Bible John: Remembering notorious serial killer’s victims

It has been 50 years since the murderer first struck in Glasgow, yet he remains unidentified.

Victims: A newspaper appeal after the deaths of Pat Docker and Jemima McDonald.
Victims: A newspaper appeal after the deaths of Pat Docker and Jemima McDonald.

In the late 60s, Glasgow was terrorised by one of the most infamous killers the country has ever seen.

Even 50 years on, the unsolved Bible John murders remain among the most talked about and intriguing crimes ever to be committed in Scotland.

It is unlikely the serial killer’s identity or the full extent of his murders will ever be revealed.

There are arguably more theories, rumours and urban myths surrounding the case than any other, yet most of the questions remain unanswered.

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On the 50th anniversary of the first death we remember his victims:

The 25-year-old nurse’s naked body was found in a lane just yards from her home in the south side of Glasgow the day after she was murdered.

All of her clothes and bag had been stolen with only her shoes left nearby.

The previous evening, she had left her four-year-old son with her parents to go for a night out at the Barrowland Ballroom.

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When she failed to return home, her family assumed she had stayed at a friend’s house.

But her brutalised body was found by a joiner in the early hours of the next morning and her relatives would only learn of the death by reading about it in that evening’s newspaper.

Bible John: Killer stalked Glasgow in the 1960s. STV

Eighteen months passed before the elusive killer struck again.

It was on August 15, 1969 when the body of Jemima McDonald was found behind an old tenement building in the east end of the city.

The 32-year-old mother of three had also spent the night at the Barrowland Ballroom.

Mimi’s sister Margaret found her three days later after hearing young children talk about finding a body.

She had been strangled, raped and beaten to death and, like the first murder, her bag had been stolen.

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However, unlike Pat Docker, her body was fully clothed.

The second murder produced more leads than the previous one and a description of Bible John was released for the first time.

Witnesses told police they had seen Ms McDonald leave the Barrowland at around midnight with a tall, slim young man with red hair.

Barrowland Ballroom: Bible John met his victims at the Glasgow dance hall. http://www.flickr.com/photos/by-jack/

It was only a matter of months before the killer claimed his third and final confirmed victim.

The circumstances surrounding death of 29-year-old Helen Puttock brought about the now infamous moniker of Bible John.

It was also the first time a definite witness had met and spoken to the killer.

Helen had attended the Barrowland Ballroom with her sister Jean, where they spent the night in the company of two men they’d just met named John.

The group left the dance hall together before one of the men left to catch a bus from George Square to his home in Castlemilk. Helen and Jean then shared a taxi with the other man.

As they made towards Jean’s home in Knightswood the man, who she described as tall with short sandy hair and a finesse unusual for the Barrowland, began quoting from the bible.

He told the sisters that he didn’t drink alcohol at Christmas or Hogmanay, and that he would read the holy book and pray instead, before describing the ballroom as an “adulterous den of iniquity”.

When Jean was dropped off in the north of the city she was unaware that it would be the last time she would ever see her sister alive.

The next morning, Helen’s battered body was found behind her flat on Earl Street, Scotstoun. She had been raped and strangled.

Like the other victims her bag was taken, however, its contents had been left scattered around.

The killer also left behind a deep bite mark on Helen’s leg and grass stains on her feet which suggested she had struggled to escape.

At around 1.30am that morning the last ever potential sighting of Bible John took place.

The witness described seeing a well-dressed young man matching Jean’s description of the killer walking towards the Clyde ferry in a dishevelled state.

After that night all attempts to find the man responsible hit a dead end.

Even attempts to trace his friend, now known as “Castlemilk John”, fell flat.

After the third murder, panic throughout the city hit fever pitch, ballrooms were basically left lying empty, other than the odd undercover police officer, as the terrified population feared Bible John striking again.

But the panic ended just as suddenly as it all began in February 1968.

The story of Glasgow’s most infamous serial killer came to an abrupt ending with the man responsible, whoever he is, never facing repercussions for the three brutal murders.


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