Who was Bible John?

7th October, 2013

Bible John picked up three women at the Barrowland Ballroom dancehall in the east end of Glasgow in the late 1960s and led them to their deaths. He was never apprehended for the murders of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock, and his identity remains a mystery to this day.

But why, more than four decades later, are we still fascinated by crimes which took place all those years ago and why do we still need to know who was responsible?

This event was chaired by author Alex Gray, who was joined on the panel by criminologist David Wilson, author of The Lost British Serial Killer, and retired police officer Paul Harrison, who wrote Dancing With the Devil.

The answer to the question above, according to Paul Harrison, is that Bible John is Scotland’s version of the bogeyman; there is still that underlying concern that the case was never solved. And that was the crux of this debate. Who was he and why was he never caught?

who was bible john? credit: Alex Hewitt

Having already read David Wilson’s book, I had a fair idea about his theory. The professor believes Bible John was mobile, that he moved away from the city after the murders took place, and that’s why he was never convicted of those particular crimes. And, according to Wilson, he is now, in fact, behind bars after being found guilty of a number of other murders years later.

Wilson revealed how had asked to speak personally to Peter Tobin – the man he says is Bible John – but the request was denied. However, he says serial killers are unreliable anyway, adding: “I don’t find them very useful. They construct a narrative.”

As someone with an interest in the subject, I also have Harrison’s book but didn’t have a chance to read it before this event so I was interested to hear his own take on the matter. And it was certainly an explosive theory – that Bible John was actually a police officer or someone connected with the police at that time. Harrison says he also thinks the man who terrorised the city is still alive.

Bible John, credit: Alex Hewitt

A member of the audience claimed to know someone who knows who Bible John is, while another wanted to know why he was given the infamous nickname by the Scottish Press at the time. The second question was interesting because it showed that the event attracted people with very little previous knowledge of the case and, yet, they were still intrigued enough to come along.

The answer, for anyone else who doesn’t know by the way, is that the killer had introduced himself as John and, during a taxi ride with the third victim and her sister, he had quoted from the Bible.

When asked if Bible John would have been apprehended had he been operating in the modern day, the panel agreed that, yes, he probably would have.

But as for the title of this particular event? Well, we may never know the answer.

Post by Lisa Gray