Saturday, 24 December 2016

Peter Manuel Part 2: The Murder of Anne Kneilands

When we left off Peter Manuel had just been acquitted of the rape of Mary McLachlan and despite that acquittal there is little doubt that Manuel resolved never to risk leaving a witness able to identify him in court. 
Anne Kneilands, 17

On Thursday 5th January 1956, newspapers reported a brutal murder that had taken place on East Kilbride golf course, and as such the crime was quickly nicknamed the ‘5th Tee Murder.’ The victim was a 17 year old machinist from nearby High Blantyre named Anne Kneilands. Knielands had been missing from the 2nd of January until her battered body was found on the golf course on the 4th. She had been brutally raped and murdered. 

Police search the golf course where Anne's body was found for evidence

Anne Kneilands was five feet ten inches tall, fair haired and pretty, and the second eldest of six children. She worked as a machinist at a factory in Howard Street, Glasgow. Her family told detectives that on the night she went missing she was planning to meet a man whom she had met at a dance in East Kilbride Town Hall the previous Friday. Her sister Alice had also been at the dance and was able to provide police with a description of the man. The would-be date was no under immediate suspicion. That night the two sisters had danced with two men in particular, who had seen them home after the dance was over. Alice had been escorted home by a James Harrow and Anne by a Private Andrew Murnin of the Parachute Regiment. Anne had told Alice that she and Andrew had arranged to meet again at Capelrig bus terminus at East Kilbride at 6pm the following Monday, with the intention of catching the 6.15pm bus to Glasgow.
On the evening in question Anne left for her date at around 5.20pm, but when her date failed to show up, she decided to wait and catch the next bus at 6.45pm, hoping perhaps that her date was only running late. With some time to kill before the later bus arrived, she decided to visit family friends The Simpsons at nearby Capelrig Farm. She explained to them that she had missed her bus, but was going to catch the next one. Mrs Jean Simpson recalled Anne leaving at 6.40pm that night. Anne did not tell any of the Simpson family that she had been stood up, so for a while after her body was discovered police were unsure of her movements that night. They initially assumed that she had gone dancing anyway, and the following Friday, dancing at the Cooperative Hall in Blantyre was interrupted by a detective asking for any information as to the movements of Kneilands that night. But no witnesses came forward – for Anne Knielands was never there. They would later discover that Anne could not have even afforded to go dancing that night – she only had four pence in her purse when she left home. 

When traced, Private Andrew Murnin was quickly cleared of any involvement in the murder. Having celebrated Hogmanay in traditional style, he was simply too hungover to keep his date with Anne. His movements were confirmed by friends and family. Anne’s parents had gone to Glasgow on the night she disappeared and were not unduly concerned when she did not return that night, they assumed she was merely spending the night at a friend’s house. When she did not return by the 4th, however, they did begin to worry and reported her disappearance to the police. Later that day they were told of the terrible news that her body had been found, discarded on a golf course that they must have driven past on their way home from Glasgow.

Anne’s body was discovered at 3pm on the 4th of January by George Gribbon, who was in the habit of walking his dogs on the golf course while collecting lost golf balls. At first he thought that he had seen someone lying sunbathing on the grass, but the bitterly cold weather made this unlikely. Once he got closer he realised that what he had taken for a sunbather was the corpse of Anne Kneilands. Anne had been attacked so brutally that her skull had been broken into pieces, a further fifteen pieces of it were found at another spot of the golf course. One of Anne’s ballet-style shoes was found embedded in the mud not far from her body, indicating that she had tried to escape from her killer but had been chased down.

The evidence points to a terrifying version of events that night - in an attempt to flee from her pursuer Anne had lost her right shoe in the mud, then in the darkness had ran into a barbed wire fence causing multiple lacerations to her face and arms, she had then lost her other shoe before eventually running in terror across the muddy field in her bare feet, as evidenced by the bare footprints in the mud – before finally being caught and subjected to a sustained and brutal attack. There could be no doubt where the murder took place, the ground was saturated with blood and littered with skull fragments, but the body was not found at this spot, indicating that the killer had either spent some time beside the body before moving it, or that he had returned and moved the body to a more secluded spot in the time between the murder and the time when the body was discovered. The killer had scattered his victims possessions around the area, her blood-stained headscarf, her watch, an earring, some beads and a French five centime piece were found in different places up to 340 yards from her shoes.

Police search the snow covered golf course where the body was found

On January 4th one of the Simpson daughters found Anne’s purse hidden at the back of the Capelrig Farm. Had the killer stalked Anna from when she left the farm that night and returned after the crime to leave the purse in order to focus police suspicion on someone inside?
Detectives composed a list of potential suspects, and Peter Manuel was on that list. Besides the scratches on his face that week, something else should have focused police attention on him. At the time of the murder he was working on a construction project alongside the golf course on which Anne Knielands was murdered. Manuel was interviewed by detectives but was adamant that he had an alibi for the night of the murder, he had been at home all night, and his ever loyal father told police exactly the same thing. And so he got away with murder, for a while at least, and would go on to kill again.

When Manuel was finally arrested in 1958 he finally gave this confession of the murder:

‘On the first of January 1956 I was in East Kilbride about 7pm in the evening. At about 7.30pm I was walking towards the Cross when I met a girl. She spoke to me and addressed me as Tommy. I told her my name was not Tommy and she said she thought she knew me. We got talking and she told me she had to meet someone, but she did not think they were turning up for the meeting. After a while I asked if she would like some tea or coffee. She assented and we went into the Willow CafĂ©. I do not remember how long we were there but it was not long/. When we came out, she said she was going home and I offered to see her home. She said she lived miles away and I would probably get lost if I took her home. I insisted and she said ‘All right.’ We walked along the road up to Maxwellton Road. From there we went along a curving country road that I cannot name. About halfway along this road, I pulled her into field gate. She struggled and ran away and I chased her across a field and over a ditch. When I caught up to her I dragged her into a wood. In the wood she started screaming and I hit her over the head with a piece of iron I picked up. After I had killed her I ran down a country lane that brought me out at the General’s Bridge at the East Kilbride Road. I do not know where I flung the piece of iron. I then ran down to High Blantyre and along a road that brought me to Bardykes Road. I got home about 10.15pm.’

Whether any of this is true is anyone’s guess – Manuel was never one for the truth. And like his version of events in the Mary McLachlan rape case, he minimises his own responsibility for the crime, emphasising instead the recklessness of his victim – after all, hadn’t she approached him first? And when she started to scream he just panicked and picked up a piece of iron that just ‘happened’ to be lying there. The real truth was that this was a brutal and opportunistic attack on a defenceless young girl. The murder of Anne Knielands, with the benefit of hindsight, be seen within a gradual escalation of violent behaviour, starting with petty crimes, graduating to rape and then murder, that would go on to claim the lives of at least 8 other people.


  1. Although her underwear were stolen she was not raped, and she lived at Calderwood Castle Stables in East Kilbride.

  2. Apparently Manuel was unable to have normal sexual relations.