23rd February 1968

Bible John’s first victim discovered

When the body of 25-year-old nurse, Patricia Docker, was discovered in Glasgow, she became the first of at least three known victims of the man dubbed Bible John. Her killer has never been caught.

Patricia Docker had been strangled and there was evidence that she had also been beaten and raped prior to her killing. Jemima MacDonald, whose body was found in a derelict building in August the following year, and Helen Puttock, who was discovered behind a tenement in October, had likewise been beaten and raped before their murder.

All three women had been at Glagow’s Barrowland Ballroom the night they had been killed and all three had been menstruating at the time of their death.

Biblical references

Witnesses said they’d seen Jemima MacDonald talking to a man in his late 20s, and they’d overheard him using Biblical references. Those who had spent time with Helen Puttock the night she died, including her sister, had likewise heard her companion, who’d said his name was John, peppering his conversation with Biblical quotes. Perhaps inevitably, a newspaper editor gave him the nickname Bible John. It stuck.

By the time Helen Puttock’s remains had been found, police were linking the killings, and they’d obtained what they considered to be accurate descriptions of the man responsible. They put together a composite of his face, and circulated the image in their appeals for information. More than 100 police officers were brought in to work on the case, and between them they gathered more than 50,000 statements.

The BBC investigates

In 1970, the BBC broadcast an episode of its investigative reporting series, Current Account, about the Bible John investigation. This was a first in Scotland, as the case was still ongoing. A man who police had interviewed and eliminated played the part of Bible John in the programme while, as reported by the Glasgow Herald of 18 September 1970, “policewomen play the roles of [Helen Puttock] and her sister, and the programme also includes interviews with some of the people who have been mistaken – on occasion more than once – for Bible John.”

Police hoped that the programme would jog the memories of anyone who had witnessed something that could help them, but discounted it.

A clear description

Bible John had seemingly done nothing to obscure his appearance. He was said to be good looking and to have generally good teeth, aside from a slight overlap between two of them. Although this could have been a useful clue, it proved less helpful than it might have done. As the Reading Eagle of 27 February 1972 reported, “Detectives discovered there were no less than 5,300 men with similar tooth formations, and questioned them all, but were none the wiser afterward.”

Police also considered the possibility that despite having a good working knowledge of Glasgow, Bible John might not be a local, but someone who visited the city from time to time. This could help to explain the year and a half gap between the first and second killings and his description was therefore circulated beyond Glasgow, and even sent to British military bases overseas.

One lead took police to the Netherlands to interview a man, previously from Glasgow, who was said to look like police composite. “Detectives… now have a photograph of a man in Holland who bears a close resemblance to Bible John,” reported the Glasgow Herald of 4 February 1983. “The picture, taken some years ago, is of a Scot in his twenties, believed to have been living in Glasgow at the time [of the killings]… it was a private investigator in Glasgow who told detectives that a friend living in Holland knew the man and suspected he was Bible John.” This line of investigation didn’t prove fruitful.

Who is Bible John?

Twenty years after the last killing, an Evening Times retrospective of 18 February 1989 recalled how “a Bible John headquarters was set up in Partick Police Station, in Anderston Street. Detectives were drafted in from other areas to help beef up the team investigating the murders… police officers would dance the night away at the Barrowland, their eyes searching the crowded dance floor trying to pick out one face among many, a face which had become familiar to them through constant reading of the description.”

Hundreds of suspects were named and investigated in the weeks following the murders. Some were members of the police themselves. It was later suggested that Peter Tobin, who was convicted of the murder of Angelika Kluk, could have been Bible John due to the psychological similarities between the two. However, comparison of Tobin’s DNA with that taken from Bible John’s semen did not prove a match.

The case remains unsolved, and Bible John has never been caught.



Other events that occured in February

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