Crimes That Shook Britain

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Angus Sinclair

Angus Sinclair has been appropriately referred to as ‘Scotland’s worst serial killer’. Not only was he responsible for the ‘World’s End’ murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott and the murders of Catherine Reehill and Mary Gallacher, but he is thought to be responsible for at least four more murders. Examining his criminal career it is plausible he is responsible for hundreds of sexual assaults of children and women that he has never been held accountable for. The grief of losing a child to murder is unimaginable for every parent but not being able to face the killer and see some small element of justice only intensifies the pain and suffering.

Helen’s mother died in 1989 without ever knowing who killed her daughter. Her husband, promised her he would continue to fight to find the truth and see their daughter’s killer face justice. Developments in DNA evidence led to a cold case unit re-investigating the murders in 1997 and hope of justice was given to Helen’s father and the family of Christine Eadie when Angus Sinclair was charged with the murders in 2005. Shockingly, Sinclair was acquitted in 2007 when critical evidence was not put forward to the jury. The victims’ families had to go through a trial only to see their daughters’ killer walk free. He was returned to prison, where he was serving a sentence for the murder of Mary Gallacher. Sinclair was so callous and manipulative that his defence for DNA evidence on Helen’s jacket was that he had consensual sex with the girls and any harm caused was committed by his brother-in-law, Gordon Hamilton (who was deceased). It is heart-breaking to watch footage of Helen’s father talking following the acquittal of Sinclair, the devastation etched on his face. Following the trial, the magnitude of Sinclair’s crimes were revealed and the furore surrounding the outcome led to a review of Scottish criminal procedure, particularly around the ‘Double Jeopardy’ law. England had seen changes in Double Jeopardy ruling so a new prosecution could be brought against an individual if new and compelling evidence was presented. Changes were made in 2011 in Scotland and this led to a re-trial of Angus Sinclair. In 2014 he was finally found guilty of the murders of Helen and Christine, offering some degree of closure to the families. Without these changes in criminal procedure Sinclair would have never have been brought to justice for these murders. This was the first case to go to re-trial in Scotland following the legal changes and it highlights the need for such reviews of the law. It is imperative the criminal justice system should bring people to justice who have escaped it. Over the past 10 years advances in DNA technology has meant crimes such as murder and rape can be reinvestigated. If there is evidence available to bring offenders to justice every avenue should be sought to achieve that – no matter when the offence was committed. This is evident is the current re-investigation of the murder of Elsie Frost which occurred 50 years ago.

Elsie’s parents died not knowing what happened to her and her siblings describe needing to find closure to stop the feelings of guilt the family suffered since the murder. The abolishment of the ‘double jeopardy’ law was critical in securing the conviction of Gary Dobson in the Stephen Lawrence case. If ‘double jeopardy’ ruling was still in place many murderers and violent offenders would be walking free now whilst families are locked in their own prisons of grief. There was legal debate around the abolishment of ‘double jeopardy’ at the time and many disagreed with the proposed changes. For me it was a necessary change of an outdated law that did not take account of developments in evidence gathering. Angus Sinclair will now die in prison due to these changes and as Helen’s father said "Decades after their deaths, Helen and Christine's legacy is to have changed Scotland's justice system for the better”.