How police closed in on killer Robert Buczek

DCI Keith Hardie. Picture: Ian Georgeson

DCI Keith Hardie. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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PAINSTAKING forensic work at the murder scene and CCTV footage from a passing bus led police to Eleanor Whitelaw’s callous killer.

Robert Buczek’s DNA, found on the scissors he used to stab Mrs Whitelaw and a bottle of water in the house, matched with a profile on a police database.

His DNA had been logged after he was caught with a knife in the Capital during 2013 – a chilling glimpse of his violent nature.

Vital CCTV footage from a nearby bus also helped detectives piece together the timing of the horrific events on the afternoon of July 11 last year.

Hundreds of witness statements were also collated by the Major Investigation Team, leading to the arrest of Buczek, 24, a fortnight later.

He was initially charged with attempted murder, but when Mrs Whitelaw died on July 28, the charge was changed to murder.

Yesterday, after the High Court jury in Glasgow took less than ten minutes to return a guilty verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie said he hoped the conviction would bring some closure to Mrs Whitelaw’s devastated family.

DCI Hardie, who led the murder investigation, said his dedicated team had “worked tirelessly” to trace gambling addict Buczek after a suspected “robbery gone wrong”.

He said: “I am very satisfied at the verdict and that justice is being seen to be done. The investigation was very thorough and we relied heavily on the assistance of the 
community.

“Once again they have come to the fore. Two very significant witnesses came forward and gave us information.”

The senior officer said he could not overstate the importance of the forensic findings, adding: “The evidence against Buczek was compelling as far as the forensic work that was carried out in the house was concerned. It was 
painstaking and carried on over a long period by a dedicated team of staff.”

The family home on Morningside Grove was “retained” by police for several days, to allow forensics experts to comb every inch of the property for clues.

Officers carefully filmed every room in the house, keeping all evidence intact, before showing the footage to Mrs Whitelaw’s husband Robert.

He was asked to identify anything unusual or missing, and helped officers reach a breakthrough when he pointed out a Volvic water bottle in the hallway.

As well as the blood-stained scissors Buczek had used to stab Mrs Whitelaw, the plastic bottle featured Buczek’s DNA.

DCI Hardie said: “We were able to prioritise the bottle as something that might take the case forward. DNA played a vital part in the investigation.”

Officers also spent hours searching through CCTV from a Lothian bus which had been passing Mrs Whitelaw’s house when Buczek was at the door.

DCI Hardie said the footage – which shows the fateful moments when Mrs Whitelaw offered to help Buczek – gave detectives a “crucial timeframe”.

He said: “That in itself allowed us to focus around a particular crucial time, just prior to the commission of the crime, and work around before and after that time. [The CCTV] wasn’t of a quality that we’d be able to identify Buczek through facial [features]. It was through the windows of the bus, we were just fortunate enough that a bus was driving past.

“You can see what’s going on as the bus drives along but you only get a very fleeting glimpse of it. Painstaking work – hours and hours of work – were put into viewing that CCTV to identify that clip itself.”

At the beginning of the murder investigation, DCI Hardie said he could not recall such a violent incident having ever taken place in Morningside.

Buczek, a Polish national who had come to Scotland to seek work, had a previous conviction for robbing an elderly woman on the street in his native country when he was just 14.

DCI Hardie said: “He was certainly on our radar in Edinburgh but not significantly – he did have a conviction for what I believe was possessing an offensive weapon, which led us to have his DNA on the database.”

But DCI Hardie said the charge was Buczek’s “only previous” in Edinburgh – he was on bail when he stabbed Mrs Whitelaw.

“His intention was to commit theft. Why it ended up with the murder of Mrs Whitelaw we’ll probably never know,” he said.

“Our inquiries led us to believe he was keen to get money by any possible means. We know he was paid through his employment and committed the crime shortly thereafter.

“That is potentially indicative of somebody spending a week’s wage over a very short period of time which may point towards an addiction of some sort.”

When pressed on whether authorities should know about the criminal records of immigrants before they are allowed to move to the country, he said it was a “contentious subject” on which he could not 
comment.

“A lot of these crimes are opportunistic – it’s maybe just taking that opportunity when it’s presented rather than any pre-planning around about it,” DCI Hardie said.

Mrs Whitelaw had mild dementia. However, she and her husband were still living a fairly active life, with support from family.

The fact she died from such horrific violence at the age of 85 is likely to make her loss all the more difficult for 
relatives.

DCI Hardie said: “Her family will be satisfied that justice has been done and Buczek will remain behind bars.”

Victim’s family don’t consider killer to be human being

ELEANOR Whitelaw’s family has maintained a dignified silence since the mother-of-two and grandmother was cruelly taken from them last summer.

Only once has anyone spoken publicly, when husband Robert, 88, gave evidence during killer Robert Buczek’s trial at the High Court in Glasgow last week.

The couple had been married for 60 years and lived together in the Morningside Grove house since 1965.

They have a son and a daughter – son Bruce is a professor who works at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, where Dolly the Sheep was created in 1996.

Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie, who led the intensive police investigation which eventually snared 24-year-old Buczek, gave an insight into the Whitelaw family’s feelings towards the killer when he spoke at the force’s Fettes headquarters following yesterday’s guilty verdict.

He said: “He is despicable, cowardly, very athletic and fit, muscular, I share the view of the family that they don’t even consider him to be a human being.

“[After conversation with the family] they couldn’t consider that another human being was capable of doing that to their wife or mother.”