“You can have various aspects to a psychopathic personality; indifference to people’s feelings, manipulating, lying… What is really fascinating about Manuel is he ticks every box.”
-Dr Richard Goldberg, Reader in Law, Aberdeen University
Between 1956 and 1958 Peter Manuel submits his victims to an orgy of violence, making him Scotland's most notorious serial killer.
The first of Manuel’s victims is 17-year-old Anne Kneilands. On 2 January 1956, under the cover of darkness, Manuel stalks the teenager across a golf course in East Kilbride, near to where he is working for the gas board. He rapes Anne, and attacks her with an iron bar. Police report his victim has been the subject of a ferocious sexual attack and she has been horribly beaten about the head.
Because he is a known sex offender, Lanarkshire police question Manuel about Anne’s murder. His father, Samuel, says Peter was with him at the time the crime was committed. Faced with this alibi and no other evidence, the case against Manuel is dropped.
This leaves Manuel free to kill again. On 17 September 1956, he breaks into the home of Marion Watt and her daughter Vivienne, in the middleclass Glasgow district of High Burnside. Margaret’s sister Marion is also staying for a visit. Manuel shoots the three women in their beds, sexually assaulting 16-year-old Vivienne. For a while suspicion falls on Marion’s husband, William, who is away on a fishing trip at the time of the killings.
Police arrest William Watts, a successful local businessman, and charge him with the murder of his own family.
He spends two months in jail before the case is dropped through lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Manuel finds himself locked up at Barlinnie Prison after being convicted of breaking into another house.
Manuel resumes his killing spree when he is released from prison at the end of November 1957.
The Spree Continues
His fifth victim is believed to be Northumbrian taxi driver Sydney Dunn who is shot on 8 December 1957. Piecing together information concerning Manuel’s movements after his execution, police determine that he was on a job hunt in the North East at the time of Dunn’s murder. Although this evidence is not conclusive, it links him to the killing.
Isabelle Cooke is the next to die. The teenager is on her way to a dance and has arranged to meet up with her boyfriend, Douglas Brydon, at a bus stop near her Glasgow home. But she never arrives. Police mount a hunt, but only find pieces of Isabelle’s clothing which suggest she may have been attacked. Isabelle’s body is not discovered until after Manuel is arrested for his other crimes. He confesses to her murder and leads police to the remote spot where he has disposed of her body. She has been strangled with her own underwear.
Early on the morning of New Year’s Day 1958, Manuel breaks into the home of the Smart family, in Uddingston, a suburb of Glasgow. Mr and Mrs Smart and their 11-year-old son Michael are all asleep in their beds when Manuel shoots them in the head. Having committed the murders, Manuel spends some time in the Smart’s home, going back over several days, feeding their cat and eating the family’s food.
The murders of the Smart family will prove the beginning of the end for Manuel.