The Hunt for Bible John: The true story of Scotland's notorious serial killer

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Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual misconduct that some readers may find upsetting.

Bible John is one of Scotland's biggest criminal mysteries, with justice still going unserved after decades.

But new developments in the case, as well as BBC true-crime documentary series The Hunt for Bible John, hope to finally put an end to years of speculation over the serial killer.

So who exactly is he? And what did he do?

Here's what we know about the case to date.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

What did Bible John look like?

At the time of the attacks in the late 1960s, Bible John is described as a well-dressed man aged between 25-30, with light brown-to-auburn hair that was brushed to the right. He smoked Embassy cigarettes.

He was missing a tooth, with his front teeth noticeably overlapping.

A photofit later released by police shows him as being thinly faced, with a distinct jawline.

For The Hunt for Bible John, a new photofit, which included his distinctive teeth, was created for the first time.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Bible John: His victims and killing methods

Three women were attacked and killed between 1968 and 1969 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Patricia Docker, a 25-year-old auxiliary nurse and separated mother-of-one, was found outside a garage yards away from her home.

Jemima MacDonald, a 32-year-old mother-of-three, was found 18 months later in August 1969, and Helen Puttock, 29, was found in October in her own back garden.

All three were brunette, shared similar facial features and were last seen at the Barrowlands Ballroom in the city.

They were all beaten heavily across their face before being strangled to death. All three were on their period at the time of their deaths, with their sanitary products placed next to their bodies.

It was later confirmed that MacDonald was raped. Docker was assumed to have been raped by investigators, but coroners saw no obvious evidence of sexual assault. This caused speculation by police that the killer murdered the women after they turned down sexual advances from him, because they were menstruating.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

He was given the name Bible John after Puttock's sister Jeannie described a man who met her and her sister at the ballroom, and quoted extensively from the Bible while outwardly voicing his disdain for adultery. He was also teetotal.

She said he had introduced himself as John and asked Puttock to dance. They later all took a cab together.

Who could Bible John be?

There have been a number of names attached to who Bible John could allegedly be. This includes a number of serial killers who were later caught under different monikers.

Peter Tobin, who is currently serving a whole life order for the murder of three women between the years 1991 and 2006, has remained one of the most commonly attached names.

Tobin, who was originally from Glasgow but later moved to Kent, spent 10 years in prison between 1994 and 2004 for rape.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

He had dozens of aliases, including several versions of John, and had lived in Glasgow at the time of the murders, moving out in 1969, the years the Bible John murders ended. He also had a similarity to the photofit at the time, including having a tooth removed.

However, he has insisted that he is not responsible for the Bible John deaths, and it's difficult to confirm it was him as DNA evidence has diminished over the past 53 years.

The Hunt For Bible John airs January 4 and 5 at 9pm on BBC Two.

If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

Readers in the US are encouraged to contactRAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.

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