Angus Sinclair

Angus Sinclair
It took four decades and a law change to catch possibly Scotland’s worst serial killer...

“Edinburgh was a very old fashioned city in the seventies...there’s no mobile phones, there’s no CCTV, there’s none of the hi-tech gadgetry that now accompany our lives.”  Tom Wood

 

“... it wasn’t the fashion capital of the world, it was flares stripy tops that type of thing, the licencing laws hadn’t been liberalised.  Very much Edinburgh shut down after about 11 o’clock at night when the pubs emptied.

Frank Mulholland QC, Lord Advocate

 

And what happened after closing time one night in October 1977 would make one of those pubs infamous – The World’s End.

At the time, however, it was much like any of the other dozen or so tourist serving pubs on the High Street.

It was right on the corner of what was essentially the boundary of the Old Edinburgh and the New Edinburgh back in the middle ages and that’s why it was given the name, The World’s End. Allan Jones, Former Det. Superintendent, Lothian & Borders Police

It was a small, no-nonsense but yet still character-full boozer. Many young people were attracted by the dance floor just past the open bar area.

 

One evening, on 15 October 1977, four young girls – a mixture of school friends and work mates – were enjoying a night out in Edinburgh. But as teenagers, and just under the age limit to buy drink, they couldn’t always get served.

 

“...they’d have a drink, sometimes they wouldn’t...They were doing what we all used to do at that time - looking to see where the action was, where the parties were going to happen.   Remember, no mobile phones, no social networking.  So you were out and about in the pubs meeting people, meeting pals...what are we going to do next?...Whose going to have a party?...

They ended up in The World’s End.”

Tom Wood, Former Det. Chief Constable, Lothian & Borders Police

 

Christine Eadie and Helen Scott had known each other since they childhood, had been to school together and were the best of friends – both loved teen pop stars Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. But whereas Christine was a petite, pretty and vivacious party girl, Helen was slightly younger, and slightly quieter. 

 

“Helen was pretty much a country girl, even though...we lived in the city, she wasn’t in to the latest fashion...she was quite happy...just putting on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

She loved animals...children...she was absolutely passionate about, things that needed help more than anything else.”

Kevin Scott, Helen Scott’s brother

 

By about half past nine, the four girls had had a couple of drinks, but weren’t drunk. The pub was packed with perhaps over 250 people having a good time. Just in front of the front doors there was a seating area and that’s where the four of them sat.

Helen and Christine kept the places of the two other girls, Jackie and Toni, as they went to the toilet. That’s when two men in bell bottom trousers and small short tops approached. They talked to Helen and Christine.

When Jackie and Toni returned from the toilet they asked Helen and Christine if they wanted to go to a party to which they’d been invited. But Helen and Christine were now chatting with the two men and said no.

 

“Unfortunately that was probably one of the worst decisions they would have ever have made in their short lives.”

Allan Jones

 

At closing time, around quarter past ten, Helen and Christine exited the pub. A policeman on his beat that night remembered seeing Helen and Christine and two young men approach them. They all moved off down the high street and disappeared down the adjacent St Mary’s Street.

Helen and Christine were never seen alive again.

Crimes

As it was past closing time, and the girls still weren’t home, their families began to worry.

 

“I remember going to my bed normal time and then I woke up. My bedroom door was a jar and there were lights still on.  I got back up and went downstairs and my mother was just sitting in the lounge...She was waiting up for Helen to come back.”

Kevin Scott, Helen’s brother

 

Tragically, each of the girl’s mothers reassured themselves that their daughter is probably round the other’s house. The next day, when they realised this hadn’t happened, the panic really started. They went to Edinburgh Police Station and reported Helen and Christine as missing.

Just when their worst fears were forming, they heard truly terrifying news.


“We then heard on the radio...that a body had been found.”

Kevin Scott

 

At the same time as the parents reported their girl missing, dog walkers from the beach down in East Lothian found the body of Christine. She had been left on a long sweeping bend of a road. It would have allowed her killer time alone because he could have seen vehicle lights coming from far away.

Christine was lying on her back. She’d been stripped of her clothes and those clothes had been use to bind and strangle her.

 

“No attempt made to cover the body or conceal the body. It was just as if she’d been abandoned there, discarded there...just the callous disregard for a person, just dumped like that.”

Tom wood, Former Det. Chief Constable, Lothian & Borders Police

 

And then the radio brought news of another body. It was Helen. She was found about a mile up a country road in a field. She was wearing a coat; but nothing else.

Like Christine, she’d been strangled with her own clothing.

 

“He clearly treated both Helen and Christine just like, bits of meat.”

Kevin Scott

 

A police officer came to the Scott home and asked Helen’s father to identify her belongings. Whatever little hope the parents had that these bodies reported on the radio were not those of their little girls was, piece by piece, slowly removed.

 

“The fact that in safe quaint old Edinburgh two young girls could just be whisked off the street and then brutally murdered, it just stopped the clock, almost like a death of innocence.”

Tom wood

Investigation

At the post mortem, it was established that Christine was killed first, then Helen. But this was one of the few certainties detectives could establish.

 

“When you look back to 1977 it’s almost looking back to a dark age. Forensic science was very much still the same as it had been in the early part of the century...We didn’t really have that much more in terms of technique or knowledge than the Victorian detectives had who investigated the original Jack the Ripper murders… forensically, it was all about hairs, fibres and blood and not much else really.  We didn’t have any knowledge of DNA at that time. What we had was very, very good, Crime Scene Technicians.”

Tom wood, Former Det. Chief Constable, Lothian & Borders Police

 

These technicians would scrupulously select, seal and label the evidence from the bodies, from their clothes and from the crime scene. And one of the best forensic scientists back at the lab was Lester Knibb.

“We were involved in the examining of every item that had been recovered from the scene...every bit of clothing...the ligatures and vaginal swabs and other swabs from parts of the body were all submitted...

Our initial job was to examine the clothing and recover any trace evidence that might be present on it, particularly fibres that might have been transferred during the initial assault...in other words the last things that they might have been touching while they were wearing these items.”

 

“We had in these forensic samples a kind of, a code, a kind of a Rosetta Stone, if you like...we knew there was something very important but we just couldn’t read it. We didn’t have the knowledge, we didn’t have the science to decipher it, yet.”

Tom Wood

 

In a pre-computer age, where murders were still recorded on cards, it was this almost prescient preservation of evidence that would be the killer’s undoing.

 

But until forensic science caught up with the evidence, the police were reduced to trying to trace everyone who had been in the World’s End pub. To help those whose memories might have been affected by alcohol, it was decided to risk using an identikit picture.

“Identikit pictures are dangerous because if the victim’s recollection of someone they’ve seen is inaccurate you end up looking for someone who doesn’t exist.”

Tom Wood

This lead to hundreds of thousands of man-hours as the police followed up thousands of leads. But after the biggest manhunt in Scottish police history, the police had nothing. As former Detective Chief Constable, Tom Wood put it;

“...the enquiry didn’t close down. It closed itself down because we didn’t have any other leads.”

 

Throughout the following decades new leads were followed up and statements rechecked but all with the same lack of results.

 

Breakthrough

“We always knew with fair certainty that two men had been involved.  First of all two men had been seen with Helen and Christine in the pub.  Secondly killing these two young, fit girls was not a job that one person could undertake” Tom Wood

 

But forensic scientist Lester Knibb couldn’t find the evidence to prove that theory. The development of DNA profiling only seemed to scientifically suggest what common sense said couldn’t have happened – that only one man was able to separately rape and strangle two young women. 

 

“The very early DNA profiles we got were for one man and of course when we got the profiles of that one man...I remember sitting in the office...sitting back thinking, only a matter of time you know...because (at) that time the DNA databases were starting to be produced throughout the world.”

Tom Wood, Former Det. Chief Constable, Lothian & Borders Police

 

But even the one profile they had, didn’t match. It seemed inconceivable given the brutal nature of the crimes that person hadn’t offended before.

 

It was 2004 before the next breakthrough. New technology allowed the profiling of the Y chromosome. This meant they could now match profiles of men who were related to each other, such as fathers, sons, brothers and uncles.

But in order to extract this profile, they would require a piece of evidence to have been kept from the crime scene for 27 years.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Lester Knibb had done.

A small square of material from Helen Scott’s coat was still sealed in the freezer in the back of his lab.

“So I took a small extract from some of the original staining.  I tested them for the enzyme acid phosphatase, which is something which is present in high concentration in semen and that gave a positive result.”

 

Armed with this, detectives were able to begin searching for the Y chromosome. But it also revealed what detectives had suspected all along: The presence of another killer.

 

“...there were two male DNA samples on that piece of coat that had been kept all those years.  One that we’d known about and one that was so faint that only modern technology would bring to the fore.”

Allan Jones, Former Det. Superintendent, Lothian & Borders Police

 

When the second sample was put into the database, a name came back...

Angus Robertson Sinclair. 

Arrest

When detectives tracked down Angus Sinclair there was no need to physically arrest him. He was already in prison serving a life sentence since 1982 after admitting eleven counts of raping young girls between the ages of six and fourteen. 

And he’d also served time for murder – more than once.

In 2001, he’d finally been convicted of the 1978 murder of 17-year-old Mary Gallagher. He’d strangled her with her own clothing before raping her.

However, a witness to her abduction in 1978 meant police back then had been close to identifying a suspect at the time. Some believe this close shave meant he turned his attentions to easier victims, which is why he started targeting children.

 

Angus Sinclair had started young.

He was just fifteen when he killed his first victim.

Catherine Reehill was just ten years old when he lured her back to his house.

Once inside, he immediately sexually assaulted her. Then he strangled her.

The judge at the time warned that from reading Sinclair’s Psychiatric Reports, it was clear Sinclair would always be a danger to women.

But as he was only a minor at the time, he receives just ten years and as it’s not an adult conviction, it was soon effectively lost within the system.

 

As detectives continued questioning Sinclair, scientists continued to pursue evidence of the second killer. It was noticed that male relatives of Sinclair’s wife shared common characteristics with the suspected second killer.

After eliminating all but one of her brothers, only one remained. His name was Gordon Hamilton.

But, he was now dead.

And his remains had been cremated.

And the materials that might have identified him had since been destroyed.

 

Despite all of those seemingly impossible obstacles, forensics once again came to the rescue.

Hamilton had done some work as a handyman in a house in the mid-nineties. He’d fitted cornicing and, almost unbelievably, ten years on, when scientists removed his handiwork, they found his DNA there.

And it matched their sample.

 

“...that was the final piece of the jigsaw for the whole puzzle.” 

Allan Jones, Former Det. Superintendent, Lothian & Borders Police

 

But could Hamilton and Sinclair be behind other unsolved crimes? Operation Trinity was formed to find out.

 

They found that in 1977 Angus had been earning good money and had purchased a brand new Toyota caravanette. He said it was to go fishing. Instead, it meant that he and his brother in law, Hamilton, could serial kill across Scotland. Some even believe Sinclair could be Scotland’s worst serial killer.

Similarities in the murders lead police to suspect that from 1977 to 1980, Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley and Agnes Cooney were all victims of Sinclair and Hamilton.

They had all been bound and gagged with their own clothing.

But it was just that, a suspicion. All the forensic evidence that could prove their theory was gone.

And with Hamilton dead, no trial could take place to prove he was the killer.

 

Only Angus Sinclair could help and his co-operation was highly unlikely.

Detective Chief Constable Tom Wood watched him in Peterhead Prison as hour after hour, Sinclair repeated, ‘No comment.’

“Sinclair was a classic organised professional criminal, hard as nails, been in prison most of his life...You got no response from him whatsoever...the absolute epitome of a professional criminal.”

 

CCTV recordings of those interviews show Sinclair sitting impassively, often totally silently.

 

So if Sinclair wouldn’t admit his guilt, maybe a jury could be persuaded of it.

 

First Trial

As revolting as the collapse of Sinclair’s trial appeared to relatives of his victims, there was yet still one more injustice to realise – that of double jeopardy.

“...how could such a strong case against such a person who was so obviously guilty fail like that?  But of course under double jeopardy at that time, he could not be retried and that was the matter finished.”

But, it was anything but.

A legal principle that had remained the same for nearly eight centuries was about to be changed.

 

“The thing about double jeopardy, it’s a very important principle...The principle of finality.  If you stand trial for a crime and you’re acquitted that is the end of proceedings against you. 

But there was a view which was growing...that really that didn’t meet modern science and that was regarded as hugely unfair and unjust.”

 Frank Mulholland QC, Lord Advocate

 

And in 2011 the Double Jeopardy Scotland Act was passed and it addressed that very injustice.

It meant a new trial could happen if new and compelling evidence was found.

 

In the case of Sinclair, it was a new forensic device called Crime Light. It showed Sinclair’s and Hamilton’s DNA on the folds of the ligatures indicating that far from the girls playing along – they had been tied up.

And this, together with forensic soil analysis, proved Helen was still alive when she entered the field where her body was found. This disproved Sinclair’s version of having consensual sex with her in a different location.

 

Sinclair’s second trial began on 13 October 2014 at the High Court in Livingstone, West Lothian. Sinclair’s was the first trial to be heard under the new Double Jeopardy law.

 

Again, Sinclair decides to talk, but this time, his version of events doesn’t help him – they damn him.

This time he says he and his brother-in-law took the girls to a nearby park and in the back of his van, they all had consensual sex.

Frank Mulholland, QC then exposed the truth in this lie.

 

“I asked him, ‘How did you know the girls were consenting?”...And he gave a most chilling answer, he said, “They didn’t say no.”...I said, “Well what kind of conversation did you have?” 

“None whatsoever.” 

It was quite clear to me that what he was describing in reality was a rape, a double rape, by him and his brother in law.”

The deceased Gordon Hamilton could not stand trial.

Angus Sinclair, however, was found guilty.

The judge in his trial was damning in his sentencing of Sinclair and of his treatment of his Helen and Christine.

“Whatever dreams they had they turned in to nightmares shortly after they left the World’s End pub...

The girls were subjected to an ordeal beyond comprehension and then left carrion, exposed for all to see, with no dignity, even in death.

 

Angus Sinclair was sentenced to 37 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed down in a Scottish Court.

 

“When I heard the length of the sentence I do recall there was a flinch: thirty-seven years; a year for every year that Christine’s family, my family have waited for justice and for Helen and Christine. It was right.”

Kevin Scott, Helen’s brother

 

Second Trial

As revolting as the collapse of Sinclair’s trial appeared to relatives of his victims, there was yet still one more injustice to realise – that of double jeopardy.

“...how could such a strong case against such a person who was so obviously guilty fail like that?  But of course under double jeopardy at that time, he could not be retried and that was the matter finished.”

But, it was anything but.

A legal principle that had remained the same for nearly eight centuries was about to be changed.

 

“The thing about double jeopardy, it’s a very important principle...The principle of finality.  If you stand trial for a crime and you’re acquitted that is the end of proceedings against you. 

But there was a view which was growing...that really that didn’t meet modern science and that was regarded as hugely unfair and unjust.”

 Frank Mulholland QC, Lord Advocate

 

And in 2011 the Double Jeopardy Scotland Act was passed and it addressed that very injustice.

It meant a new trial could happen if new and compelling evidence was found.

 

In the case of Sinclair, it was a new forensic device called Crime Light. It showed Sinclair’s and Hamilton’s DNA on the folds of the ligatures indicating that far from the girls playing along – they had been tied up.

And this, together with forensic soil analysis, proved Helen was still alive when she entered the field where her body was found. This disproved Sinclair’s version of having consensual sex with her in a different location.

 

Sinclair’s second trial began on 13 October 2014 at the High Court in Livingstone, West Lothian. Sinclair’s was the first trial to be heard under the new Double Jeopardy law.

 

Again, Sinclair decides to talk, but this time, his version of events doesn’t help him – they damn him.

This time he says he and his brother-in-law took the girls to a nearby park and in the back of his van, they all had consensual sex.

Frank Mulholland, QC then exposed the truth in this lie.

 

“I asked him, ‘How did you know the girls were consenting?”...And he gave a most chilling answer, he said, “They didn’t say no.”...I said, “Well what kind of conversation did you have?” 

“None whatsoever.” 

It was quite clear to me that what he was describing in reality was a rape, a double rape, by him and his brother in law.”

The deceased Gordon Hamilton could not stand trial.

Angus Sinclair, however, was found guilty.

The judge in his trial was damning in his sentencing of Sinclair and of his treatment of his Helen and Christine.

“Whatever dreams they had they turned in to nightmares shortly after they left the World’s End pub...

The girls were subjected to an ordeal beyond comprehension and then left carrion, exposed for all to see, with no dignity, even in death.

 

Angus Sinclair was sentenced to 37 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed down in a Scottish Court.

 

“When I heard the length of the sentence I do recall there was a flinch: thirty-seven years; a year for every year that Christine’s family, my family have waited for justice and for Helen and Christine. It was right.”

Kevin Scott, Helen’s brother