How ‘Bible John’ murdered Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock

The city still haunted by the serial killer from the Swinging Sixties: How Glasgow police never caught the man nicknamed ‘Bible John’ who murdered three women after prowling the dancehalls for his prey

  • Bible John murdered Patricia Docker, Jemima Mcdonald and Helen Puttock
  • They were killed after visiting the hugely popular Barrowland Ballroom
  • Ms Docker was found murdered in the doorway of a garage in February 1968 
  • Mother-of-three Ms McDonald was murdered in August 1969
  • Ms Puttock, who was 29, was then killed on Halloween in 1969 

They were crimes so heinous that they turned the city that loved dancing into one that was living in fear. 

The killings of three women in 1960s Glasgow sparked a hunt for the man who came to be known as Bible John. 

He was the killer who struck after picking up his victims in the Scottish city’s Barrowland Ballroom, where thousands went every night to enjoy themselves. 

The murders of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock led to a police search that ultimately proved fruitless, even though notorious Scottish murderer Peter Tobin was among the suspects. 

Now, a new BBC podcast about Bible John’s killing spree has been made by a Glaswegian journalist Audrey Gillan, who was just weeks old when the first murder occurred. 

It delves into the little told life stories of Ms Docker, Ms McDonald and Ms Puttock and explores the search for their killer, who got his nickname after witnesses said they heard him quoting passages from the Bible.   

They were crimes so heinous that they turned the city that loved dancing into one that was living in fear. The killings of three women in 1960s Glasgow sparked a hunt for the monster who came to be known as Bible John. Above: First and second victim Pat Docker

Second victim Jemima McDonald

They were crimes so heinous that they turned the city that loved dancing into one that was living in fear. The killings of three women in 1960s Glasgow sparked a hunt for the monster who came to be known as Bible John. Above: First and second victim Pat Docker and Jemima McDonald

Helen Puttock, who was 29, was killed on Halloween in 1969. Her body was found in the back garden of her own flat. She was Bible John's third victim

Helen Puttock, who was 29, was killed on Halloween in 1969. Her body was found in the back garden of her own flat. She was Bible John’s third victim

Speaking to The Guardian, Ms Gillan said: ‘The city that loved dancing was suddenly living in fear of a killer who was picking his victims on the dancefloor. 

‘They saw an artist’s sketch of him and thought, “That’s the guy at the corner shop.’ Or, ‘I see him walking his dog in the park.” 

A police photofit of the man believed to be Bible John

A police photofit of the man believed to be Bible John

‘It changed the way women felt – and children like myself grew up thinking he was a bogeyman.’

She said a ‘big failing’ of the initial investigation was the way that the women were judged negatively for having been on their periods when they were killed. 

Ms Gillan had previously reported on the 1996 exhumation of the body of a man who was suspected of being Bible John.  

The infamous Glasgow killings took place in 1968 and 1969, with all three of Ms Docker, Ms McDonald and Ms Puttock being found beaten and strangled. 

Ms Docker, an auxiliary nurse, was the first victim of Bible John. She was found murdered in the doorway of a lock-up garage in February 1968. 

Initial police enquiries revealed how locals had heard a woman shout ‘leave me alone!’ the previous evening. 

The 25-year-old was a married mother of one who was estranged from her husband and had spent the previous evening at the Barrowland Ballroom. 

The next killing, of McDonald, who was a 32-year-old mother-of-three, took place in August 1969. 

Ms Mcdonald was a regular visitor to the Barrowland Ballroom and, on the night she was killed, was seen in the company of a well-dressed man. 

He is said to have had a distinctive Glaswegian accent and used biblical quotations during conversation.

Ms McDonald was seen leaving the Barrowland with the unidentified man and then never returned home. 

The killer struck after picking up his victims in Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom, where thousands went every night to enjoy themselves

The killer struck after picking up his victims in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, where thousands went every night to enjoy themselves

Her own sister then found her body in a derelict tenement building. She had been raped and severely beaten.  

Ms Puttock, who was 29, was then killed on Halloween in 1969. Her body was found in the back garden of her own flat.

She too had been raped and beaten. The evening before her murder, she had been at the Barrowland Ballroom, like the other women.

Her sister, Jean Langford, later recounted how the pair had shared a taxi home with an individual named John.

Ms Langford had left the vehicle when it got to her home, before the car continued with just Ms Puttock and the man as passengers. 

Her sister also told police that John had repeatedly quoted from the Old Testament. 

In their investigations, the police noted the similarities in the killings. As well as having the dance hall in common, the women had all been on their periods and had their handbags taken from the crime scene. 

Glasgow police’s investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie.

He described officers’ prime suspect in 1972, saying: ‘It is quite incredible that this man has eluded us. I am positive this man comes from Glasgow or nearby. 

‘He is between 25 and 30, between 5 ft 10 in and 6 ft tall, has light red hair, good features, blue-grey eyes and a smart modern appearance. 

‘I do not think he is a very religious man, but just has a normal intelligent working knowledge of the Bible which he likes to air…’ 

Despite their extensive manhunt that saw them interview more than 7,000 people and take 4,000 statements, officers never even made an arrest. 

In 1996, police in Strathclyde exhumed the body of John Irvine Mcinnes, a man who was a cousin of one of the original suspects in the investigation. 

Glasgow police's investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie (pictured)

Glasgow police’s investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie (pictured)

A DNA sample was taken from his remains and compared it with semen samples found on Ms Puttock’s stockings. 

However, the results proved to be inconclusive and McInnes was ultimately cleared of any involvement in the Bible John killings. 

Then, in 2007, notorious killer Peter Tobin fell under the spotlight. 

At the time, he was serving a whole life term for three murders committed between 1991 and 2006.

He had been initially convicted of the rape and assault of two girls in 1993 and spent ten years in prison. Just three years after his release, he was then sentenced to 21 years behind bars for the rape and murder of Polish student Angela Kluk. 

The remains of two teenagers – Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol – were then found at his former home in Margate Kent. 

Detective Superintendent Beattie is seen with other officers as they worked on the killings of Ms Docker, Ms McDonald and Ms Puttock

Detective Superintendent Beattie is seen with other officers as they worked on the killings of Ms Docker, Ms McDonald and Ms Puttock

He was convicted of their murders in 2008 and 2009 respectively. 

But Tobin was long suspected of carrying out other killings, and in 2007 was linked to the Bible John killings.

He is believed to have been living in Glasgow when Bible John struck and would have been 21 at the time. 

Tobin is known to have frequented dance halls and for having been a religious man. 

However, no conclusive link between Tobin and the Glasgow killings was ever made by police.

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