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Peter Manuel

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Mad or Bad?

“A man may be very bad without being mad.” -Lord Cameron talking about the mental state of Peter Manuel: Serial Killer, Hector Macleod & Malcolm McLeod
12 May 1958, Glasgow’s High Court: 31-year-old Peter Manuel is on trial charged with eight murders and if found guilty, he faces the death penalty.  The crowd which has queued around the block for a seat in the public gallery expects a spectacle, and they are not disappointed.
Manuel sacks his lawyers and conducts his own defence. He revels in being the centre of attention and believes himself to be clever enough to make the jury believe in his innocence. Having confessed to the murders both to the police and in letters, in court the unpredictable Manuel retracts his statements, saying that he only confessed so that the police would leave his family alone.
The judge rejects his efforts to have them withdrawn and rules they can be admitted into evidence.
The court hears evidence from the police about the banknotes belonging to Peter Smart which Manuel spent in a Glasgow bar in the days after the murders took place. The jury also hears about Manuel’s damning confessions and previous criminal convictions. In his defence, Manuel claims that he had known the Smart family for years and that Peter Smart had asked him to get him a gun. He said he had found the bodies and thought it looked like a case of murder suicide. And as far as the murder of Isabelle Cooke was concerned, he had been at the cinema that night.

A TASTE OF HIS OWN MEDICINE

The court hears evidence from the police about the banknotes belonging to Peter Smart which Manuel spent in a Glasgow bar in the days after the murders took place. The jury also hears about Manuel’s damning confessions and previous criminal convictions. In his defence, Manuel claims that he had known the Smart family for years and that Peter Smart had asked him to get him a gun. He said he had found the bodies and thought it looked like a case of murder suicide. And as far as the murder of Isabelle Cooke was concerned, he had been at the cinema that night.
The jury are not taken in by Manuel’s defence and after a trial lasting twelve days it takes less than two and a half hours for them to return with guilty verdicts on all seven murder charges. Disappointingly for Anne Kneilands’ family, the judge had ruled that the jury should not find Manuel guilty in her case, due to lack of evidence.
Manuel is sentenced to hang. During the days leading up to his execution the arrogant man who conducted his own defence is replaced by a shambling mess, who hardly speaks to his guards.
In one last attempt to escape the hangman’s noose Manuel is trying to convince the authorities that he is not sane, a charge he had up until then vehemently denied. But Manuel's mother sees through his pretence, losing her temper and slapping him across the face during a visit, shouting "You can't fool me!"
On 11 July 1958, Manuel is hanged. His last words are reported as: "Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly”. He is buried in an unmarked grave within the grounds of Barlinnie prison.