Is Peter Tobin Bible John? If I had a pound for every person who has asked this during the past week I’d be feeling quite rich about now.
But I trot out my usual response (more on that in a bit) and as always I get a stunned look of surprise and the not so compelling argument that the famous portrait looks exactly like him. NO IT DOES NOT.
Bible John has been on a lot of minds with the first episode of BBC Scotland’s new two-part documentary The Hunt for Bible John.
The programme, made by Bafta-winning filmmaker Matt Pinder, charts the twists and turns of one of the largest murder hunts Scotland has ever seen.
The serial killer is believed to have murdered three young women – Jemima McDonald, Patricia Docker and Helen Puttock – between 1968 and 1969, after meeting them at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow.
Despite thousands of statements and hundreds of men interviewed, the killer has never been identified.
When Tobin was revealed as a serial killer in 2006 immediately fingers were pointed and experts scrambled to prove Tobin was indeed the man who had stalked the Barrowland Ballroom in 1968.
Women came forward to say they met Tobin in the ballroom before the murders and criminologists set about proving the modus operandi of Tobin was similar to Bible John.
And of course the portrait. Let’s not forget the Hollywood style image of a smirking man that shows the face of a cold calculated killer. “It’s Tobin,” they cry. “It’s his twin, it looks like him, I’d stake my mortgage on Tobin being the man in that picture.”
It’s human nature isn’t it? We see what we want to see, we package away little nuggets of doubt to suit our narrative and reach the conclusion we want to – without any real basis of fact or knowledge.
Tobin is a monster, that we cannot deny. He cruelly murdered three young women that we know of and is probably responsible for many more that we don’t. But he is NOT Bible John.
How do we know? Well, we know he was in Brighton for two of the murders, those of Jemima and Helen, and we know he was on honeymoon with his wife Margaret when Jemima died. Margaret testified this in court.
The couple married just 10 days before Jemima died on August 16, 1969.
But crucially, David Swindle, who headed up Operation Anagram which investigated ALL of Tobin’s life, has confirmed that DNA found on Helen’s tights is NOT a match for Tobin.
And if that isn’t enough to sway you then what about the bite mark discovered on Helen? Dental records proved it wasn’t Tobin. In short – there is NO evidence to link Tobin to the murders.
Oh yeah, the picture and its startling likeness to Tobin in the 60s. David has publicly said this week he’s seen pictures of Tobin from the time period and the hair is completely different.
This isn’t a defence of Tobin. Many of us would love to be able to turn around and say the killer of Pat Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock has been found. That justice has been done and they can finally rest in peace.
But to stick a label on a serial killer just because he fits the story is an injustice to their memory.
One fact that gets overlooked among the white noise in the myth of Bible John. There has never been any firm evidence to link one man to all three deaths.
Mark Twain said: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
I couldn’t put it better myself.
Cases never go cold among the family
Fighting for justice has no limit of time. Investigating so-called cold cases is a challenge for any police officer. Even the term itself gives off negative vibes.
Expectations of success are low, you can only work with what’s left from old investigations and you can’t turn back the clock and start fresh.
Advances in technology mean more unsolved cases can be looked at again, in many recent cases bringing justice for families who felt their loved one was long forgotten.
Behind every unsolved crime is a victim and a grieving family. Every case matters. Even from decades ago.
When we talk about cold cases I think of the families I have interviewed over the years and all say the same thing: “For everyone else time goes on, for us time has stood still. The pain doesn’t lessen just because 10, 20 or even 50 years has passed.
"Our relatives still deserve justice.”
Novel just blew me away
I had a bit of escapist fun this week taking part in Bloody Scotland’s Book Club discussion live on YouTube.
Panelists Louise Fairbairn, Craig Sisterson, novelist Lin Anderson and I had a good old chinwag about three crime novels.
Clear winner, though, was debut novel Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden.
This book blew me away. An authentic look at life on a Native American reservation with our hero, Virgil Wounded Horse.
It’s a creation that will stay with me a long time and I cannot wait for David’s next instalment. It’s a fantastic debut and totally unforgettable.
I felt like I was not only reading a thriller but going on an educational journey.
Read it if you get a chance and let me know what you think.