Saturday, 21 May 2016

Bible John Part 4: The Tobin Theory

Following the final murder of Helen Puttock in 1969 a flurry of police activity and media speculation soon dwindled as police ran out of leads and the case eventually went cold, with no suspects publicly announced to this day. However, in 2006 speculation surrounding the identity of the man known as ‘Bible John’ was renewed when a 60 year old man named Peter Tobin was arrested and charged with the murder of a 23 year old Polish student, Angelika Kluk. The media almost immediately speculated that they had found their man after all these years.

St Patrick's Church, Anderston, Glasgow

Peter Tobin was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire in 1946 (making him 22 at the time of the first Bible John murder) but moved to England in the early 1970s.  Although he was convicted of rape and assault in 1994, Tobin’s crimes did not come to public prominence until his murder of Angelika Kluk in 2006. At that time Tobin was working at a handyman at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Anderston, Glasgow under the assumed name of ‘Pat McLaughlin.’ Kluk was a 23 year old student originally from Skoczow, Poland, who was working as a cleaner at the church in order to fund her studies. On the 24th of September 2006 she was attacked by Tobin in the garage attached to the church, she was beaten, raped, stabbed and her body was concealed in an underground chamber beneath the floor of the church. Forensic evidence suggests that she was still alive when she was placed beneath the floorboards. Police discovered her body on the 29th of September and Tobin was convicted of her murder six weeks later. 

Angelika Kluk, Vicky Hamilton, Dinah McNicol

Following his conviction in the Kluk murder, detectives searched Tobin’s old house in Bathgate, West Lothian in connection with the disappearance of 15 year old Vicky Hamilton who was last seen on the 10th of February 1991 as she waited for a bus home to Redding, near Falkirk. Tobin is reported to have left Bathgate a few weeks after the murder, relocating to Margate in Kent. Tobin was arrested in July 2007, and a search of a home previously occupied by Tobin in 1991 revealed human remains buried in the back garden that were later confirmed as belonging to Vicky Hamilton. In 2007 a second body found at the same house in Margate was confirmed as belonging to Dinah McNicol, an 18 year old girl from Essex who was last seen alive hitchhiking home from a music festival in 1991. Following his convictions in these murders, Police launched ‘Operation Anagram’ to trace Tobin’s past movements and his possible involvement in a further 13 unsolved murder cases, including the Bible John Murders. Tobin is reported to have boasted in prison of having been responsible for the deaths of 48 victims 

Tobin’s conviction in these crimes led to widespread speculation that he was responsible for the Bible John murders, this thesis was spearheaded by Professor David Wilson, an expert in criminal behaviour who declared that he was willing to stake his professional reputation that Tobin was the killer. There is compelling evidence on both sides of the debate, supporting the claim that Tobin was John is the fact that he moved from Glasgow in 1969 (the year the killings officially ended) with his first wife, who he is reported to have met at the Barrowland Ballroom. It was also alleged by his former wives that Tobin was driven to violence by the menstrual cycle, something which has long been suspected as a motive behind the Bible John murders, as all three victims were menstruating at the times of their deaths. As a result of Operation Anagram, a woman came forward claiming that she had been raped by Tobin after she had met him at the Barrowland Ballroom in 1968, around the time of the Bible John killings. Another woman also came forward claiming to have had a threatening experience with Tobin at the Barrowland Ballroom, she said that Tobin had introduced himself as Peter and pestered her to go with him to a party in the Castlemilk area of the city. When she saw a photograph of Tobin from the 1960s she said ‘It was the man who came up to me so many years ago in the Barrowlands. I am 100 per cent certain that Tobin is Bible John. Former Detective Joe Jackson, who investigated the murders in the 60s was similarly convinced, he said: ‘When I saw his photograph, I thought, “This is as near to Bible John as you are going to get. This looks a winner.” He fitted the bill in every way and he had connections with religion.’

Yet despite these persuasive evidences that Tobin was indeed the John that stalked the Barrowland Ballroom in 68 and 67, perhaps the most damning evidence against this theory comes from the last victim, Helen Puttock’s sister, Jean McLaughlin. Jean, we must remember, spent an evening in close company with the killer, she shared a taxi cab with him, and by all accounts in a reliable and astute witness who claimed, for years, that she would be able to spot her sister’s killer if she ever saw him again. She is adamant that the man that murdered her sister was not Peter Tobin, when showed pictures she emphatically declared that Tobin was not the man she shared a taxi with.

Further evidence against Tobin being the killer is the difference in age between the suspect and Tobin himself in 1968. At the time of the murders, witnesses estimated the age of the killer to be anywhere between 25 – 35, but most accounts place him in his late twenties to early thirties. At the time of the first murder, Tobin was only 22 years old. Comparisons between pictures of a young Tobin and the artist’s impression of Bible John seem to work both ways, while some are adamant that they are identical, others see little resemblance. When the Kluk murder was discovered in 2006, speculation that Tobin might be responsible for the Bible John killings was fuelled by the, correct, observation that a murder so vicious and carefully executed was unlikely to be Tobin’s first murder at the age of sixty. We know now that it was not his first murder, and it is likely there are crimes, excluding the Bible John murders, that may still be attributed to Tobin prior to the killings of Hamilton and McNicol in the 1990s. To put my armchair detective hat firmly on, one thing that strikes me about the differences between the known Tobin murders and the killings of Bible John is the profound lengths taken to conceal the bodies in the later cases (Klux was concealed under the floor of the church, McNicol and Hamilton buried in the garden, Tobin even transported Vicky Hamilton’s body all the way from Bathgate in Scotland to Kent in England to put distance between himself and the crime) and the apparent disregard for concealing the murders in the Bible John murders, where all the bodies were left where they were killed, unconcealed and on display. We might put this down to a killer honing his skills, developing as a killer, but such a dramatic change in M.O demands attention.

It has been nearly 10 years since police launched an inquiry into any connection between Tobin and the Bible John murders, with detectives seemingly no closer to making an arrest. DNA from the Bible John case has eroded so much due to time and poor storage that it unlikely that any comparison could be made. Tobin is, no doubt, an evil man, but whether he is Bible John is 


  1. Even if the DNA has deteriorated so much modern technology in the past have managed to collect DNA from very poor samples they should pursue this further information