DNA delay 'cost Scots cops seven years' in hunt for World's End murderer

The infamous World’s End murders might have been solved seven years earlier if detectives had understood the implications of a DNA breakthrough, according to the officer who helped snare serial killer Angus Sinclair.

Ex-Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police Tom Wood said DNA analysis of the evidence in 1997 taken from the 1977 murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott, which showed traces of the DNA of two men, was not fully realised until much later.

The two girls, aged 17, died after meeting Sinclair and his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton in the World’s End pub in Edinburgh.

Angus Sinclair.
Angus Sinclair. -Credit:ALAN SIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY 2014.

The next day, Christine’s body was found in Gosford Bay, East Lothian, and six miles away, Helen’s body was discovered in a cornstubble field. They had been gagged, beaten, tied up, raped and strangled.

Wood, in a new edition of his book, The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story, admits that failure to understand new scientific procedures probably delayed justice for the families of Christine and Helen.

He said: "In 1997, there was the potential for two new profiles. We knew there was one profile but, partly due to the fault of scientists not explaining it thoroughly enough and partly due to our ignorance of a new science, the 1997 results were overlooked.

"Had we been aware of the presence of two profiles, meaning two men were involved, further examination might have identified Sinclair seven years earlier.

"The second identifiable sample, although smaller, had been there all along, masked by the more prevalent profile. The second sample, which was semen, was from Angus Sinclair."

Wood insisted this would not have prevented him from murdering again as he was already serving a life sentence and his accomplice had died in 1996.

He added: "But we would have been on his trail earlier and the Toyota caravanette they used in their crimes would still have been available with all its forensic secrets.

"The tragedy is the caravanette was destroyed just six months before we launched Operation Trinity in the spring of 2004."

Wood is convinced the vehicle would have yielded more evidence against Sinclair for the murders of
three young women in Glasgow in 1977.

He said: "An opportunity was missed in 1981 with the sexually motivated murders of Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley
and Agnes Cooney, that no connection was made to Sinclair, who, at that time, was being arrested for multiple sexual assaults on children.

"Opportunities were missed to catch Sinclair in 1981 and 1997 but also in 2001 when he was arrested for the 1978 murder of Mary Gallagher.

"Although members of the Gallagher team suspected Sinclair of other offences, this suspicion wasn’t acted on or shared."

Wood is keen to point out that Sinclair was nabbed not just due to the actions of one ­detective but by decades of team effort by police officers.

He said: "We should not forget that the new science which added so much to the World’s End came from a small commercial company in England, not our own forensic service.

"The world is getting smaller and there are always lessons to be learned from elsewhere." Sinclair died in prison, aged 73, in 2019.

●The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story is out now.

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