a man of no recognisable humanity
Crown Office verdict on Peter Tobin
After he raped and killed, Peter Tobin sometimes sought sanctuary in religious groups. With a killing history that stretched from Glasgow to Brighton, could police have caught not only the Scottish 1960s ‘Bible John’ serial killer but also the English 1980 child murderer of the ‘Babes in the Woods’? And with 1,400 separate outstanding lines of inquiry for the police still to follow, could Peter Tobin be the UK’s most prolific sexual serial killer?
Peter Britton Tobin was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, an area South West of Glasgow. He was one of eight children, with four brothers and three sisters. By the age of seven, a disruptive nature sees him sent to reform school and a minor conviction later lands him in a young offender’s institution. But he grows into smart and handsome man and finding work as a chef in Glasgow, he spends his weekends dancing, frequenting a club called, ‘The Barrowlands’. It was there that aged 22, he met his first wife, Margaret Mountney, just 17. At first, he’s a true romantic, taking her for long drives along the banks of Loch Lomond, and introducing her to his polite, but now frail and elderly parents.
Everything changes when they move into their East Glasgow flat. Their union is marked by repeated rapes, beatings and house arrest. Tobin cuts the throat of his wife’s puppy, ‘just to stop it yelping’, and when she complains, he beats and rapes her at knifepoint. He later uses the knife inside her, cutting her so deeply that neighbours are alerted when she bleeds through the ceiling. Their intervention saves her life but her internal injuries are so severe that she will never have children.
Margaret’s one small consolation is that she hasn’t suffered the same fate as others who frequented clubs like ‘The Barrowlands.’ During the dying days of the sixties, a serial killer, nicknamed ‘Bible John’ used this club as his hunting ground to stalk and slay three women. The nickname came from a taxi driver who drove the killer with his last victim in 1969 and remembered the man quoting from the Bible. Tobin is familiar enough with the Bible that he’s able to ingratiate himself with the clergy, finding both work and cover with church groups throughout his life.
In 1969, the couple move down to Brighton but the marriage ends when he’s jailed for forgery and burglary. The ‘Bible John’ killings end shortly before his imprisonment in Barlinnie prison in September 1971. On his release in October 1972, he moves to Brighton, his base for the next 20 years. Within three weeks, he’s married to his second wife, Sylvia. It’s reported that the couple had two children but one died of breathing difficulties. Sylvia manages to escape to a refuge after one session too many of simulated strangling with Tobin, his preferred method of sexual arousal.Tobin disappears from official view for most of the 80s though police now suspect that he was part of a biker gang called the Rising Sun.
In 1989, he marries his third and final wife, Cathy Wilson. She’s 16, nearly half his age. They already have a son, Daniel. Predictably, Tobin is at first charming. But he soon reveals his true character. He uses their son to control her, threatening to throw Daniel down the stairs if she leaves. Trapped, Cathy is forced to watch as he brings prostitutes home and abuses them. He picks particularly thin and emaciated women, probably because they look pre-pubescent. He excites himself by choking and releasing them. In March 1990, Cathy finally manages to escape the house. Just 11 months later, Tobin would dig a grave in their garden.
In 1993, after a move to the Hampshire town of Havant in the South of England, Tobin uses his son as bait to lure two 14 year old girls to his flat on the pretext of babysitting. Once inside, he threatens them with a knife and forces them to ingest a drug, anatryptaline, an antidepressant that can cause drowsiness and dizziness. He then sexually assaults one and buggers the other. After being interrupted by his son, he turns on the gas, and taking his son with him, he leaves them to die. Miraculously, five hours later, one of them wakes. Despite having her wrists and ankles tied, she manages to ring the police.
Tobin evades capture by changing his name to Peter Wilson and hiding in a religious community called the Jesus Fellowship. But his callous crime is highlighted on the BBC programme, ‘Crimewatch’, along with his photo. His new community report him and he’s arrested. In 1994, Winchester Crown Court hears how he treated the girls as “cruelly as a cat would treat a mouse”. He pleads guilty and is sentenced to 14 years in jail.
The authorities believe they have dealt with and detained a sex offender. They have no idea that they have let slip through the system, a serial killer who has killed and will kill again.In May 2004, he’s released and moves to Paisley, Scotland, near to where he grew up. Being a registered sex offender, he avoids detection by changing his name. He finds work at a church. It is here that he will commit one last savage crime. It’s the discovery of this that will reveal his true history of violence.
Born 27 August 1946The Victims 10 February 1991 - Vicky Hamilton, 154 August 1991 - Dinah McNicol, 18 24 September 2006 - Angelika Kluk, 23Arrested 1 October 2006Convicted 4 May 2007 - Angelika Kluk 2 December 2008 – Vicky Hamilton 16 December 2009 – Dinah McNicol
The Bible John Mystery
The Bible John Mystery
In the 1960’s three Glasgow women were murdered, the so called ‘Bible John’ killings. The crimes remain unsolved. Recently police arrested the man behind three similar murders. Does he hold the key to the mystery? Is Peter Tobin Bible John?
They were all strangled, they were all beaten and they were all menstruating. It didn’t take police long to link the murders. They had a serial killer on their hands.
The prime suspect was the last man seen alive with the third victim, Helen Puttock. He’d shared a taxi with Helen and her sister Jeannie just before Helen was murdered. Jeannie recalled him quoting from the Bible and described him as 6 foot tall with sandy hair. He also said his name was John.
Soon the papers called this mystery murderer ‘Bible John’ and the biggest manhunt in Scottish criminal history ensued. Police interviewed over 5000 men and collected 50,000 statements, but they never found their man.
The killings suddenly stopped in 1969, and it seemed like the mystery would never be solved.
But 37 years later another murder in Glasgow brought back chilling memories. The body of young Polish student Angelika Kluk was found hidden beneath church floorboards right in the middle of Bible John territory. With the help of DNA profiling her killer was found. His name – Peter Tobin.
Soon Tobin was linked to two other murders, those of Dinah McNicoll and Vicky Hamilton who’d both been missing since 1991. These killings also bore haunting similarities to the Bible John murders. Peter Tobin was in Glasgow around the time of the Bible John murders. Does he hold the key to a mystery that has spanned four decades?
David Hayman looks at this fascinating case – and reveals the arguments for and against Peter Tobin being the man behind three gruesome murders which have achieved mythical status.
David also does something that’s never been done before. A graphic artist has regressed a recent photo of Tobin to what he would have looked like in the late 60’s, the time of Bible John. Will the age regression image resemble the artist’s impression of Bible John from eye witness accounts?
Is Peter Tobin Bible John?
Cracking the case
In the case of Peter Tobin, his sentencing to life in jail is far from the end of the story. The police have set up Operation Anagram to pursue the outstanding 14,000 separate lines of inquiry. It is the largest investigation of its kind ever set up in the UK. While Tobin will still not talk to the authorities, it’s been reported that he boasted to an inmate that he was responsible for nearly 50 killings.The BBC’s Crimewatch put out a new appeal for information on Tobin in December 2009 and updated again in January 2010. They are appealing both for specific information and with help identifying the unclaimed mementos, such as jewellery, that were in Tobin’s possession. Does each one of these unclaimed rings, watches and necklaces represent yet another victim of Tobin? Unsolved CasesPeter Tobin is suspected to be involved in the following murders:Barbara Mayo, 24, a teacher who left her London home in October 1970 to hitchhike north. Six days later, her raped and strangled body was found in a wood near Chesterfield. The murder sparked one of the then biggest UK manhunts but no one was ever caught. Soon after Tobin was jailed, police contacted one of Mayo’s surviving sisters.Then there is law student Pamela Exall, 22, who disappeared in 1974 while holidaying in Norfolk. Norfolk was Tobin’s usual destination for his holidays.Jessie Earl, 22, rang her parents to say she would soon visit but who instead went missing from her place in the seaside town, Eastbourne, East Sussex, in 1980. Tobin lived 25 miles from her. Her bones and bra were found nine years later and forensics indicated that the bra had been used to tie her wrists. (The same method used in the killing of Dinah McNicol.) After Tobin was sentenced for his second murder, police visited her surviving parents and took oral swabs and some of her personal items for DNA matching.The same year as Jessie Earl went missing, 1980, Patsy Morris, 14, was strangled on Hounslow Heat, West London.Then there is the notorious ‘Babes in the Woods’ killings of Karen Hadaway, 10, and Nicola Fellows, 9, in Brighton in 1986. The young girls were found sexually assaulted and strangled in Wild Park. However, Nicola’s uncle, a retired police officer is sceptical that there’s a connection.Another Eastbourne connection is the missing Louise Kay. She was 18 when she disappeared in June 1988. She’d last been seen driving her father’s Ford Fiesta. Police believe that Tobin was working at a nearby hotel at the time.
'Bible John’But it’s thought that Peter Tobin’s killing spree could stretch back to the late 1960s. When a retired detective superintendent, Joe Jackson, saw Tobin’s photograph, heard his MO, and made the religious link over the killing of the Angelika Kluk, he remembered the suspect he had been after as a detective constable.In the dying days of the sixties, over a 20 month period, three women were picked up from dance halls. For each woman, it was their last ever Saturday night.They were Patricia Docker, 25, Jemima McDonald, 32, and Helen Puttock, 29. It is their ages that some believe destroy the connection because all of Tobin’s victims have since been much younger. But Joe Jackson believes that the photo-fit of ‘Bible John’ bears a striking resemblance to photographs of Tobin from that time. Some have even speculated that the fact that all three women were menstruating and might have refused sex as being the stressor that caused him to start killing.But with no help from Peter Tobin, the true extent of his crimes may never be known. Estimates vary but even conservative estimates believe he is responsible for at least twelve deaths.If the thrice married father knows, he’s not telling."The problem with psychopaths is that they tend to be stuck at the cognitive and psychological level of three or four-year– olds. They don't mature past that egocentric, self-centred, narcissistic, all-powerful stage when they don't feel they are to blame for anything."Ian Stephen(Scottish profiler who inspired TV show ‘Cracker’, quoted in Scotland on Sunday)
Unlike in his 1994 court appearance for child rape, Tobin would not admit his guilt. This meant that three families were put through the anxiety and cold legal ordeal of three trials.In May 2007 at Edinburgh High Court, he was sentenced to life with a minimum of 21 years for the rape and murder of Angelika Kluk. He showed no remorse during the trial. But as he was led from the court, there was a glimpse of the rage inside him when he kicked out at photographers.
By 2008, he sat grey haired and hunched, dwarfed by his prison guards as he was tried for the abduction, rape and murder of Vicky Hamilton at Dundee High Court. Only one person was called as a witness, Caroline Dixon, a former girlfriend. She visibly shook in the presence of Tobin and as her legs buckled, she was invited to sit. The forensic evidence was damning, including a fragment of Vicky’s skin on the knife he hid in his loft at his Bathgate house. There were also the traces of anatryptaline, his tell-tale rape drug of choice. Finally, there were four clear fingerprint matches found inside the bag that held the dissected upper torso of Vicky.It took the jury less than two and half hours to find him guilty after a month long trial.Vicky’s father shouted ‘rot in hell’. While the judge was unable to grant this wish, he made sure that Tobin would most likely die in a maximum security jail. Tobin would be 92 before he was eligible for release.
In 2009, and for the third time in three years, Peter Tobin was found guilty of murder.This time it took the jury just 13 minutes to unanimously find him guilty of murdering Dinah McNicol. Indeed, the whole trial at Chelmsford Crown Court lasted a mere three days because Tobin’s defence offered no evidence. (Dinah’s father postponed heart surgery to attend the trial only for it to be suspended because Tobin said he was ill.)A relative of one of his victims held up a note at his trial saying ‘May all your dreams be nightmares.” But Peter Tobin appears incapable of the remorse or regret necessary to trouble whatever little conscience he possesses. But Ian McNicol, Dinah’s 70 year old father, a widower, at least nodded when asked if his nightmare was over. He later took his daughter’s ashes to the same Essex beach where he had scattered those of his wife.
Tobin, who is now elderly, has been the victim of an attack in prison by another younger sexual predator.
Four days after the disappearance of Angelika, the police release a picture of ‘Pat McLaughlin’. Two days later, the police find her remains. They quickly realise it’s the work of a serial killer. The mutilated corpse had been disposed of using an established methodology.On 1 October 2006, Tobin, who suffers from a genuine heart complaint, gives another false name to staff at the National Neurology Hospital in Queen’s Square, London. He hopes the name change and distance will help him escape detection. It in fact hastens his end. Tobin is arrested after a staff member recognises him from a police alert. Six days later, he’s charged with the murder of Angelika Kluk.
Psychologists think it unlikely that Tobin started killing so late and believe there will be more bodies. The fact that Tobin lived just a mile from the Bathgate bus stop where Vicky Hamilton disappeared leads detectives to investigate and uncover his past killings. But the search of his properties turns up not one, but two bodies. In July 2007 police confront Tobin with damning DNA evidence linking him to Vicky Hamilton murder, but he insists that he’s never met her and refuse to help officers find her body. From this point on, he refuses to co-operate in any way with the authorities.Peter Tobin frequented over 20 different UK locations, constantly changing jobs (everything from swimming instructor to carpenter), and constantly changing names. At last count, the police have found 20 aliases. He lived in at least nine different properties since his 20s and was linked to nearly 40 mobile telephone Sim cards. How many lives he touched and destroyed remains to be seen.
Vicky HamiltonIt’s the snowy evening of February 10, 1991. 15 year old Scottish schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton has just finished a happy weekend with her sister, Sharon. Vicky had been worried about visiting Sharon as it was the first time she’d done the two bus journey to her on her own. Vicky Hamilton is last seen at the changeover bus stop in Bathgate town centre eating a bag of chips. She was waiting for the second bus to take her home to Redding, near Falkirk.It’s believed that Tobin somehow took advantage of her nervousness and persuaded her away from the safety of a public centre. He drugs, binds and gags her. After sexually assaulting her, he then strangles the schoolgirl. After he’s finished, he cuts her body in two at the waist with a 10 inch knife. He stashes the knife in the loft of his Bathgate home, 11 Robertson Avenue. Unusually, for a serial killer who liked his mementos, he then disposes of her personal belongings. He leaves her purse near Edinburgh’s railway station in the hope that police think she had run away from home. (Perhaps unknown to him, his son Daniel had plays with the purse, and puts it in his mouth. This leaves crucial DNA that would later tie the father to the victim.) Tobin then places Vicky’s body in layers of plastic bin bags, ‘like a Russian doll’. He moves her one month later to the garden of his new house in Margate, Kent, where he buries her. Her body would lie there for 17 years.
Dinah McNicolOn 4 August 1991, Chelmsford County High School student Dinah McNicol, leaves a summer music festival in Liphook, Hampshire. The 18 year old went there to celebrate finishing her A-Levels. She leaves with a friend, David Tremlett, who she’d met at the festival, and they decide to hitch-hike back home along the A3 together.Tobin had been visiting his son in Portsmouth and sees them thumbing for a lift on his return journey. He picks them up. David is dropped off at Junction 8 of the M25, near Reigate. Dinah is never seen again.Tobin drugs her and drives her back to his Margate house at 50 Irvine Drive. Tobin ties her wrists behind her and ties up her ankles using her own headscarf and leggings. It’s probable that he rapes her. Certainly, at some point, he makes her give him the pin number to her credit card. He then places a knotted gag in her mouth and strangles her. He buries her in the garden in Margate, Kent, next to Vicky Hamilton. Both bodies are later found to have traces of anatryptaline, a drug that Tobin had been prescribed for his depression.When he was digging the holes to bury the bodies, neighbours asked him what he was doing and he had said he was digging a sand pit for his son. Afterwards, when neighbours asked where the sandpit was, Tobin replied that social services had deemed it unsafe and so he’d filled it in.As if he had not taken enough from Dinah, he then uses her card to withdraw over £2,000 from her bank account. The reason an 18 year old had this amount of money in her account was because it was compensation money paid to Dinah for the killing of her mother in a road accident.It was later revealed that she had passed all four of her A-Levels.Angelika KlukBy 2006, Tobin has killed at least twice but his main conviction is for child rape. As a registered sex offender, he must inform the police of his movements. In October 2005, he fails to report and goes off their radar.By September 2006, Tobin, using the name Pat McLaughlin, has found work as an odd-job/handyman at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the Anderston area of Glasgow. Nothing is asked about his past as there is an ‘open door policy’ for the homeless and those in need of help. Staying in another one of the rooms is 23 year old Polish student, Angelika Kluk. This slim hard working student is taking a break from her language studies at Gdansk University and is spending her working holiday helping out at the parish. (The church had helped her before when she had been made homeless.) She helps out with some of Pat’s work and Pat refers to her as his ‘little apprentice’.On 24 September, at around 2pm, she’s seen chatting with ‘Pat’ in the garage as they prepare to paint a shed. She is never seen alive again.Tobin was nearly a pensioner when he tied her hands and raped her. He then beat her round the head repeatedly, probably with a piece of wood. He finished by stabbing her to death. There were 16 stab wounds in her chest. He dumped her body through a hatch in the chapel floorboards, near the confessional box. Later forensic examination would reveal that she was still alive when he placed her there.