Killer jailed 36 years after mother-of-11 strangled to death

Graham McGill sentenced to minimum of 14 years after DNA solves decades-old mystery of Mary McLaughlin.

Killer jailed 36 years after mother-of-11 strangled to death E-mail
Mary McLaughlin was found dead in her Glasgow flat in 1984.

A man has been given a life sentence for the murder of a Glasgow woman more than 36 years ago.

Graham McGill, 59, was found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow last month of killing Mary McLaughlin in her Partick flat in September 1984.

The mother-of-eleven’s body was found on October 2, 1984, six days after she was last seen.

The 58-year-old had been on a night out in the west end of the city and left a bar to go to a chip shop on the way home.

The jury heard she met McGill and they returned to Ms McLaughlin’s flat, where he attacked and strangled her with her own dressing gown cord.

Her body was found days later by one of her sons.

Mary McLaughlin.E-mail
Mary McLaughlin.

McGill was charged with murder in 2019 after a new investigation into the killing – under the direction of the Procurator Fiscal – matched his DNA to that found on items belonging to Ms McLaughlin.

Serial offender McGill was serving a prison sentence for another crime at the time of the killing but had been granted home leave in preparation for his release.

At the High Court in Aberdeen today, McGill was told he must serve a minimum of 14 years in prison.

Sentencing him, Judge Lord Burns said: “36 years after the death of Mary McLaughlin, you have been convicted of her murder. She was 58 when she died and you were 22. You are now 59.

“Her family has had to wait all that time in order to discover who was responsible for that act knowing that whoever did it was probably at large in the community.

“They had never given up the hope that some day they would find out what had happened to her. They have been deprived of her love and companionship.

“It is due to the perseverance of police authorities and, in particular, the forensic biologists, that your guilt could be demonstrated.

“The evidence showed that your chance encounter with Mary McLaughlin that night allowed you to take advantage of a vulnerable and lonely woman who was probably intoxicated.

“The attack took place within her own home to which she may have invited you. She was wholly unable to defend herself against any attack from someone like you.

“You proceeded to strangle her with a cord until she was dead. You then left her in her house.

“From the evidence of Suzanne Russell, to which I can have regard, it may be that you made a calculated decision to kill this woman.

“She was eventually found by one of her sons. You continue to deny any responsibility for your actions. You, therefore, show no remorse for this murder.”

McGill was convicted following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow last month.

Mary McLaughlin's flat.E-mail
Mary McLaughlin’s flat.

Procurator Fiscal for Homicide and Major Crime David Green said: “This was a challenging investigation requiring complex and thorough work by specialist prosecutors.

“Under their direction, experts in forensic science saw an opportunity to use modern DNA techniques to analyse evidence from the scene that had been preserved by the original investigating officers before such techniques were available to them.  This foresight ultimately led to Graham McGill’s conviction. 

“Unresolved homicides are never closed, and the Crown is committed to working with police to bring these cases to court wherever possible.

“Our thoughts remain with Mary’s family, and I hope the sentence imposed today goes some way towards providing resolution for them.”

McGill did not feature in the 1984 investigation. Officers then discovered that McGill had been on weekend release from prison at the time Mary was murdered.

Over the coming months, officers re-examined paperwork, revisited several original witnesses at the time and utilised updated technology to gather the evidence needed to arrest Graham McGill.

The investigation culminated in the arrest of McGill on December 4, 2019.

Detective Superintendent Suzanne Chow said: “Despite crimes occurring years ago, there is always hope of solving them one day, they are never forgotten.

“Mary’s family has waited a long time for justice and I hope today’s verdict provides some form of resolution for them.

“It is fitting to know that despite the passage of time, justice has finally been served. In all case reviews, families are uppermost in our minds and we work hard to present the best evidential case to ensure successful convictions.”

During the case review, a number of items from the original investigation were identified for priority examination.

Unidentified samples taken at the time of the murder, were re-examined and they matched McGill. 

SPA Forensic Scientist Joanne Cochrane said: “The SPA Forensic Services Cold Case Review Team carried out a full forensic review of this case which identified a number of items for further DNA analysis using the very latest technologies available.

“This analysis resulted in finding DNA attributable to Graham McGill on several items, including a cigarette end, the ligature around Mary McLaughlin’s neck, and on the dress she had been wearing.”