Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Peter Manuel 6: The Smart Family Murders

Peter, Doris and Michael Smart

Peter Smart (45) lived with his wife Doris and their 11 year old son Michael at No. 38 Sheepburn Road, Uddingston. Mr Smart worked as an area manager for W. and J.R Watson building contractors, based on London Road, Glasgow. Smart was not due to return to work until the 6th of January 1958 and planned to spent this time either visiting his parents in the town of Ancrum, near Jedburgh in the Scottish borders, or visiting some friends who ran the Dumbuck hotel in Dumbarton. As it was New Years Eve, Smart decided to stock up on a few bottles of whisky for the festivities, he visited a pub in Uddingston in order to buy a few bottles and to have a drink. He left at closing time, 10pm, and made his way home. For the next few hours Peter and Doris Smart entertained visiting neighbours and friends in their home, before retiring to bed around 2.30am. Only a few hours later each member of the Smart family would be murdered in their beds, one by one. They would lie there, undiscovered, for 6 days.

Why did it take 6 days for anyone to realise that something was terribly wrong? Well, Mr Smart’s parents down in the Borders and his friends at the Dumbuck Hotel both assumed that the Smart family had visited the other, and their neighbours in Sheepburn Road were equally unconcerned, for they had seen signs that the Smarts, or at least someone, was in the home, alive and well.
Mr Jackman, who lived across from the Smarts had noticed all the curtains in the Smart home were closed at around 10am on the morning of the 1st of January, 1958. Later that afternoon a dustman would notice that all the curtains were now open. On the 3rd of January, one of Michael’s friends looked in at the house to find all the curtains again closed. Later that day a close friend and neighbour noticed that the lounge curtains were now drawn, but the window was open, something that was uncharacteristic of proud-housekeeper Doris Smart. But when her husband later saw a light on in the lounge, they simply assumed that the Smarts must have come home. Later on the 4th of January Mr Jackman again noticed that the curtains which had previously been closed in the dining room were now open, later that same say a neighbour noticed them closed, but drawn unevenly, something Doris would not have tolerated. The same day the postman attempted to deliver a package to the family, but finding no answer, delivered the package to their neighbour instead, joking: ‘I think they must all be dead in there.’

Doris and Peter Smart

But it was only when Mr Smart failed to turn up for work on the 6th of January that the alarm was raised, fears were heightened when Mr Smart’s car was discovered abandoned several miles away in the Gorbals. Two of Mr Smart’s office staff, accompanied by a police constable, decided to visit the house. They found all the doors and windows locked and no sign of a break in, it was only when the constable broke in the back door that he discovered the massacre inside. Each of the Smart’s had been shot in the head as they lay in their beds, and as the bodies had lain there undiscovered for 6 days, one can only imagine the unmistakable stench of death that must have pervaded the scene.

For the next few days police combed the garden and surrounding areas for clues and turned up little, what they were specifically interested in finding was the murder weapon, supposed to be an Italian style automatic Beretta pistol. Meanwhile the search for Isabelle Cooke continued, and the newspapers started to talk about the two seemingly disparate crimes in the same breath, along with the murder of Anne Kneilands and the Watt murders, but without ever explicitly confirming that police were considering the possibility that all the crimes were the work of a serial killer.
Now let us turn to the behaviour of Peter Manuel on the night of the murders and the days that followed. On New Years Eve 1957, student nurse Mary McDonald on duty as Glasgow Southern General Hospital received a phone call from her friend and fellow student nurse Teresa Manuel. It was clear that the Manuel’s were in high spirits, at one point during the call Teresa’s brother Peter sang down the phone to her the popular song ‘Come Back to Sorrento’ followed by the Al Martino hit ‘Here in my Heart.’ Was this call to Mary a way of establishing an alibi for the crime he would commit in a few hours? Around the same time Peter called Mary, the Smart family were also wishing each other a happy new year, unaware that for them 1958 would last only approximately 6 more hours.
In the first few days of 1958, it was lost on no one that Peter Manuel, who was usual broke, was enjoying a mysterious windfall. He spent the next few days drinking in bars, buying drinks for other customers with abandon, and giving gifts of money to family and friends. At his trial his bank balance for this time was described as amounting to a measly 2s, 2d, so where had all this money come from? During this time when Manuel was described as being in particularly good spirits, he had also been revisiting the scene of the Smart murders to open and close the windows, to feed the cat, and perhaps to gloat at the bodies of his victims.
Manuel was clearly so arrogant, so convinced that he was above suspicion, that he neither had to hide his newly found wealth, or refrain from returning to the scene of the crime. In a supreme act of arrogance he even gave a lift to a police officer who was currently occupied in the search for the body of Isabelle Cooke while driving Peter Smart’s Austin motorcar. But what would finally trip Manuel up was a few bank notes. On the day of the murders Peter Smart had withdrawn £35 in new, sequential bank notes and police were able to determine precisely which serial numbers would appear on these notes. At 6.45am the 14th of January 1958, homicide detectives arrived at the Manuel home with a search warrant, during the search they found several items stolen from previous burglaries and also bank notes matching the serial numbers of those that Peter Smart had withdrawn only hours before he was murdered.

So now the police had concrete evidence that tied Manuel to the Smart murder, but what they really wanted was a confession, and they went about getting it in an ingenious way. They charged Samuel Manuel, Peter’s father, who steadfastly refused to account for the stolen goods found in his home, with burglary. Police must have known that Samuel had had no part in the crime, but must have hoped that the arrest of the father would result in some reaction from the son. And it did. Manuel not only confessed to some of the murders had committed but also led police to the body of the still missing Isabelle Cooke. For the release of his father on the charges of housebreaking, Manuel offered ‘to give information to you to clear up a number of unsolved crimes which occurred in the county of Lanarkshire in the past two years. This promise is given that I might release my father and my family from any obligations or loyalties they may feel on my behalf.’

This was the account that he gave of the Smart murders:
I did it about six o’clock in the morning of New Year’s Day. I got in the kitchen window. I went into a bedroom and got eighteen or twenty pounds in new notes and four or five ten shilling notes in a wallet. It was in a jacket hanging on a chair in the man’s room. I shot the man first then the woman and I then shot the boy…I then went into the living-room and ate a handful of wee biscuits from a tray on a chiffonier and I got about eighteen shillings from a red purse in the woman’s hand-bag. I took the man’s keys and then took the car…I threw the gun I the Clyde and the keys in the Calder….

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Peter Manuel 5: The Murder of Isabelle Cooke

Isabelle Cook (17)

17 year old Isabelle Cooke, a sixth-form pupil at Hamilton Academy, lived with her parents and three younger brothers at 5 Carrick Drive, Mount Vernon. On the afternoon of the 28th December 1957, Mr and Mrs Cooke had left the home at around 4pm, leaving Isabelle, her 3 brothers and Mr Cooke’s mother in the house. The Cookes returned home around 8pm, but Isabelle was not at home. This did not raise immediate concerns, her parents merely assumed she had already arrived safely at the hockey club dance held at the Masonic Hall, Uddingston, which she had planned to attend with her boyfriend, Douglas Bryden (16). But Isabelle had not arrived, and by the time her parents arrived home she was already dead.

She had left home at 6.45pm in order to catch the 7.30pm bus, her father William Cooke would later tell reporters that she almost certainly took a short cut leading from the blind end of the cul-de-sac in which she lived, across the railway, down onto Mount Vernon Avenue and then onto Hamilton Road, otherwise she would not have been able to arrive in time to catch the bus. This short cut would include the same footpath on which Peter Manuel had assaulted a woman and her child 11 years ago in 1946.
When she left home, Isabelle was wearing a blue raincoat, a blue and white dress, a headscarf with a map of France on it, earrings shaped like the Eiffel Tower, nylon stockings and tan slip on shoes. She was carrying a beige vanity case, inside were her dance shoes, her cosmetics bag and a little money. Isabelle had made plans to meet up with her boyfriend, Douglas Bryden, outside the dance. Bryden would later tell police that he had waited 45 minutes outside the hall before giving up and heading inside alone.

That night the family phone was out of order, and the family took a small comfort in the theory that she had had to stay with a friend and could not get in touch to inform them. The Cookes went to bed around midnight puzzled as to why Isabelle had not returned home as expected. William was unable to sleep, however, and would get up and search with a torch, what would later be identified as the very spot on which his daughter had been attacked hours earlier. He found nothing, however, for by this time Isabelle Cook was lying in a shallow grave in a field a quarter mile away.

When Isabelle had still not returned in the morning, her parents reported her disappearance to the police. At around 4.30pm that afternoon police recovered Isabelle Cooke’s purse from the railway line near Barrachnie Road Bridge, Mount Vernon. This discovery was closely followed by the recovery of her underskirts, her coat, her brooch, her underwear, her vanity case, and her cosmetics, scattered in various locations nearby. These items were all duly identified by her parents in the increasingly certain knowledge that their daughter was never coming home. Once Manuel had been identified as the girls killer, it would be discovered that the scattering of Isabelle’s few belongings formed an almost straight line leading from the Cooke home to the Manuel home – a startling example of Manuel’s arrogance and certainty that he was above police suspicion.

Despite locating almost all of Isabelle’s belongings, her body still eluded police. They would search nearby areas of water diligently with frogmen and would even search disused mine shafts – but could find no trace of the body itself. On the 6th of January the ongoing search would be pushed off the frontpages by the senseless massacre of a family of three in Uddingston, few at the time could guess that the two events were the crimes of the same man.

Isabelle’s body would eventually be recovered on January 16th 1958, 19 days after her murder, and if it were not for an arrest the previous day in connection with the Smart family murders, it may never have been recovered at all. Under arrest for the murder of the Smarts, Manuel would lead police directly the spot where Isabelle Cook lay under three foot of dirt in a corner of Burntbroom farm. What his motives were in doing so we can only guess, coupled with the fact that he subtly directed the police almost to his front door in the scattering of Cooke’s belongings, perhaps he was arrogantly demanding that the world acknowledge his handywork, or perhaps he somehow wanted to be caught? We cannot know.