How the Navy helped track down a murderer hiding at sea

Police joined forces with the Navy after the body of a young woman was found near a dockyard.

Murder: Police captured the man at sea. Fife Police Division
Murder: Police captured the man at sea.

An unusual story came to light during the recent refurbishment of the Fife police division’s museum.

In November 1974, the body of a young woman was found in a bus terminal at Rosyth Dockyard. 

As police hunted the killer, suspicion fell upon naval personnel, some of whom were part of the NATO fleet anchored in the River Forth. 

They were due to set sail the following day to participate in an exercise in the Arctic Circle.

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Fearing that they may lose any potential suspect, Superintendent William Moodie was asked to take charge of an operation.

Along with 28 officers from Fife Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police, he joined the crews as they set sail from Fife aboard various ships belonging to the Royal Navy and their German, Dutch and French counterparts.

As the investigation continued, a 24-year-old junior member of the Navy from HMS Rhyl became the focus of attention. 

It soon became apparent that he was the man responsible for the young woman’s death and he was arrested. 

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By this stage his ship was anchored off Orkney and the accused was escorted by motorboat to the island, then airlifted to Aberdeen before being conveyed back to Fife.

The seaman stood trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Superintendent William Moodie later became chief constable of Fife Constabulary between 1984 and 1996.