Son of mum killed in 1984 tells of ‘smell coming from flat’

Mary McLaughlin was strangled to death at her home in Partick, Glasgow during October 1984.

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The son of a mother-of-11 who was strangled to death 36 years ago has told a court how he kicked down her door after growing concerned about “the most horrible smell” coming from her flat.

Mary McLaughlin, 58, was found dead at her home in Partick, in Glasgow’s west end, in October 1984, Glasgow High Court heard on Tuesday.

Graham McGill, 59, denies murdering her and fastening a ligature around her neck with intent to rape on September 26 or 27 that year.

Giving evidence on the first day of the murder trial, one of Ms McLaughlin’s sons, Martin Cullen, said he would visit his mother weekly at her third-floor flat in Crathie Court on Laurel Street.

He told jurors how he went to his mother’s home on October 2 1984, with his ex-partner and his child, saying: “We noticed that the hall light was on and there was a strange smell coming through the letterbox.

“She would never have the light on, never.”

Asked by prosecutor Alex Prentice QC to describe the smell, he said: “The most horrible smell you will smell in your life.”

Mr Cullen went on: “I knocked on the window and shouted through. I ended up kicking the door in.

“My partner went in and came out screaming. I went to the end of the hall and I could not go any further.”

He said he then phoned an ambulance and the police arrived.

McGill sat hunched in the dock wearing a light-blue, rain jacket during Mr Cullen’s evidence as the trial opened.

He is also accused of stealing a set of keys from Ms McLaughlin’s flat.

The court heard Ms McLaughlin was last seen alive on the evening of September 26 drinking at west end pubs including the Hyndland Bar before leaving at about 10.45pm to go to a chip shop on Dumbarton Road.

A post-mortem examination carried out on October 2 found she died of ligature strangulation at least five days previously, jurors heard.

The level of alcohol in her blood indicated she was “grossly intoxicated” at the time of her death, the court heard.

The trial was told that Ms McLaughlin was unemployed, had previously gone by surnames Cullen and Mullen, and had 11 children by two different partners.

McGill was arrested by officers in December 2019 and charged after police interview, the court heard.

He also faces a separate charge of threatening to murder Suzanne Russell and children at a house in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, between January 1 1985 and December 31 1988.

The trial, before judge Lord Burns, continues.

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