Between February 1968 and October 1969, the bodies of three women under the age of 35 were found raped, strangled, and brutally beaten in Glasgow, Scotland. Each of the three victims had gone to the Barrowland Ballroom in the East End, a popular dance hall and concert venue, before being attacked.
A man on his way to work found the naked body of the first victim, 25-year-old nurse Patricia Docker, on February 23rd, 1968. Docker’s body was just a few yards away from her home. The body of 32-year-old Jemima McDonald was found by her sister on August 15th, 1969, after hearing neighborhood children talk about seeing a body in an abandoned tenement building. The final body, that of 29-year-old Helen Puttock, was found on Halloween.
The night before her body was discovered, Puttock had gone out with her sister to the Barrowland Ballroom, and the two had taken a taxi home with a man they met there. After dropping Puttock’s sister off at her home in Knightswood, the taxi continued on to Puttock’s home on Earl Street, where both Helen and the man exited the cab. The next morning, Puttock’s body was found in the garden behind her flat. Puttock’s sister said that the man who rode with them called himself John, and quoted from the Bible, leading the media to dub the killer “Bible John.”
Despite as many as 50,000 statements being taken in the ensuing investigation, no one was ever arrested or charged for the Bible John murders. However, the killings were similar enough in both location and methodology that the police were convinced that they were all the work of the same man.
Years later, in 1993, a man named Peter Tobin attacked two 14-year-old girls in his flat in Leigh Park near Havant in Hampshire, England. He held them at knifepoint, drugged and raped them, then stabbed one and left the gas on while he went out, leaving the two girls to die.
Both girls survived the attack. Tobin went on the run, but was eventually captured in Brighton. In May of 1994, he pleaded guilty to the attack, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, though he only served 10 before being released in 2004. In September of 2006, he was working as a handyman at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Glasgow under the assumed name Pat McLaughlin. During this time, he attacked and killed Angelika Kluk, a 23-year-old student from Poland. Her body, which had been beaten, raped, and stabbed, was found in an underground chamber beneath the church confessional.
This time Tobin denied the charges, though he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after his arrest, his former house in Bathgate was searched by the police in connection with a missing persons case from more than a decade before. Fifteen-year-old Vicky Hamilton had disappeared in the area in 1991. In 2007, police found human remains in the back garden of Tobin’s old house, and confirmed that they belonged to Vicky Hamilton. Tobin was eventually convicted of her murder, as well as that of 18-year-old Dinah McNicol, whose remains were also found in the garden. Tobin is currently serving three life sentences, with the recommendation that he never be released from prison.
Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol represent Tobin’s earliest confirmed kills—but were they truly his first victims? In 1991, Tobin was 45 years old, and most experts agree that the odds are against a middle-aged man suddenly committing such brutal crimes without previous transgressions. Sources claim that during his incarceration, Tobin bragged about killing as many as 48 people. Some believe that Tobin may have been actively killing for 40 years. In fact, many people believe that Peter Tobin was actually Bible John, the killer who terrified Glasgow in the late 1960s.
Tobin was living in Glasgow when the Bible John murders took place, and was the right age–and had the right appearance–to match the description of Bible John given by Helen Puttock’s sister. Tobin actually met his first wife at the Barrowland Ballroom. Moreover, he was arrested and jailed for burglary and forgery shortly after the last of the Bible John murders took place.
Was Peter Tobin Bible John? Unfortunately, we may never know for sure. DNA evidence from the time of the Bible John murders is insufficient to link Tobin to the killings. However, the grim similarities in the cases are enough to have convinced many people that the killer known only as Bible John is, in fact, behind bars at last, serving several life sentences for other brutal slayings.