February 22, 1968
Patricia Docker, the first confirmed victim of “Bible John,” is killed
Docker visited the Barrowland Ballroom on February 22 where she presumably met her killer. She was found the following day, nude and strangled. The second victim was Jemima McDonald (sometimes spelled MacDonald), killed on August 16, 1969 while the third victim, Helen Puttock, was killed October 30, 1969.
The women shared several similarities: all were mothers, each was menstruating, and all attended the Barrowland Ballroom the evening of their murders. Each was found nude and had been strangled.
The third victim, Helen Puttock, helped provide the moniker “Bible John” to her killer. Puttock had visited the dance hall with her sister Jean Williams. The sisters met with two men, both named John, though Puttock seemed smitten by one in particular who gave his surname as either Sempleton or Templeton. This John talked to the sisters extensively about the Bible, including topics of adultery and the immorality of married women visiting dance halls. Because of the man’s strong Biblical interests, he was later dubbed “Bible John” in the press.
Toward the end of the night, John escorted the sisters to a taxi which all three rode in together. Despite the sisters having an agreement to not leave the other alone, Williams was dropped off at her home while John and Puttock continued their journey. Puttock’s body was found the next day.
Williams was able to provide a description of Bible John and an artist’s rendition was distributed, but with no success.
Several theories have emerged regarding Bible John’s identify, as is often the case with unidentified serial killers. The book The Power of Blood by Donald Simpson suggests Bible John was John Irvine McInnes, who had been questioned regarding the murders but never charged. McInnes killed himself in 1980, though his body was later exhumed to compare his DNA with blood found on Puttock’s body. The samples did not match.
Paul Harrison, a former police officer, wrote Dancing with the Devil in which he stated his belief Bible John was also an officer, a belief shared by Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie who was working the Bible John case, though Beattie never revealed his suspect’s name. Both Harrison and Beattie suggest an officer’s insider knowledge would allow Bible John to evade capture.
Another popular candidate for Bible John is serial killer Peter Tobin. Tobin is serving three life sentences for the murders of Angelica Kluk, Vicky Hamilton, and Dinah McNicol, ages 23, 15, and 18 respectively, killed between 1991 and 2006. Tobin was in Glasgow during the 1960s and met his first wife at the Barrowland Ballroom in 1969, shortly before they moved from the area.
No theories have been conclusively proven and the case remains unsolved.
Hamilton, Jane. “Serial killer Peter Tobin has cancer and is so frail he barely leaves his prison cell.” Daily Record. January 10, 2019. Accessed: February 22, 2020. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/serial-killer-peter-tobin-cancer-13839861.amp
Pringle, Michael. “How notorious killer Bible John got away with it 50 years after gruesome murders.” Daily Record. February 24, 2018. Accessed: February 22, 2020. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/how-notorious-killer-bible-john-12078716 (image source)
Wilson, David. “Fifty years on, Britain’s top serial killer expert re-examines the Bible John murders.” The Herald. February 17, 2018. Accessed: February 22, 2020. https://www.heraldscotland.com/life_style/16029520.fifty-years-on-britains-top-serial-killer-expert-re-examines-the-bible-john-murders/
Scott, Marion. “Revealed: Bible John was a police officer, says ex-cop in a shocking new book.” Daily Record. August 2013. Accessed: February 22, 2020. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/bible-john-police-officer-says-2218723.amp
Odell, Robin. The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2010