1967, and what America dubbed the “Summer of Love,” Glasgow was brimming with young men and women who were going out to clubs and bars, experiencing one another in an explosion of sexual freedom and independent exploration. In the late 1960’s Glasgow was in the middle of a dance craze with Ballrooms blossoming once again in popularity, and drawing large crowds.
On February 22nd, 1968, Patricia Docker, a twenty-five year old nurse and single mother spoke with her parents telling them that she had gotten a babysitter and was going out for the night. Her intended destination was the Majestic Ballroom. It is unknown why this was changed, or if perhaps Patricia did spend some of her night in the Majestic Ballroom. Some have even speculated that Patricia may have been persuaded to change venues by the man known as Bible John. Regardless of the reasoning, Patricia ended up at the Barrowland Ballroom. The Barrowland was hosting an over 25’s and older night. The event drew singles from all around the city of Glasgow, offering them a location to mingle, drink and dance. The younger crowd of the time unkindly referred to the event as “Grab a Granny Night.”
From all accounts, Patricia was a dependable, trustworthy woman who was dedicated to her job and her child. Patricia was not so much of a child of the free wheeling sixties as many of her contemporaries. The sixties were somewhat of a different time, though, and Patricia was a twenty-five year old single mother who had recently separated from her husband. It isn’t hard to imagine that the prospect of a 25 and older evening at the famous Barrowland Ballroom could have been enticing for a woman who was dealing with the aftermath of the end of her marriage, and now adjusting to raising a child on her own.
The next morning, February 23rd, a man heading to work for the day came across a grisly scene. The body of Patricia Docker lay just behind Carmichael Place, just a few yeards from where Patricia lived with her parents in Langside Place. Patricia’s body had been stripped nude, and she had been strangled with her own stockings, and she had been raped. According to reports of the time, Patricia had also been beaten though it is unknown if this occurred as she tried to fight off her attacker, or if it was an act he performed following the rape, but before strangling her. At the time of her death, Patricia had been menstruating, a seemingly innocuous detail, but one which will become more important later.
Police arrived at the scene, and immediately began investigating. It was noted that Patricia’s clothing, and her bag were missing. Police believed that the killer had taken these items as keepsakes, or in an attempt to delay identification of the body. During their investigation, Police spoke with Patricia’s parents, who informed them of her plans from the previous night. Unfortunately, Patricia had told her parents that she was going to the Majestic Ballroom, and so the investigation centered on that venue. It wasn’t until several days after her murder that Police managed to piece together more of her evening, and discovered that she had been at the Barrowland. Eyewitnesses had seen her that evening, but reported nothing unusual and no particular detail, nor companion, stood out.
By the time Police had mapped out Patricia’s evening, most of the people they spoke to and interviewed couldn’t remember a great deal, and were of little assistance. Police continued searching for Patricia’s missing bag and clothing, but neither was ever recovered. At the time, Police believed the killer had taken these items as momentos, but may have disposed of them when the case began to draw attention from the media. Without much to go on, no eyewitnesses or any details about the perpetrator, Patricia’s murder would slow become a cold case. Eighteen months later, in August of 1969, when Patricia’s name had long vanished from the headlines, it would be suddenly brought back into sharp focus.
On the evening of Friday, August 15th, 1969, thirty-two year old Jemima McDonald made plans to go out for the night. Much like Patricia Docker, Jemima was a recently divorced single mother. On Friday night, Jemima left her three children with a babysitter and headed down to dance at the Barrowland Ballroom. Jemima would not make it home that night.
The following morning, August 16th, Jemima’s sister Margaret was growing concerned. It was unlike Jemima to go out, and not return home. Especially to have not picked her children up from the sitters. Margaret began asking around and began walking to her sister’s apartment when she witnesses a small group of young children exiting an abandoned tenement building on MacKeith Street, just a few blocks from Jemima’s home. The children were talking about “the body” but Margaret didn’t think much of it, assuming it was just children playing around.
By Monday, August 18th, Margaret could no longer contain her concern and driven forward, despite her intense fear, she entered the tenement building on MacKeith street. Inside, Margaret made the awful discovery of Jemima’s battered body. Unlike Patricia, Jemima was found fully clothed, and it was ruled that she had been beaten to death. However, just like Patricia, Jemima had been raped and partially strangled with her own stockings. The similarities did not end there. Both Patricia and Jemima were dark haired women, who had been dancing at the Barrowland Ballroom wearing black dresses, and both of their purses were missing from the crime scenes. Also, both women had been killed within fifty yards of their homes and both were menstruating at the time of their murder.
Unlike in Patricia’s case, there were a few witnesses who may be able to give information about what transpired that night. her killer. An attendee of the Barrowland that evening reported seeing Jemima leave the ballroom with a tall, red haired man, dressed in a nice suit. The Police did have an artist’s rendition of the man drawn up. Although this wasn’t much to go on, it was more than had been known during the Patricia Docker investigation. Police conducted door to door inquiries, canvassing the area for more information, and came upon a woman who believed she might have heard the murder. According to this witness, on the night of the murder, she had hard screams coming from the abandoned building where Jemima’s body was later found. Unfortunately, the witness could not remember what times she had heard the screams, and further investigation was unable to find anyone to verify the witnesses statement. Although they now had more information about the suspect, it was not very helpful, and much like in the case of Patricia Docker, the investigation began to slowly wind down and grow cold. Jemima’s name, much like Patricia’s was slowly forgotten to the public. This time, it would not take eighteen months to bring both women’s names back into the spotlight.
Just over two months later, on October 30th, 1969, twenty-nine year old Helen Puttock made plans with her sister Jean Williams to attend the Barrowland that night. Helen was married to a man named George. George and Helen had two small boys at the time. Helen told George that she was going out with her sister, essentially wingmanning for her. George wasn’t thrilled with his wife’s decision to go out to the Barrowland that night, but knew that she had gone with her sister before, and despite is reservations, he chose not to argue with her about it. He gave Jean ten shillings, making her promise that the two would take a taxi home. A decision he now regrets.
Upon arriving at the Barrowlands, Jean and Helen had a few drinks, and danced a few times, before both men two separate men, both named John. One of the John’s identified himself as coming from the town of Castlemilk, while the other never shared his home town. Jean states that Helen danced several times with the later, so called John. The four of them spent around an hour together, enjoying each other’s company, but the night was growing late. The group of four left the ballroom together, with the John from Castlemilk bidding them good night, and heading toward George Square, from where he planned to take a bus home. The other John, the one who didn’t say much about himself and had been dancing with Helen, got into a cab with Helen and Jean as they headed home.
Jean exited the cab at Knightwood where she lived, leaving Helen alone with John, as the cab headed toward Helen’s mother’s flat on Earl Street, where she lived with George and her two boys. This was the last time Jean would see her sister alive. Around 1am, the Taxi dropped Jean and her new companion off at 95 Earl Street, just a hundred yards from her mother’s home where George, worried that his wife wasn’t yet home, was still awake, waiting for her, completely unaware that just a hundred yards away, his wife was in the company of the rapist and murderer who would come to be known as Bible John.
The next morning, on Halloween of 1969, Helen’s body was discovered in the back garden of her flat, just 150 yards from her door. Like the two women before her, Helen had been beated, raped, strangled with her own stockings, and murdered. Helen’s purse was missing, like the others, but this time the killer did something slightly different. The contents of Helen’s purse were found scattered all around her body. Also different from the others, this time the killer had left a deep bite mark on the victim’s leg. Helen’s feet were covered in grass stains, indicating a struggle between her and her killer. Again, just the same as Patricia and Jemima, Helen, too, was a dark haired woman in a dark dress who was menstruating at the time of her murder. The bite mark was an important detail, giving the police something to compare suspects to. In addition to the bite, police recovered semen from Helen’s tights, though DNA comparison was not available at the time, and the evidence lingered in a police evidence locker for nearly 30 years before a DNA panel was drawn up.
Helen’s husband, George, awoke in the morning and was very concerned about his missing wife. It was at this point he noticed a police van parked outside of his home. He stepped out, asking what was going on and explained to an officer that his wife had not returned home the previous evening. The officer asked George what Helen had been wearing, and then pulled him into the van, informing him that they had found a body in the back garden which matched his wife’s description.
Police would launch one of the largest manhunts and investigations in Scotland’s history. The investigation was headed by Joe Beatty, an officer known for solving big crimes and considered to be extremely dedicated to his job. According to other officers of the time, Beatty worked nearly 24 hours a day on the case. The police had somewhat of a break this time, as unlike the previous murders they had an eyewitness who had not only seen the man called John, but had spoken with him and been in close proximity to him for much of the night. Jean would become the key witness in the Police’s attempt to identify the man who was now understood to be a serial rapist and murderer.
According to Jean, the killer who called himself John was very strange. She described him as tall and slim, well dressed and sporting sandy / redish colored hair. Jean specified that in the front of his mouth, one of his upper teeth was crossed over another. Jean stated that the man named John may have referred to himself as John Templeton, or possible Sempleson. The man was well spoken and polite, though Jean recalls he frequently quoted scripture and referred to the Ballroom as a “den of iniquity.” He made several references to Moses and was quoted as saying “I don’t drink at Hogmanay, I pray.” Hogmanay is a Scottish word which references the last day of the year, or what we might call New Year’s Eve. Due to these statements, the press began to refer to the killer as Bible John. According to Helen, Bible John stood 5 foot 10 inches tall and appeared to be between the ages of 25 and 30. She described his posture as being somewhat like that of a soldier, and that he wore a military style watch.
Jean’s description was used to create another image of the killer, but some Police began to question her description. Lead Investigator Joe Beatty believed Jean, and spent a great deal of time memorizing the composite which was drawn up based on Jean’s description. Reportedly, Beatty would dismiss suspects if they didn’t resemble the image to his standards, though many officers felt this kind of tunnel vision was limiting to the case and based too much on the Jean’s description which was coming under fire.
According to the investigation, Jean was drunk that night, though she would say she was no more than tipsy, and witnesses from the Barrowland contradicted her description. Bouncers at the Barrowland described Bible John as being shorter, and sporting jet black hair. Police leaned more towards this description, believing Jean to have been more drunk than she thought, and because while Jean stated that Bible John was quoting directly from the Bible, others had pointed out that he made references to it, but had issued no direct quotes. Of course, more confusion came into play when another bouncer made the statement that none of the bouncers at the Barrowland were very good with remembering faces.
As it turns out, neither Jean, nor her sister Helen, were the last to see Bible John that night. A witness came forward and stated that at 1:30am on Halloween, he had seen a man fitting Jean’s description: tall and thin with sandy reddish hair, finely dressed, getting off a bus at Gray Street and Sauchiehall Street. According to the witness, the man appeared disheveled, and had scratch marks on his face. The man would turn, and walk toward the ferry which runs across the River Clyde, and into the south side of the city.
And then… nothing. No more murders, no more sightings, no more Bible John. As suddenly as the streets of Glasgow were haunted by stories of a Bible quoting serial rapist and murdered killing women from the Barrowland Ballroom… they began to return to normal and Bible John had either chosen to stop or moved on to a new city.
Desperate for answers, and overwhelmed by such a thin supply of evidence, Police turned to the only living person who had spoken to Bible John. Through further questioning, Jean seemed to remember more details about the conversation which took place in the cab that night. Jean stated that Bible John had referred to women as adulterous and told a story about a hole in one that his cousin had scored during a round of Golf. These new details were of little assistance, and with such little information available, across all three murders, the Police were stuck with a complicated case, and obviously had a deranged killer on their hands, but they didn’t know if he was gone, or perhaps, just dormant. In addition to these issues, officers began to wonder if Jean was remembering the evening accurately, or if perhaps in her hope to assist in finding her sisters killer, she was embellishing events and details of the conversation. The memory is a funny thing, and eyewitness testimony is usually considered to be fairly faulty. People misremember, or fill in blanks with completely fabricated information. This isn’t done intentionally, but the brain has a way of trying to complete the puzzle. Four people can witness a car accident, and deliver four completely different descriptions of what happened. Without corroboration and supporting evidence, it’s difficult to move forward simply on the details in someone’s memory. Unfortunately for Police, they didn’t have much else to go on.
Undercover police began attending local Ballrooms, including the Barrowlands. They would come in, spend their time dancing and mingling, but were ever vigilant, looking for the man in the composite. On many occasions, an undercover officer would pose as a friend of Jean’s, accompanying her to the Barrowland. He’d watch her dance and spend time with friends, and worked out a system for her to signal if she saw Bible John, but she never did.
A reexamination of the evidence shows those details which each case shared. Each of the three women had spent their last night at the Barrowland Ballroom. Each woman was strangled with her own stockings, and left within a close proximity to her home. All three of their purses were taken from them, all three were menstruating at the time of their murder. It has been reported that in addition to these similarities, there was one more: found near, or on the bodies of each of the women was a tampon or sanitary pad, likely the one which the woman had been wearing prior to being raped.
Another witness interviewed by police would provide information which once again contradicted Jean’s description of the killer. According to the manager of the Barrowland, he had spoken with the killer, actually, he’d gotten into an argument with him. Retired Chief Inspector Bryan McLaughlin interviewed the manager, and found his story compelling. According to McLaughlin, the manager told him that he’d gotten into a dispute with the man when a cigarette machine had eaten his money. The manager stated that the portrait of the suspect, based on Jean’s description, was not accurate to his recollection. He stated that the man had a more square shaped face, and his hair was dark, not sandy nor reddish. While Jean had stated that Bible John had a tooth which crossed over another, the manager noted that he had noticed the man was missing a tooth in the upper right portion of his mouth.
Following up on this tip, McLaughlin found a man hanging around the Barrowland. McLaughlin stated that the man would go to the Barrowland alone, and had quoted lines from the Bible. When he took the man in for questioning, he escaped by jumping through a plate glass window. The Criminal Investigative Department later tracked down and interviewed the suspect. His name was John Edgar, and he was from Castlemilk, Glasgow. Through their questioning, the CID cleared John Edgar as a suspect, though many still believe he may have been the notorious Bible John. In 2005, a book was written which accused John Edgar of the crimes. As a result of the accusation, and speculation, Edgar submitted his DNA for analysis and was fully cleared of the crime.
Despite an investigation which involved more than 100 detectives, over 50,000 statements and interviews with more than 1,000 suspects, thirty seven years would pass and police would be no closer to finding the true identity of Bible John. There are a ton of theories about the identity of Bible John that cover a wide array of suspects. Some believe that Bible John was a police officer, while others see an uncontradictable link between the atrocities perpetrated by Bible John, and those of a convicted rapist and murderer.
There have been a litany of theories and suspects purported to have been Bible John. Everyone from former police officers, to a convicted serial murderer. Lead Investigator Joe Beatty had a man he personally believed was responsible. That man was John Irvine McInnes. Beatty has never revealed what it was that led him to believe McInnes was Bible John, but he questioned him several time. Eleven years after the murder of Helen Puttock, in 1980, John McInnes committed suicide, but his name still remained present in the minds of investigators. In 1996, Police began using the DNA sample that the killer left on Helen Puttock’s tights. They recalled old suspects and requested DNA samples for comparison. It was during this time that they decided to exhume the body of John McInnes for DNA and dental matching.
Despite a long period of time during which investigators had bandied McInnes’ name as a likely suspect, DNA did not match and when forensic examiners attempted to compare McInnes’ teeth to the cast made from the bite mark on Helen, they discovered that McInnes wore dentures, even at the time of the murders.
There was public outcry that the Police had spent so many years trying to pass off John McInnes as the killer. McInnes family described the ordeal as greatly disturbing, saying that it had brought a shroud of darkness over the family. Following examination of the DNA and dental records, Police were forced to finally take McInnes from the suspect list, officially clearing him. A home affairs spokeman, John McFall was quoted in the papers as saying “We know the police have a duty to investigate unsolved murders. This case seems to be a textbook example of how to not go about it.” Despite the DNA evidence, some police believe that the sample taken from Helen’s tights may have become too degraded over the years, and that any match may be unlikely.
Another theory, put forward by Paul Harrison, a former police officer who worked with the FBI Behavioural Sciences unit in Quantico Virginia, suggested the possibility that Bible John was a Police Officer. In his book, “Dancing with the Devil”, Harrison claims that former lead investigator Joe Beatty began to believe that Bible John may have been a follow officer. He claims that Beatty brought this theory to his bosses, but was told not to follow it.
Beatty never publicly named the suspect, but Harrison believes he’s discovered it. According to Harrison, the officer in question was forced into early retirement and may have even committed more murders. Through a Freedom of Information Act filing, Harrison was able to compile a list of officers who retired during, and shortly after the murders. There are many claims in Harrison’s book which are not corroborated elsewhere. According to Harrison, not only did Joe Beatty believe that Bible John was a police officer, but so did Helen Puttock’s sister, Jean. Harrison claims that Jean stated that Bible John had pulled a warrant card from his pocket and shown it to Helen. Harrison goes on to state that the other John, the one from Castlemilk, told Jean he believed the other John to be a cop, which is why he took the bus instead of getting in the taxi with the group of them.
Jean was called in to see many suspect lineups over the years. Allegedly, during one of these lineups, Jean positively identified the man she believed to be Bible John. Harrison claims that the man she identified was a police officer, one of Beatty’s own detectives. When Beatty informed Jean of this, she was awestruck and supposedly stated that the man was Bible John. Unfortunately, Jean passed away in 2010 and the book was released several years later. Joe Beatty passed away several years before Jean, and thus the two people whom Harrison claims to have received this information from are no longer here to corroborate the details of his book.
Harrison also claims that, while doing research for his book, he was contacted by several former bouncers at the Barrowland who told him that one night they had gotten into a fight with a disorderly patron. The bouncers claim that during the fight, the man produced a warrant card and told the men to back off. Later, after the artists composite drawing of Bible John was circulating, they identified him as the man they had fought with in the Barrowlands that night.
Whether or not Bible John was a police officer at this point is impossible to prove, but this theory is hardly the end. Some speculate that Bible John was no one. They believe that Jean and Helen did ride in a taxi with a strange man that night, but suggest the possibility that this was not the man who killed Helen. According to locals of the time, and investigators on the case, it wasn’t exactly uncommon to run into a religious man with a penchant for Bible quotes. Contrary to Jean’s story, after speaking with witnesses at the Barrowlands who had either seen, spoken to, or overheard the man known as Bible John, he wasn’t exactly quoting from the Bible. One officer when interviewed stated that the man had said things that were similar to quotes from the Bible, but were not direct quotes and that it wasn’t really a significant detail as many people in the area, at the time, were Christian and knew the Bible well enough to paraphrase portions of it.
Outside of the fact that the man from the taxi was the last person known to be with Helen Puttock, that’s really the only information which links him to her murder. Several people, including former and current Police Officers go so far as to theorize that not only was the man in the taxi not Bible John, but no one was Bible John. Many believe that the three murders, though similar in many ways, were simply coincidental and that these coincidences do not prove that the murders were a serial. They chalk up the idea of Bible John as a complete fabrication by the media to sell papers and create a sensationalist drama.
Even lead investigator Joe Beattie would admit that the murders were under investigation as three separate crimes, and not that of a serial. According to Beattie, there was never any hard evidence to link the three murders to a single man and that Bible John was little more than a phantom created in the press. This seems rather odd, considering the similarities in the way in which the victims were killed, and the locations of their bodies. However, there are those who think that it was all just coincidence. I find that rather hard to swallow, but it’s a popular theory. Police who support this theory point to the fact that Serial Killers typically don’t just stop, and that if this were the case of a serial killer, there would have been more bodies. For me, I think it’s entirely possible there were more bodies, but the killer moved on to a different location. There’s also the possibility that he was arrested on something unrelated, died or became ill. Although, given the unsolved status of the crimes, it’s almost impossible to rule out any theory.
The most popular theory about the identity of Bible John would surface in 2006. 37 years after the last of the murders, Police would find a body which would lead them to a suspect with a very similar style to the killer known as Bible John. This suspect would arguable become one of the most prominent, and it is this suspect that is the subject of the first, and most popular theory, of answering the burning question: Who is Bible John?
In 2006, the mutilated body of a 23 year old Polish exchange student named Angelika Khik was found beneath the floorboards of St. Patrick’s Church in Glasgow. Angelika worked at the church, and was last seen in the company of a church handyman named Pat McLaughlin on September 24th, 2006. Angelika was beaten, raped and stabbed. Her body was then hidden in an underground chamber near the confessional booth. Disturbingly, forensic investigation showed that Angelika was still alive when her body was put beneath the floorboards. Police discovered Angelika’s body five days after she was murdered, and Pat McLaughlin quickly became their prime suspect.
McLaughlin fled to London where he got admitted to a hospital under a false name. Police managed to track him down, and it was soon discovered that Pat McLaughlin was also a false name. His real name was Peter Tobin. He had used a fake name to get his job at the church, as he was listed on the Violent Sex Offender Register following a convictions for rape and assault stemming from a 1993 incident. According to court documents, Tobin attacked two 14 year old girls at his apartment in Leigh Park when he heard them ringing a neighbor’s door. The neighbor wasn’t home, and so the two girls rang Tobin’s apartment and asked if they could wait inside.
Tobin allowed the girls in, and then at knifepoint he forced them to drink alcohol including vodka. Tobin then sexually assaulted the girls, and stabbed one. He turned on the gas in the apartment, and exited the building, leaving them to die. Both girls miraculously survived, and Tobin went on the run, later being caught in Brighton. On May 18th, 1994, at Winchester Crown Court, Tobin entered a plea of guilty and received a sentence of 14 years. Ten years later, in 2004, Tobin was paroled.
Following the investigation into the rape and murder of Angelika Khik, Tobin was tried and found guilty on May 4th, 2007 and received a sentence of life imprisonment. In connection with another case, the 1991 disappearance of Vicky Hamilton, police began investigating all former properties of Peter Tobin. They searched several former homes, and on November 14th, 2007, they found human remains buried in the back garden of 50 Irvine Drive, a home occupied by Tobin in 1991. Forensics would confirm the remains were those of Vicky Hamilton and the next year, in December of 2008, Tobin was found guilty of Vicky’s murder.
On November 16th, 2007, two days after the discovery of Vicky Hamilton’s remains, another body was found at the same property. Those remains would be identified as those of Dinah McNichol, an 18 year old from Tillingham, Essex, who has vanished on August 5th, 1991, while hitchhiking home from a music festival at Liphook, Hampshire. On December 16th, 2009 after fifteen minutes of deliberation, a jury found Tobin guilty of murder, and Tobin received his third life sentence.
Based on his convinctions and history, Police began tracking Tobin’s whereabouts throughout his life, and cross referencing his locations with unsolved murders and disappearances. Police would refer to this as Operation Anagram, and also involved the attempt to identify the owners of jewelry discovered in Tobin’s home which Police believed may have been taken from victims. Ultimately, Police believe Tobin is linked to at least 13 unsolved murders, three of which are the Bible John murders. According to reports from prison, Tobin boasts that he has a total of 48 victims.
Tobin’s possible connection to the Bible John murders is based around several intriguing facts which could link him to the murders. Police believe that photographs of Tobin taken during the late 1960s share a striking resemblance to the drawings of Bible John. The last of the Bible John murders occurred in 1969, the same year in which Peter Tobin moved out of Glasgow. There have been statements by police saying that, with known victims of Peter Tobin, he reacted extremely violently if his encounter with the victim occurred while the victim was menstruating. In addition to these similarities, Peter Tobin had a religious upbringing and knew the Bible well enough to quote it. Torbin used a wide variety of fake names throughout his murderous career, and one of those names was Semples, which it has been pointed out is extremely similar to one of the names Jean claimed Bible John had used: John Sempleson. Also, dental records showed that in the late 1960’s, Tobin had a tooth removed, which links to the statement from the manager of the Barrowland about Bible John missing a tooth.
Tobin was also known to frequent the Barrowland Ballroom during the late 1960’s. In fact, Tobin met his wife at the Barrowland. The marriage was doomed early on as Tobin was prone to angry outbursts and was physically violent to his spouse. Tobin was married a total of three times, and each of his former wives told investigators that he had beaten and raped them in the past.
Police have not released further information they possess which leads them to consider Peter Tobin as being the true identity of Bible John. In the past, DNA comparison has been used to rule out other suspects. In the case of Peter Tobin, police believe the DNA samples have become compromised over time, and believe a DNA link to Tobin is unlikely due to the degrading samples. A DNA comparison run on Tobin came back inconclusive.
Many people see the connections, and consider Peter Tobin to be the true identity of Bible John. Professor David Wilson, Britain’s leading serial killer expert when asked whether or not Peter Tobin is the illusive killer responded with: “As far as I’m concerned the case is closed.” Wilson believes the corrolations between Tobin’s known crimes, and the Bible John murders are too similar to be brushed aside as mere coincidence. Contrarily, not everyone believes that Peter Tobin is guilty of the Bible John murders, and many disregard the alleged connections as coincidence.
Former Detective Chief Inspector Bryan McLaughlin, the man who interviewed the former manager of the Barrowlands, does not believe that Peter Tobin was the killer. According to McLaughlin, Tobin doesn’t fit the descriptions of Bible John. He believes that Tobin was too short, and too young at the time of the murders. Tobin would have been 23 when the last murder occurred. Though McLaughlin believes that not all of Tobin’s victims have been found, or identified, he doesn’t accept the theory that Tobin is Bible John. He is not alone, and although there is a temptation to designate Tobin as Bible John, there are pieces of information which don’t fit.
Paul Harrison, the former Cop and author, also disagrees with the Peter Tobin theory. According to Harrison, one of Tobin’s ex-wives claims that Tobin was with her when one of the murders took place. Harrison himself says he found evidence that Tobin was in police custody for questioning on an unrelated incident during another of the murders. Harrison stated in an interview “Tobin used to bury his victims. Bible John displayed his in public places.”
Bible John is a name which still haunts many areas of Glasgow. While his image isn’t still staring down from billboards, and posted all over the walls of buildings, for those who were around during the late 1960’s, his is a name which still comes with fear. George Puttock, who became a widower when his wife Helen became the last known victim of Bible John, still thinks about the crime every day. He raised their two boys without their mother, and will never forget the moment he was told that his wife had been raped and murdered. For George, he is tired of hearing about Bible John, and wants to hear more about his wife Helen and the other victims. In George’s mind, the media created a phantom killer and ran with it, disregarding the victims, and pushing the story of the killer to the forefront.
The man known as Bible John struck with the ferocity of a lightning bolt, and vanished just as rapidly. In the wake of his presence, three women, Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock were savagely attacked and murdered. All three women were found near their homes, had been raped, beaten, strangled with their own stockings, and strangely, had been menstruating at the time of their death. They left behind families who were tormented by their deaths, and who were left without any answers or justice. Despite thousands of man hours, no single individual was ever confirmed to be the notorious Bible John, if indeed he was a single man.
There are many theories and a great deal of speculation, but no hard evidence. The haunting composite made based on Jean’s description still strikes fear, and gives a slight glimpse at a violent and vicious rapist and murderer. Who was Bible John, why did he commit these horrendous crime? Did he move on and continue in a different location with a different MO, or did some outside force stop him before he could strike again? The murders of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock remain unsolved and continue to be investigated nearly 50 years later.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The case of the Bible John murders is as frustrating as it is disturbing and twisted. The last murder attributed to Bible John took place in the early morning hours of Halloween, 1969. Nearly fifty years later, and the case remains unsolved and extremely cold. The victims have faded into memory for many, never having received justice. Their families have been left behind, struggling to accept the loss. Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock were murdered in a brutal fashion, raped, strangled and beaten. Despite their sincerest efforts, Police were unable to tie any individual to the crimes. In many cases that seem hopeless, Police manage to find something to work with, or experience a lucky break, but this doesn’t happen when it comes to Bible John.
Lead investigator Joe Beattie was highly regarded, but could never find the answers to what happened and that was a fact that haunted him until the day he died. Jean Wilson, Helen Puttock’s sister, never forgot the face of the man that shared a taxi with her and her sister, and over the years she faced contradictory opinions and arguments against her statements, but stuck to her guns, and never gave up hope that they would find the man, passing away without ever knowing the truth. George Puttock, Helen’s husband, remains disturbed by the memory of that Halloween morning, and has lived with great regret for not stopping his wife from going out that night.
There are so many pieces of this story that it’s hard to focus on any particular one for too long. For me, the most compelling parts are the details of the murders themselves. We assume, and it appears likely, that the killer met each of the women either at the Barrowlands Ballroom. From all reports, and even according to Jean’s statements, despite his Biblical statements, the man was charming. We know that he danced with Helen that night, and it’s not outside of the possibility to assume he did the same with Jemima and Patricia. He was described by many people as dressing sharply and having a military bearing to his posture.
The Barrowlands was known as a hot spot for singles to meet up and spend the night drinking and dancing together. In a news broadcast from a decade ago, several former police officers said that it was the kind of place where men and women went for what we might call a hook up today. It wasn’t uncommon for a married man or woman to slip their ring into their pocket and just be free for a night at the Barrowlands. In the case of the murders, only Helen was still married when she attended, and she had apparently gone along more to have fun and spend time with her sister than anything else. It was the late 1960’s, and Glasgow was like many other cities around the world with an exciting club scene smack dab in the middle of a sexual revolution.
Back in the United States, 1968 and 69 were the beginning years of the infamous Zodiac Killer. While America was fascinated and California was fearful of the unknown killer, Scotland had their own phantom killer in Bible John. Both of these cases remain unsolved, and that isn’t the end of their similarities. Both killers were seen by witnesses, both killers just stopped their crimes without any apparent reason or fanfare. Whereas Zodiac took pleasure in tormenting the police and media, Bible John remained silent. Many years after their crimes, DNA left behind by the killers was compared to prior suspects and, in both cases, the prime suspects failed to match the sample.
But Bible John was unlike anything Glasgow had seen before. His vicious attacks against lone women in the night shocked the community, and left women afraid to go out alone. And yet, they did. The scene at the Barrowlands continued to grow, and as quickly as Bible John had shaken the foundation, things began to settle and for many, the names of the victim faded into distant memory and Bible John became the thing of legend, a bogey man used to warn women about the dangers lingering outside of their doors.
Usually, when looking into a serial killer, Police try to narrow down the first murder. A killer is more likely to make a mistake in the beginning, he may be nervous, frightened, or overly excited. It’s also common theory in profiling that murderers tend to strike close to home, in an area they know well. Bible John struck around Glasgow, and by all accounts, had likely attended the Barrowlands Ballroom many times before, and possibly after, committing the murders.
It isn’t hard to imagine him building up his nerve, standing in the corner just watching. Slowly working his way out onto the dance floor and mingling. Spotting a woman who fit the bill of what he was looking for that night and deciding that this was the time. How many times did Bible John dance with a woman a few times, but not have the courage, or the opportunity, to act on his sick desires? We can’t know that, but it is highly unlikely that the murder of Patricia Docker was his first foray into turning his fantasies into reality.
The women shared things in common. Dark hair. Dark dresses. Stockings. I don’t know that this is so much of a clue into the type of woman Bible John hunted, or more a sign of the style of the time. The one piece of information which is hard to dismiss, but also hard to digest, is the fact that all three women were menstruating at the time they were murdered. Some people have speculated that this played a role in John’s selection process. Perhaps I am not the most observant man in the world, but I never know when a woman is menstruating or not, especially if we are talking about a perfect stranger I’ve just met. Although I do think this connection is odd, it could easily be a coincidence.
One thought I’ve had during the course of investigating this case is: if the menstruation played a role, is it possible that this was a requirement for Bible John to strike? Could he have walked home other women, who were not menstruating, and therefore he didn’t feel the need to brutalize them? The psychology of it is fascinating, if in fact the menstruation was a key to his selection process. The viciousness of the crimes suggests a hatred toward women, or at least a great deal of rage. We know that he earned his name because of talking about the Bible, paraphrasing lines from it, and that he referred to women as Adulterous. This is clearly a person who has a lot of issues with women, and wants to take his anger out on them.
Adulterous is an interesting term. I think it’s possible that Bible John was either married, or recently divorced, and had been cheated on. We know the Barrowlands was described as a place where whether or not you were married, that didn’t matter so much. Maybe Bible John had a wife, and she had cheated on him with someone she’d met at the Barrowlands. Or, perhaps, Bible John was seeking revenge for being wronged by a woman, and thought the Barrowlands was a good place to start. It’s almost impossible to get inside the mind of someone as sick and twisted as Bible John, but I think it’s important to try and get a glimpse into that darkness.
In February of 68, Patricia Docker became the first known victim. At the time, there was no belief that this was anything other than a random, albeit grisly crime. Patricia had planned to attend the Majestic Ballroom that night, and she may have done so, but ultimately ended up at the Barrowlands. She attended a 25’s and old singles night event, and likely met her killer there that evening. We will never know what made Patricia change her plans that night, but it was ultimately a fateful decision that would lead to her murder. Patricia was found the next morning, stripped nude, missing her purse. This is an important set of details because, in later crimes, the killer does not strip them nude, but he does take their purses. In the case of Patricia, he took her dress as well.
Killers often keep items from the victims as a keepsake, something to remind them of what they have done so they can relieve the crime. Patricia’s purse would serve this purpose, so what drove him to take the dress as well? Could there have been some kind of evidence left on the dress that he didn’t want the Police to find? Hard to say, but it’s also possible that maybe Patricia was the first victim, and in his adrenaline rush he felt compelled to take the dress.
Very little was gleaned from Patricia’s murder, and it wasn’t until 18 months later that Police would begin to notice the slightest hints of a pattern. So, where was Bible John for those 18 months? Some have speculated that he was in the military, and that it’s possible he committed the murders while home on leave. Perhaps, or maybe murdering Patricia satiated him for the time. They say the safest time to be near a killer is when they have recently killed. There is almost a refractory period, during which they find their bloodlust pacified and over time, the thirst begins to build back up, resulting in another crime.
Jemima McDonald was the next victim, murdered on August 15th, 1969. Though she shared similarities to Patricia in appearance, dress and menstruation, her crime scene was somewhat different. According to all reports, Jemima was beaten more severely than Patricia, and she was not found fully nude. Her purse was still missing, but this time the killer didn’t have that same compulsion to take her dress with him. Like Patricia, she was found not far from her home. Did Bible John get a kick out of killing these women when they had almost made it to safety, or did he spend the entire night trying to work up the courage only striking when he thought it was his last opportunity to do so?
Witnesses saw the man Jemima left the Barrowlands with, and reported his description to police. For the first time, we hear about this sandy, reddish haired man sharply dressed. Unfortunately, much like Patricia’s murder, very little else is known. Jemima and Patricia died in a similar fashion, and faced the same horrors before their ends.
Two months later, Bible John strikes for the last time. He murders Helen Puttock and leaves her body in the garden behind her mother’s flat, where she lived with her husband and two children. Helen is the only victim who shows signs of a struggle, and there is indication that she fought hard against Bible John. Grass stains on her feet and a deep bite mark. It is absolutely frightening that all of this took place just a hundred or so yards from where Helen’s husband George was sitting awake waiting for his wife to return home for the evening.
Out of Helen’s murder we get the eyewitness account of her sister Jean, with whom she’d spent the night, and who also rode in the taxi with Helen and Bible John that night. Jean gives the most detailed description to date, of Bible John. However, many people contradict her details and it opens things up more to debate. Jean had been drinking that night, and while she claims to have been no more than tipsy, Police believe it’s possible she was more drunk that she told them, and this makes her recollection of the evening and events suspect.
And that’s really all we have in terms of the murders themselves. It isn’t much to go on, and despite their efforts, police are unable to gather much else. A few witnesses report to have seen the man, but can’t remember much about him. Over 50,000 witness statements were taken, over 1,000 suspects recorded and yet, no answer have been found.
As always, though there are theories and suspects. I think it makes the most sense to examine each theory respectively. To see what pieces of the puzzle fit, and which ones don’t.
So the first suspect on the list is John McInnes. There is not a lot of information available about him. What we do know is that lead investigator Joe Beattie believed McInnes was a likely suspect. Eleven years after the murders, McInnes committed suicide. Forensics said that he did so by violently slashing at his upper arm, and suggested this could be indicative of psychopathy, but its so hard to know for sure. If someone is in the state of mind where they are willing to commit suicide, you can’t expect their behavior to be normal. McInnes was an ex-Scot’s guard, part of the British Army. People did refer to Bible John as wearing a military style watch, and having a military-like posture, but the comparrisons seem to end there.
I only managed to find one image of McInnes, and although there are slight similarities between his face and the composite of Bible John, as I’ve said in previous episodes, I often feel like composites sort of look a little like everyone and its more open to interpretation. No motive, nor evidence was ever presented as to why McInnes was a suspect. What we know for sure, is that DNA cleared him. The problem is, the DNA sample taken from Helen Puttock’s tights was kept in an evidence locker for years before being sampled. It is degraded, and to a degree, unreliable. This is the evidence being used to clear suspects, but can it be trusted? It’s much like, again, in the case of the Zodiac killer where theyhave done DNA comparrisons based on DNA retrieved from the back of stamps on his envelopes, but without knowing for sure if it was the killer who actually licked the stamps.
Either way, McInnes seems like a blind alley. I understand that Joe Beattie thought there was something more there, but considering his reputation, I think he’d have done a lot more to shake McInnes if he truly felt this was the likely suspect. Maybe he tried, and was unsuccessful. All we know for sure is that McInnes was never arrested, nor is there any known evidence to link him to the crimes. I wish I could say more about him, but the man is essentially a ghost. His family feels he was wrongly persecuted, and fully believes that the police picked the wrong man, and that their actions have resulted in damage to the family name. In regard to John McInnes, all we know for sure is that his DNA did not match the sample, and the police officially removed him from their suspect list. So, at this point, it seems extremely unlikely that John McInnes was the infamous Bible John.
So that brings us to the next theory: That Bible John was a police officer. The speculation that Bible John could have been a cop at the time of the killings revolves almost entirely around information delivered by one man: Paul Harrison. Although Harrison is a former officer himself, it’s hard to deem something true when it only comes from a single source. Harrison bases his information on conversations he allegedly had with both Joe Beattie and Helen’s sister Jean. There are no ways to corroborate any of this information, and the idea that Beattie was investigating this lead and was told to stop by his superiors doesn’t make sense to me either.
Typically, cops aren’t going to protect one of their own if they believe he is a rapist and murderer. Even if they were, this isn’t the kind of thing they do for just anyone. Now, had he been the son of a prominent political figure, or linked to someone else in power, I’d consider this theory a little more believable. I’m not saying that the killer wasn’t a cop, but I don’t think the information provided by Harrison is enough to believe. Harrison claims to know the name of the suspect, but didn’t publish it in his book in fear of possible legal action. He claims to have provided information to the police, and offered to give them everything he’s got, but received no answer.
According to Harrison, shortly after the murders stopped, the particular officer he believes to be the killer, was given retirement with a pension. Harrison claims the man was married, and had children. In today’s world where cops are often vilified, and some rightfully so, it isn’t too hard to imagine that one could go haywire and commit murders. What makes it less likely, at least for me, is that if Bible John was a cop, then someone should have recognized him. Especially when cops were investigating the case, questioning door to door and working undercover in the Barrowlands. Maybe he could have gotten by without being noticed, but then, why did he stop? If he knew that someone was looking at him as a suspect, and he had basically been given the all clear when the investigation was ordered to stop, what would drive him to quit committing these horrendous crimes? If anything, you’d think he’d see this as a free pass to do more.
I think it’s a much more likely scenario that Bible John impersonated a cop. Allegedly, bouncers at the Barrowlands, and Jean herself, claimed that Bible John showed them a warrant card. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, a warrant card is a small wallet-like book which when flipped open shows an officer’s credentials. They are carried by police, FBI and immigration officers, to name a few. I imagine that back in 1969, it probably wasn’t an extremely difficult task to counterfeit one of these. So, it’s entirely possible that Bible John had a fake set of credentials, and used these to get himself out of situations. It’s also probable that this was used a device to earn a person’s trust, and to get them to go places with you, or spend time with you, that they normally wouldn’t with a perfect stranger. To me, the concept that he impersonated a police officer just makes more sense than if he actually were a cop.
At the time, and even currently, many investigators believe that the entire concept of Bible John is a fabrication. They know the crimes happened, and they don’t call those into question at any point, but police have admitted that they began approaching the crimes as separate, and not part of a serial. Their theory is that the three women may have been murdered by up to three separate killers, and that all similarities between the murders were merely coincidental. That’s a lot of coincidence, but stranger things have happened.
The problem I have with this theory is that would essentially mean that two or three unrelated killers were operating out of the Barrowlands ballroom. Well, I guess they don’t have to be unrelated. It could have been two or three guys who were working together and committing these atrocities, but doesn’t that just seem incredibly unlikely? If these women have been murdered via different methods, or if their bodies had been found in different conditions, or in different locations, I think that it would certainly be probable that we were dealing with separate killers. The idea that two or three men could accompany, or stalk, a woman as she leaves the Barrowlands, wait until she gets close to home, then assault, rape, strangle and murder her completely randomly, but in almost the exact same way is just too much coincidence for me to believe. Factor in that you have three women who were menstruating and I think it’s highly unlikely you’re dealing with separate perpatrators.
I wouldn’t rule out the idea that you could be dealing with more than one guy, if they were working as a team. However, what about the case of Helen Puttock where her sister Jean knows only one man was in that taxi with her that night? Maybe one member of the team was more aggressive and wanted to try it alone, but this is a pretty thin theory. Also, if you’re dealing with two or more people, there’s a much higher probability that one is going to open his mouth, or get popped for something and roll over on the other. Interestingly, a situation involving more than one killer would certainly account for the variances in physical description, but that could just as easily be chalked up to the flaws of eyewitness accounts.
Employees at the Barrowlands gave their own description of who they believed Bible John to be, but there were never any reports of him being around another man, or being seen with friends. Sure, it’s possible that this just wasn’t noticed, but considering the amount of people who remembered him, or at least claimed to, I think a detail like that would have stuck out. Also, immediately following the murders, the publics senses were much more heightened. In order for the crimes to have stopped, both men, or the group of them, would have had to decided that they were done. I think it’s extremely unlikely that you’ve got a group or two or three violent, psychopathic killers running together. Especially when you consider that, in most cases, psychopaths and violent killers do not typically have friends. That’s part of their antisocial personality. Historically, we’ve seen examples of team killers, but they are rare. It’s always possible, but I just can’t personally put too much stock into the theory.
That leaves us with one final theory, the most popular theory: That Bible John was convicted rapist and murderer Peter Tobin. Tobin’s history has been fairly well covered. He has been convicted of three murders in total, though he is suspected in at least 13, and claims to have been responsible for 48. The earliest murder for which Tobin was found guilty was that of Vicky Hamilton in February of 1991. This would make Tobin 45 years old at the time he committed this murder. Many have speculated, and I agree, that it is extremely rare that a person would begin their career as a murder at such a late age. Usually, in their 40’s is the time when a lot of killers are peaking, or beginning to slow down. In Tobin’s case, it’s been suggested that this was the beginning.
People point out the similarities in Tobin’s murders, with them usually including rape. Tobin targeted younger women, but if it is indeed Bible John, then his MO changed over the years. Whereas Bible John strangled and beat his victims, Tobin typically stabbed them. Bible John left the bodies on display, to be found easily, and Tobin hid the bodies. It’s completely possible that as he aged, Tobin became more concerned about being caught and changed his approach. Maybe, also, as he got older, it was more difficult for him to physically control his victims and so he began using a knife. Completely speculative, but not improbable.
There are many factors which tie Tobin to the Bible John murders. Tobin lived in Glasgow during the times that the murders took place, and his met his first wife at the Barrowlands Ballroom, which suggests it was a location he had some familiarity with, and may have visited before. Several witnesses who had gotten a look at Bible John said that images of Peter Tobin from the late 1960’s bared an eerie resemblance. I have personally looked at this photos, and see side by side comparrisons, and yes, there are similarities, but I don’t see the resemblance as being that strong. I’ve said it before, though, composite drawings of suspects either look like no one, or they look like absolutely everyone. The composite drawing of Bible John isn’t exactly distinctive, and while it may be used to rule out people who look very different, I’d find it hard to identify anyone based purely on that image.
It’s a little different for witnesses who actually saw the killer, but even so, Tobin wasn’t considered a suspect until he was arrested in 2006. That is 37 years after the crimes were committed, and so, 37 years after any of the witnesses had seen the man. Eyewitness accounts are unhelpful within in hours of a crime, let alone 37 years later. Some have pointed to the fact that Bible John was described as having teeth which crossed over one another, and was missing a tooth on the upper right side of his mouth, and Tobin did have a tooth removed from the upper right side of his mouth in the late 1960s, but again, this evidence is fairly thin.
Interestingly, although Police investigated Tobin for a possible connection to the Bible John murders, there has never been any information publicly released as to what Tobin had to say in response to this questioning. I suppose it doesn’t matter much, as convicted murderers and rapists aren’t exactly known for their honesty.
Former wives of Tobin stated that on more than one occasion he had been physically violent with them, and that he took a particular interest in their menstrual cycles. Allegedly, when they were menstruating, he was more prone to be violent with them. On the other hand, Tobin’s first wife stated that during one of the murders he was with her, and couldn’t have committed the crime. It’s also been stated, by former cop and crime author Paul Harrison, that Tobin was in police custody and being questioned during the time of one of the other murders. I don’t believe that Tobin’s first wife would have any reason to lie for him. They had been divorced for 35 years by the time he was arrested, and if he had been abusive toward her, it’s highly unlikely she’d feel compelled to lie for him.
We do know that Tobin lived in Glasgow at the time, and that he moved away in 1969, shortly after marrying his first wife, and that 1969 is when the murders stopped. DNA testing was done, and Tobin did not match the sample which was collected from Helen Puttock’s tights. Police, though, stated that the sample had degraded over the years, and it was unlikely they would get a match. The question I have is, how many people were ruled out based on this possible contaminated and degraded DNA evidence, and why despite this result, is Tobin still considered the prime suspect?
I think it’s a fairly simple conclusion to leap to, when you’ve got a man convicted of similar crimes who was in the area at the time, but like with all cases, you can’t allow coincidence and a suspect’s history to cloud your judgement. Again, I refer to the case of the Zodiac Killer. Arthur Leigh Allen was considered the prime suspect by Inspector Toschi despite the fact that hand writing, physical description and DNA evidence did not much. He had a handful of coincidences, or strange similarities, but nothing solid to work on, and yet in the face of facts pointing away from Allen, Toschi remains steadfast that Allen was the killer.
Several police officers who worked the case have said that they have a great deal of respect for lead investigator Joe Beattie, but that he was too focused on the composite based on Jean’s description, and this over focus may have resulted in the dismissal of suspects prematurely. Couldn’t the same be said about focusing too much on Tobin? How many other possible suspects were ignored, or dismissed, because it seemed that they’d finally found their man in Tobin? Hard to know for sure, but at the time of this recording, Police have made no formal statements about Tobin being Bible John.
Personally, it’s hard to make a determination here, but I am very much a see it to believe it kind of man. I trust my gut, but it has to be supported by evidence, and although Tobin sounds like the type of man who could be guilty of these crimes, there just isn’t enough to link him to them. I would be the first one to admit I was wrong, if something new surfaced, but for now, I simply cannot agree with the theory that Peter Tobin was Bible John. I think he is by far the most likely suspect the police have ever come across, and I’m certain he has committed more crimes than we currently are aware of, but short of something more, all relation to Bible John is circumstantial at best.
Peter Tobin is a reprehensible monster of a man who will be imprisoned until the day he dies. Whether or not he is truly Bible John, we may never know. Regardless of that fact, he will never again see the light of day without bar interrupting his sightline. Whether or not he is responsible for murdering Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock, only time will tell. Until then, the identity of the mysterious Bible John remains unknown, and these case continue to be unresolved. Nearly fifty years later, no confirmed information has come to light, no one has come forward and there have been no matches on a DNA sample, which at this point in time has become useless.
The mystery of Bible John may never be solved and that’s a difficult reality to face, but some cases grow cold and never warm back up. That being said, no one expected that 37 years after the murders, a new suspect like Peter Tobin would pop up, so it’s always possible that something new will surface, or a connection will be made to break the case open. The Bible John murders are horrifying, and haunting, and yet you don’t hear much about them. Why is it that someone like the Zodiac killer is still talked about nearly fifty years later, but Bible John is a name which for most people carries no meaning? Someday, Bible John may not be remembered at all, but for the sake of their families, I hope that the names of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock will never be forgotten and someday they may receive the justice they deserve.