BIBLE JOHN: How police prejudice towards 'promiscuous' victims hampered manhunt for serial killer

BIBLE JOHN: How police prejudice towards 'promiscuous' victims hampered manhunt for serial killer
Between 1968 and 1969, Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald, and Helen Puttock, were murdered by a serial killer dubbed 'Bible John' (Screenshot from BBC Scotland/YouTube)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND: Detectives working the 'Bible John' murder cases were allegedly prejudiced towards the three women that were killed, a new probe has revealed.

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Investigative journalist Audrey Gillan unearthed original police reports describing the victims as promiscuous and heavy drinkers whose behavior could have led to their deaths. Between 1968 and 1969, three women -- Patricia Docker, 25, Jemima McDonald, 32, and Helen Puttock, 29 -- were murdered following night outs at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow’s Gallowgate. All three were found near their homes after being sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

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“The deceased appears to enjoy the company of men and like the attention of men," police reports described the first victim Docker. "She was an only child and apparently rather spoiled. She appears on occasions to have had dates and dance hall escorts.” The documents highlighted Patricia's affairs with different men while living in Cyprus with her RAF husband Alec Docker. They also disclosed that she had a daughter with an American serviceman in Edinburgh in the 1960s. 

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Meanwhile, a report on the second victim McDonald read, "She appeared to be extremely fond of male company and highly promiscuous. She was in receipt of public funds plus maintenance from the fathers of her children.” And a file on the third victim Puttock stated, "Mrs. Puttock was said to be fond of a good time. She could consume a good amount of liquor without affect on her.” It also noted that Helen would go drinking with her sisters before heading to the Barrowland. “All three sisters are promiscuous and well known to a number of men who frequent the ballroom," the report added. It was Helen's death that prompted Scotland’s biggest hunt for a possible serial killer.

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“I can see no empathy anywhere," Gillan said of the reports. "There is however the sense that their behaviors may very well have led to their deaths. These victims are being judged and blamed for what happened to them even. The reports also reveal the attitudes of the detectives who wrote them. Prejudices that may have blinded them in their investigations. It is time that prejudice was exposed.”

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Docker was working as a nurse at Mearnskirk Hospital in Newton Mearns at the time of her death. She split from her husband in 1967 and was living with her parents and young son Alex in Langside Place, Glasgow. Patricia went to the Barrowland in the city’s Gallowgate on February 22, 1968. Her naked body was found the following morning in Carmichael Lane, just a few hundred yards from Langside Place. 

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This was followed by the discovery of McDonald’s body eighteen months later. She was found near her home in a tenement close to MacKeith Street, Bridgeton in the east end of Glasgow. According to the reports, she was last seen alive at the Barrowland Ballroom where she had spent the night dancing. Finally, on October 31, 1969, Puttock's body was found in the back gardens of her tenement home in Earl Street, Scotstoun. Investigators found she had also been at the Barrowland Ballroom that night and left with a mystery man. Her sister Jean Langford reportedly shared a taxi home with her sibling and her date. Langford told Detective Superintendant Joe Beattie’s murder squad team that her sister's admirer said he didn't drink and repeatedly quoted from the Old Testament.

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Jean's description led to newspapers coining the term 'Bible John' to refer to the serial killer. However, the case came to halt about a year later and officers involved in the investigation were transferred to other duties. Gillan was working as a reporter in 1996 when she revealed the authorities had a new person of interest. After a DNA review of Puttock's clothing, the body of former soldier John McInnes was exhumed from Stonehouse Cemetery. However, the tests failed to match the semen found on Helen's tights.

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Discussing the case in her new BBC podcast 'Bible John: Creation of a Serial Killer', Gillan prioritized the victims' stories first and concluded that the police's misogynistic attitudes may have hampered the hunt for the killer.

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“Those Glaswegian women were routinely described as promiscuous as heavy drinking," acclaimed author Andrew O’Hagan said, adding, "It was almost as if they shouldn’t have been in a dance hall.”

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Docker's son Alex currently lives in England. He said he had vague memories of his mother and his time living in Glasgow as a four-year-old. “The few photographs of Pat I have only elicited a weak sense of recognition if any at all," he said. “I do remember bath time. It was always in the kitchen sink. I must have enjoyed these times as I have a clear memory of it. I can almost, but not quite, remember my mother’s laughing face.” That said, the Bible John case is still Scotland's biggest active manhunt, the Daily Record reported.

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