Thursday, 1 June 2017

Partick 1984: The Unsolved Murder of Mary Ann McLaughlin

Craithie Court, Partick

The striking modernist facade of Crathie Court can be found nestled on Laurel Street, Partick. Despite being over 60 years old, it still looks alarmingly modern amongst the surrounding Victorian tenements. Completed in 1952, the grade B listed building was the first high rise public housing project to be built in Glasgow. Designed in 1949 by Ray Bradbury, Glasgow's Director of Housing, Crathie Court was intended to be a prototype of the high rise model that was thought to be the solution to the urgent slum clearance programme, and is today recognised as an important landmark development in Scotland's post war housing programme. Yet despite the optimism of its beginnings, in the 1980s Crathie Court became the site of a brutal, and unsolved murder.
Craithie Court

On the 2nd of October 1984, the body of 58yr old mother Mary Ann McLaughlin was discovered in her home in Crathie Court when a concerned relative noticed a foul smell coming from the apartment. She had been strangled with a ligature, and her body had lain there for six days.

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Following the discovery of the body, detectives began to try to piece together the last movements of the murdered woman. She had been last seen the previous Wednesday evening, around 11pm in The Hyndland Bar, situated at the corner of Hyndland Street and Forsythe Street in the company of a young man. (In the 1990s the Hyndland Bar was renamed Brian's Bar, then it became The Rio Cafe, and very recently it became The Partick Duck Club)

The Hyndland Bar, 1980s

After leaving the Hyndland Bar, it was believed that Mary visited a chip shop, Arnandos, on Dumbarton Road and bought a bag of fritters and some cigarettes. Lead detective Iain Wishart would later say: 'Mary was in a good mood that night and was laughing and joking with staff. She would always ask them to say goodnight to her in Italian.'
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Mary was next seen around 100 yards from the chip shop walking down Crown Road in the company of a young man, it was the last time Mary was seen alive. The police issued the following description of the man seen in Mary's company that night: he was slightly built, aged between 22 and 26, 5ft10 to 6ft tall, clean shaven with brownish neat cut hair worn bushy at the sides, possibly with a prominent nose. He was described as wearing a bomber or anorak style jacket, green or grey in colour, with green collar and cuffs, the remainder of his clothing was light coloured.

Despite police efforts this man was never traced and despite strenuous police efforts, the case soon went cold.

Detective Iain Wishart would later describe how the case continued to haunt him for years afterwards. To him it was 'the one that got away'. He would tell reporters: 'It was

“It was a baffling case at the time and has remained so to this day. Mary Ann’s murder is the only one I didn't solve. I was senior investigating officer for around 25 and worked on about 100 murders in total, but the big question then and now was who would want to murder Wee Mary? I remember it being a difficult inquiry. We didn’t have forensics back then and I had a suspect very early on but after questioning him many times I knew he didn’t do it. There wasn’t any help from the locals either. We were disappointed in the lack of response. The area was busy at the time but not one person came forward.” To this day, Wishart is adamant: 'I'm certain the answer to Mary's murder lies locally.'

Three days after Mary's body was discovered, detectives uncovered what was believed to be her bra in the back garden of Crathie Court. Wishart later reported: “It wasn’t 100 per cent conclusive it was hers but Mary’s boyfriend at the time thought it might have been. We didn’t even know if there was any significance to the find as there was no evidence of a sexual assault but it frustrated me then that the area wasn’t searched completely. Policing back then was very different to modern methods.”

Detective Wishart was not the only one haunted by Mary's death, Mary's daughter Gina McGavin has vowed never to stop looking for answers to her mother's murder. She even wrote a book about her mum's murder, named 'Diamonds and Frills' after a lyric in her mother's favourite song 'Little Things Mean a Lot' by Kitty Kallen.

At the time of her mother's murder, Gina was mourning the death of her father who had died just a few weeks before. She would later tell reporters: "I still remember the day I got the phone call to say my mother was dead. I couldn't believe it because my father had just been buried about three weeks earlier, aged 68. I said to the police in disbelief, "but my father had just died - he has only been buried a few weeks, how can my mum be dead?'"

Gina at Craithie Court

Mary left Gina's father Joe Mullen when Gina was only two but despite her tough upbringing (during which they were briefly homeless after Joe lost his job when Brown's shipyard closed down) she speaks warmly of her mother:'I wasn’t as close to her as I’d have liked. She was a poor soul but not a bad person.'

Gina describes her mother as a 'lost soul' and admits that her mother's life at the time of her murder was 'chaotic.' She added: "She wasn't working, she liked to go out to pubs, she liked parties. Basically whatever went wrong in her life she still liked to have fun.' Yet '"I feel like she never really showed her true self. She wore a painted smile.'

Gina is adamant that her mother was killed by someone she knew: 'I’m convinced that whoever killed her knew her. She wouldn’t have let a stranger into her house. I just hope that one day we can find out who and why.” She is determined to never stop looking for answers in her mother's case: 'I want my mother to know that somebody cared enough about her to keep trying. I have never given up.'

There have never been any arrests made in Mary Ann McLaughlin's case, but despite this police maintain that the case remains open, and is subject to periodic review.


  1. Someone must know who is responsible

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