Glasgow in the late sixties; people of all ages danced off the work day worries in one of the cities many dance halls, most popular of which was the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgows east end.
The Barrowlands, or Barras as its more commonly known locally, hosted live music and a variety of different nights appealing to different age groups. Thursday nights were the over 25s night and , commonly referred to as a “grab a granny night”.
It was at one of these nights that Pat Docker met a man who called himself John.
Pat, 25, was a nursing auxiliary, had recently separated from her husband, and was living with her parents and her 4 year old son in the Battlefield area of Glasgow. On the night of 22nd of February 1968 she told her parents she was off out to the Majestic, another dance hall in the city centre. This might’ve been because the barras had quite the reputation for attracting married men looking to hide their wedding rings for a night of single fun, or maybe she just changed her plans , whatever the reason this error meant the police investigation was hampered from the off.
On the 31st Pats body was found in Carmichael place, yards from her home. She had been strangled with her stockings and her clothes and handbag were gone. She had her period and her sanitary towel was positioned near the body. There were no witnesses and police struggled further when it was discovered more than a week after the murder they’d been searching for witnesses in the wrong place.
The police hoped this was a one-off incident but it was another 18 months before the killer struck again.
On a Saturday in August 1969 Jemima ‘Mima’ McDonald, 32, headed out to the Barras for a night on the tiles. She was a mother of three recently separated from her husband, slim, dark-haired and pretty, similar in appearance to Pat.
When Mima didn’t return home from her night out her sister assumed she’d stayed at a friend’s house but by Monday when she’d still not heard from her she started to worry. To make matters worse she’d heard rumours about a body being found by some local kids in a derelict house nearby and decided to investigate. Sure enough her worst fears were confirmed and Jemima was found in a derelict tenement apartment. She had been strangled with her tights and, again, had been on her period.
This time the police went straight to the Barras, a picture of Mima was put up on the projector and a discretionary promise was given to appeal for witnesses who might not have otherwise come forward. Finally they gathered a description ; 25-35, slim, around 6″ft with reddish, fair short hair. The witnesses weren’t certain enough to create an identikit so an artist from the Glasgow School Of Art was called in to draw up a likeness from interviews with the witnesses. The police even did a reconstruction in the area of Bridgeton where she was found but the case went cold with no leads or clues.
The final victim was found only two months later.
Helen Puttock and her sister Jeannie went along to the barras
on 30th October 1969. They met two men who called themselves John and spent the night dancing with their prospective dates. At closing the foursome headed toward the town centre and Jeannie’s John headed off home leaving the girls and the killer to get a taxi back to Scotstoun.
Later Jeannie commented on Johns polite manners and well spoken accent. He referred to the Barras, and dance halls like them, as ‘dens of iniquity’ and suggested that the women who attend them might be of lower moral standard and ‘adulterous’. This moral aloofness was what coined the term Bible John in the local media.
Helens body was found near her house, she’d been beaten more violently than the previous victims, her stockings were around her neck and her sanitary towel tucked under her arm.
Using Jeannie’s statement the police had a colour portrait drawn up and this was circulated around the local media and
dance halls. The police were initially confident they would find the killer but sadly this was not to be.
The case went cold and has never been solved
The most popular theory in the identity of Bible john is that he and serial killer Peter Tobin are one and the same
Tobin, 71 is currently serving time for the murders of Angelika Kluk, Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicoll.
Tobin was in and around Glasgow in the late 60s, he resembled the identikit and portrait in his younger years and his ex wives reported he was a sexual sadist and sexually abusive. Additionally, the end of the Bible John murders coincided with Tobins move to Brighton in 1969.
Tobin has claimed he is responsible for up to 48 deaths but refuses to give any detail and will not comment on anything to do with the Bible John murders
Professor of Criminology and Forensic Psychologist David Wilson is more than convinced that Tobin is Bible John . His book The Lost british Serial Killer details his theory .
below is a selection of photographs of Tobin in his early years
what do you think?