February 23, 1968, the naked body of nurse was found by a man on his way to work in a lane behind Carmichael Place in Scotland’s largest city and the third largest in the United Kingdom. A man on his way to work found Patricia Docker laying dead after she had been sexually assaulted and strangled and left only a few yards from her home.
After telling her parents that she would be spending the night at the Majestic Ballroom dancing the night away, she in fact went elsewhere. Attending the night for over-25’s at the Barrowland ballroom. Police speculate that at some point throughout the night she met her killer after the left the Majestic and moved to the Barrowland.
Days would pass before Detectives could piece together her movements over the course of the night, costing them valuable time. To further complicate the investigation, her clothes and belongings were never found coupled with the lack of a witness of any kind.
One can only speculate what happened over the course of her evening. The limited available facts leave her murder ripe for speculation. Given that the detectives took days to piece together her movements and the suspect kept all of her belongings. Every detail of this crime outside of the manner in which she died maybe lost forever.
Still of course to Police this could only be considered an isolated incident. It would be the first in at least is what a known trilogy of cases in what would come to be known as the case of “Bible John”.
August 15th, 1969
18 months after the murder of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald, a 32-year-old mother of three, also took a night out at the Barrowland Ballroom. Over the course of a weekend, her sister Margaret would hear rumours of what was referred to as “the body” from young children over on MacKeith Street as they left an old tenant building.
Her growing concern would lead to her to investigate the cause of these rumours on the Monday after the weekend had passed. Arriving at the house, her worst fears would be realised. The manner of death would be similar to that of Patricia Docker over a year prior yet with once distinct difference.
Jemima would be found fully clothed. Despite a similar manner of death, the suspect would not take her clothes like he had done in the case of Patricia Docker. Strangulation, Sexual Assault, Blunt force trauma were all present but in this case, there were witnesses.
They could place her at the scene at least up until midnight when she left. Standing upon the arm of a man with slender build with red hair. After then only one can only speculate as to what happened next. Police would move from Door-to-Door trying to gather information of what had happened in regards to the crime.
Many would see her leaving the ballroom in the lead up to her body being found. Detective’s inquiries would lead to accounts of hearing screams from a woman who lived in the vicinity of the crime scene. Although she lived merely a few blocks from the crime scene, this same woman would fail to provide police with an accurate time frame in which the crime had taken place.
As time would pass and like the case of Patricia Docker, the murder of Jemima McDonald would find itself in the Cold pile. Time would pass and the information that came in would continually wound down. Despite having a witness who claimed that they heard screams, Investigators were unable to provide a time frame into which they heard such sounds and as a result the case would go cold.
October 31st, 1969
One of the most popular weekends of the year, a horror story manifested itself in to reality when 29-year-old Helen Puttock was found in Earl Street over in the Scotstoun are of Glasgow. Just as the other victims before her she had attended the same Barrowland Ballroom on the night of her murder.
Spending the evening with her sister Jean, both met men called John. One claimed from Castlemilk but the other did not disclose his background. After spending approximately an hour with the men, they decided to head home. The John from Castlemilk would headed for a bus home in George Square, while the other three decided to share a taxi ride home. This taxi ride would later become a crucial piece of information in the investigation.
After dropping Jean in Knightswood, Helen and John would continue on towards Earl Street. This would prove to be the last time anyone would see Helen alive. She would be found raped and strangled the following morning albeit with some differences than the previous victims.
The contents of her handbag lay scattered at the scene. Helen had also suffered at least one penetrating bite from her attacker. She lay in the garden behind her apartment and despite that her belongings lay scattered; her bag itself was nowhere to be found. Leading investigators to believe that it was taken as a trophy and grass stains suggested there was some kind of struggle in during the assault.
The Resulting Investigation –
The ensuing investigation would lead detectives to learn of the John character the sisters shared a taxi ride with before the murder. A man that was well spoken that quoted many passages from the Bible as time would pass. From then on “Bible John” was born as the media took the epithet and ran with it.
Helens sister, Jean would later provide an outline of the John man last seen with her sister on the night she was murdered. A polite and well spoken, tall yet slender around 5’10 and with fair/reddish hair. She would claim that he had given his name as “John Templeton” or “Sempleson”.
Over the course of the night he would continually demonstrate his religious devotion by quoting the bible and saying that “I do not drink Hogmanay, I Pray”. He would also make references to Moses and how the dance halls were “dens of iniquity”.
With this new case, a connection was made to the cases of Patricia Docker and Jemima McDonald in years past. The similarities between each that would leave authorities to believe that a serial killer was at large on the streets of Glasgow.
A composite sketch would be developed from the description provided from the inquiries leading witness, Helen’s sister Jean. However as investigators expanded their inquiries at the Barrowland Ballroom, the bouncers would paint a different picture of the suspect and attribute the discrepancies to Jean being heavily intoxicated on the night of her sister’s murder.
They would suggest that the sisters left with a man that was still well spoken but shorter and with jet-black hair. It was also suggested that the suspect was also not directly quoting the bible, but more simply referencing it.
Still Jean would defend her state of mind in that she would insist she was clear eyed during the taxi ride and that her description was accurate. This gained support from a bouncer who could claim that many of his peers at the ballroom were not good with remembering individual faces.
Also a disheveled looking man yet well dressed was spotted with what may have been scratch marks on his face, getting off a bus at around 1:30 am at Sauchiehall street before heading towards the ferry that would cross the River Clyde and into the south side of the city.
Doing their due diligence in the investigations more similarities between each case would emerge that would reinforce the opinions of investigators that they had a serial killer active in Glasgow. All had attended the Barrowland Ballroom and when they were found, their handbags were gone. All were strangled with their stockings and raped.
From witness accounts all of them were escorted home before falling just short as they were murdered. All of them were menstruating at the time of death and had pads or tampons placed on or near their bodies.
Still not all were convinced that a serial killer was at large and that “Bible John” was simply an invention of the media. Perhaps there may have been multiple killers at large and in a time before DNA testing and perhaps a proper chain of evidence we may never know…