For many across the world, there is a preconceived notion of Scotland and what it is to be Scottish. Mention Scotland and many conjure up an image of wild mountains, bagpipes playing, ruined castles and hospitable ginger natives wearing kilts who are fiercely proud of their heritage.
Now, I have to say, that there is a degree of foundation to the above representation; Scotland is 80% mountainous, we have more than 250 castles in a country that is roughly half the size of the US state of Alabama and around 13% of the population have ginger hair; compared to a European average of 3%; and yes, many of us are incredibly proud of our history.
However, there is a far darker yet equally accurate side to the country that you won’t see advertised by the Tourist Board…
Various shocking monikers have been given to the country and its cities, such as “The most violent nation in the developed world” and Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, has been called “The Murder Capital of Western Europe”. These are not simply headlines for the tabloids; the titles are based on figures provided by the European Commission and United Nations; and I would suggest that this is not a new phenomenon.
Within the horror genre, fictional mass murderers are popular: Norman Bates, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers, and TV’s very own Dexter. However, many of these characters have at least some of their backstory rooted in fact: Ed Gein, H.H.Holmes, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy are all truly terrifying examples of real-life horror. However, all of the names I have mentioned originate from the United States, a country with a population currently more than 311 million. Scotland, with a population of approximately 5 million, which is roughly 2.5 million less than the city of London, seems to produce a disproportionate amount of notorious serial killers…
Christie Cleek was a Scottish cannibal. During a famine in Scotland in the mid-14th century, a butcher from Perth called Andrew Christie allied himself with a desperate group who scavenged in the foothills of the Grampian mountains. Legend has it that when one of the party died from starvation, Christie put his skills as a butcher to use and thereafter, the party developed a taste for human flesh and they began to ambush those who would travel through the passes between the mountains; and then fed on the flesh of the unfortunate travellers and their horses. It is thought that thirty or so riders met their end at the hands of Christie and his associates.
Legend has it that Christie escaped capture by the authorities but at that time and according to court records, a husband and wife were executed for cannibalism in Perth. Perhaps this was Christie and his partner; or perhaps cannibalism was more widespread at the time than the records show…
Yet another Scottish cannibal tale. Sawney Bean was the head of a 48 strong incestuous band of cannibals that lived in a cave and terrorised South Ayrshire in the 15th or 16th century. Much like Cleek, they would prey on those using the lonely roads and ambush them. The legend has it that they murdered and ate over 1,000 people in this fashion. King James VI of Scotland is purported to have led a small army on a manhunt for the Bean clan and on capture, had them executed without trial; the men having their genitalia cut off, hands and feet severed and allowed to bleed to death; and the women and children, after watching the men die, were burned alive.
It is widely considered among historians that the tale of Sawney Bean is merely a legend and perhaps based on the story of Christie Cleek, since it seems highly unlikely that historical records would omit the King leading a manhunt to find a cannibalistic clan who had murdered over 1000 people.
The above examples are very much in the distant past of the country and it could well be argued that what happened more than 600 years ago is not relevant today. Let’s step a little closer to the present day then…
The first recorded serial killer in the history of Jamaica was a Scotsman. Known as “The Mad Master” and “The Mad Doctor of Edinburgh Castle”, Lewis Hutchinson came to Jamaica in the 1760s and shortly thereafter, people started to disappear… it is said that he shot his victims, usually lone travellers and would feast on their blood and dismember them. Hutchinson grew more bold and began to invite travellers to guest with him at his estate before despatching them. Hutchinson’s slaves would tell tales of his debauchery and this remained unchallenged until The Mad Master shot and wounded a soldier who then attempted to apprehend Hutchinson; who was eventually tried and executed by hanging. While there is no documented figure as to the deaths attributable to Hutchinson, a search of his home after his arrest revealed over forty watches and a large amount of clothing that clearly did not belong to him…
Burke and Hare
The story of Burke and Hare has been adapted for film and TV numerous times- but do not lose sight of the fact that these two men were serial killers.
Between November 1827 and October 1828 in Edinburgh, Burke and Hare killed 17 people for the purpose of selling their corpses to Dr Robert Knox for dissection. They would smother their victims in order to leave the body in the best condition possible.
The pair were caught and tried, whereupon Hare was offered immunity from prosecution if he testified against Burke; an offer which he accepted. Burke was hanged and ironically, his body was dissected at the Edinburgh Medical College. To this day, Burke’s skeleton, death mask, and items made from his tanned skin are displayed at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Museum.
Dr Thomas Neill Cream
Born in Glasgow in 1850, Cream became known as the Lambeth Poisoner and has five known victims, unsurprisingly they were all poisoned. Cream’s victims, due to his travels, were in the US and England. However, it is suspected that more murders were potentially committed by him in Scotland and Canada.
Cream’s story is lengthy and varied, including a reported marriage at gunpoint, bribery, blackmail, adultery and of course poisoning. For many, Cream will be remembered for what is in effect an unsubstantiated rumour that on the gallows in 1892, his last words were “I am Jack…” and at the time, it was suggested that he was alluding to being none other than Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately for those who ascribe to that particular school of thought, Cream was in prison at the time of the Whitechapel murders in 1888.
If that all still seems a little historical, let’s look at post World War II…
Born in 1927 in New York to Scottish parents, Manuel returned to Scotland at the age of five. As a young man, he was noted by the local police for being a loner and a petty thief. Manuel served nine years in prison for sexual offences and others for rape before embarking on a killing spree in 1956 which held the city of Glasgow in fear. Manuel bludgeoned, shot and strangled his eight victims and despite not being tried for them, he confessed to the murders of eighteen victims.
Manuel was hanged for his crimes and has been described by noted advocate Donald Findlay QC as “one of the most evil men in Scottish criminal history”. Brian Cox (The Ring, Braveheart) loosely based his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter on Peter Manuel.
In the late 1960s, the murder of three young women were attributed to a man who remains unapprehended to this day, a man known only as Bible John. This moniker was given after witnesses stated that a man, who gave his name as John and frequently quoted from the Bible, was the last person seen with the victims: Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock. All three women were strangled to death and chillingly, they were all menstruating.
Despite advances in science and numerous investigations, the identity of Bible John remains unknown.
Hall went by the more exotic sounding name of Roy Fontaine. Fontaine/Hall was born in Glasgow in 1924. By the age of fifteen, he was a thief and burglar. In prison, he studied etiquette and the aristocracy and on his release, found work as a butler; and ended up returning to prison numerous times for further thefts.
Hall/ Fontaine progressed from stealing jewellery to murder; and shot, suffocated, strangled, drowned and poisoned his five victims. The tabloid press dubbed him “The Monster Butler” and he too was serving a whole life tariff until his death in 2002.
On a personal note, Hall was born and raised one street away from where I grew up. In fact, I have played in the house he was born in, entirely unaware of the history of its previous occupant.
Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange, Doomsday, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) is attached to star as Hall/ Fontaine in Monster Butler, a Canadian produced film about Hall’s life which is currently slated for a 2013 release.
Where the Americans had Jeffrey Dahmer, at roughly the same time, Dennis Nilsen was commiting murders of a similar ilk in London. Nilsen was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland and between 1978 and 1983, he killed at least fifteen men and boys by strangling and drowning; and then butchering their bodies in order to assist with their disposal. However, this dismemberment was not always immediate, with Nilsen keeping the bodies in order to engage in necrophilic acts.
Nilsen was caught after his disposal methods blocked the drains and sewers round his home with human remains.
Sentenced to a minimum of 25 years imprisonment in 1983, in 2006 the Home Secretary imposed a whole life tariff with no further chance of parole.
Born in Grangemouth, Scotland, Black has been convicted of numerous sexual offences against children; the kidnap, rape and murder of three girls in the 1980s; the kidnap of another girl; and the attempted kidnap of yet another. Additionally, Black is being investigated for numerous unsolved child murders across Europe dating back more than forty years.
Black would have been eligible for parole in 2029, at which time he will be 82; but a decision by the Home Secretary means he will serve a whole life tariff.
Colin Norris was born in Glasgow in 1976. Dubbed the “Angel of Death” by the media, Norris was a nurse who in 2002 killed his elderly victims by injecting them with high doses of insulin. In 2008, he was found guilty of the murder of four women and the attempted murder of a fifth. The trial judge commented when sentencing:
“You are, I have absolutely no doubt, a thoroughly evil and dangerous man. You are an arrogant and manipulative man with a real dislike of elderly patients. The most telling evidence was that observation of one of your patients, Bridget Tarpey, who said ‘he did not like us old women’.”
As of today, Peter Tobin has been tried and convicted of three murders; those of Angelika Kluk, Dinah McNicol and Vicky Hamilton.
In 1993, Tobin was convicted of attacking and raping two 14 year old girls at knifepoint in England. On his release in 2004, he returned to Scotland. He took up work as a handyman at St Patrick’s Church in Glasgow and in September 2006 within the church, he beat, raped and stabbed to death Angelika Kluk and hid her body in a chamber beneath the confessional of the chapel.
Subsequent investigations into Tobin’s affairs revealed the bodies of Dinah McNicol and Vicky Hamilton buried in the garden of his Margate home. Both girls had last been seen alive in 1991.
On convicting Tobin of Vicky Hamilton’s murder, Lord Emslie stated:
“You stand convicted of the truly evil abduction and murder of a vulnerable young girl in 1991 and thereafter of attempting to defeat the ends of justice in various ways over an extended period… Yet again you have shown yourself to be unfit to live in a decent society. It is hard for me to convey the loathing and revulsion that ordinary people will feel for what you have done… I fix the minimum period which you must spend in custody at 30 years. Had it been open to me I would have made that period run consecutive to the 21 year custodial period that you are already serving.”
In an interview with a psychiatrist, Tobin has admitted killing 48 other women but when questioned about this, simply stated “Prove it”.
There are many who believe that Peter Tobin is in fact Bible John; and police investigations continue into Tobin’s past movements in an attempt to determine if their is any truth behind his claim of more victims.
The individuals mentioned here are not to be celebrated. They raise serious questions about the human condition and what people are truly capable of; and possibly of paramount importance to me, why has this tiny country produced so many depraved killers who shatter lives, kill without conscience and are the embodiment of true horror.