Edinburgh Unsolved: Police puzzled by movements of victim days before attack

Police at the scene in 1995
Police at the scene in 1995

TIMID Robert Higgins was very much a creature of habit.

Finishing up a week’s work at the Marshall’s chicken factory, he would head to the same pubs before returning to the Dalmeny home he shared with mother Agnes.

Robert Higgins' sister Brenda Walker says he was 'too trusting for his own good'

Robert Higgins' sister Brenda Walker says he was 'too trusting for his own good'

But all that changed in the last week of April 1995 when Robert mysteriously broke from his routine.

A week later, on May 1, he turned up dead in a quarry near Kirkliston. The 35-year-old had suffered a single stab wound.

No one has been brought to justice for the crime and the case remains one of the Lothians’ most baffling unsolved murders.

Blood was found on his clothes that could only come from a woman while his shoes and socks were neatly folded by the body, with a jacket hanging on a nearby branch.

Robert Higgins was murdered in 1995

Robert Higgins was murdered in 1995

Robert was known to strike up conversations with strangers easily and was generous to a tee – buying rounds of drinks in his favourite pubs.

Had some unscrupulous individuals taken advantage of his good nature?

“He was too trusting for his own good,” sister Brenda told the Evening News back in 2001. “He was too nice, too gullible. He would speak to anyone, even total strangers. He wasn’t a fighter and if anything started, he would be the first to walk away.”

It was a bank holiday weekend and after initially telling Agnes he was staying in, Robert headed out for drinks and a game of pool around town. He finished the night with a bunch of fellow regulars in the Kirklands Public House but never returned home and Agnes would never see her beloved son again.

There would be sporadic sightings of Robert over the weekend – he called at a friend’s nearby after the pub on Thursday then two police officers spotted him in Main Street.

The following evening he was seen with a mystery middle-aged couple at 9pm in Rosebery Avenue, South Queensferry.

On the Saturday he was spotted at the Moat House Motel which was hosting a Laurel and Hardy convention and later walking towards the Forth Road Bridge.

He was last seen, again with a man and woman, though with different descriptions to the first couple, by a churchgoer on the Sunday morning at 11am in Morison Gardens.

The next day, at around 5pm, a father and his sons out shooting discovered Robert’s body at the remote Lindsay’s Craigs Quarry, Milrig Farm.

Detectives immediately cordoned off the quarry and started combing the area for clues. There were a number of strange aspects to the case.

Robert’s trousers had been pulled down around his ankles and his shirt scrunched up around his neck but a sex attack was ruled out with no signs of a struggle.

A robbery also seemed implausible as money was left behind by the killer or killers, while two locked gates had to be climbed over to get to the quarry.

Neither couple spotted with Robert have been traced. Could they hold the key to his death?

The murder weapon, a common kitchen knife, was taken from the scene but, in a bizarre twist, is later believed to have been found by a woman who used it to chop vegetables, washing away any forensic evidence.

A post mortem showed 
Robert had been drinking but detectives had no idea where he stayed those last nights. The information could prove crucial in cracking the case.

“We need to know who he was spending the nights with,” Det Insp Donnie Stewart said back in 2001. “I believe whoever he was staying with that weekend holds the key to this mystery.”

Time passing with no killers caught gave rise to wild theories – a jealous husband, violent money lenders or sinister gay lover.

But Robert was heterosexual and one theory entertained by detectives is that his tidy appearance noted by work colleagues in the lead up to his death were telltale signs of a new girlfriend.

But who was she? It was typical of shy Robert to keep any new relationship under wraps.

Not knowing the truth has had a devastating effect on Robert’s family – that and the prospect of someone in their community being responsible.

“It has to be someone from this area,” said Brenda. “We can’t grieve properly for him. We can’t let him go.

“I believe in my heart that someone in this community knows what happened to my brother.”

“I still can’t believe someone could hurt him, he was a good man. We’ll never be able to rest until they get who did this.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com