New crime unit could reopen unsolved cases

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THE files remain open, the investigations never closed.

A list of terrible crimes dating back more than 45 years – many of which may have been forgotten and consigned to history by the wider public – remain unsolved for the detectives on Lothian and Borders Police.

Now, a new national unit established to track down killers who have escaped justice may be about to go on the case.

The Crown Office’s Cold Case Unit – set up at the instruction of Scotland’s chief prosecutor – is investigating unsolved murders.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson said the convictions of Malcolm Webster, who murdered his wife in a staged car crash in 1994, and serial killer Peter Tobin have demonstrated the resolve of prosecutors to solve killings years after they were committed.

The Crown Office today declined to comment on whether any of the Lothian cases were among those undergoing re-investigation, adding that disclosing their caseload may hamper any inquiries.

However, it is known a total of 93 unsolved killings across Scotland have been logged on its unresolved homicide database by members of the unit, with the first five “priority” cases already selected by its bosses.

The database brings together information provided by police forces to help identify cases that could be cracked through advances in evidence gathering techniques such as DNA profiling.

As well as 11 historic unsolved murders, Lothian and Borders Police are still investigating the murder of Lee Duncan, 31, who died from a blunt force trauma in his flat in Lauriston Place, Tollcross, on February 25 last year.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “To date, the database has 93 cases. This figure will change as the cold case unit continues to work with the police to ensure that historical cases, subject to older recording systems, are identified and added to the database; and as cases are resolved. Cases cover the period from 1942 to 2008 from across Scotland.”

A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: “We continue to conduct cold case reviews into our unsolved murder cases and they remain open until this day.

“We would still appeal to anyone with information on any one of them to come forward, no matter how insignificant it might seem.

“It may just take one piece of intelligence to provide a vital breakthrough on a case.”

DAVID McMENIGALL

The murder of city businessman David McMenigall, whose body was found at his rented bungalow in Glasgow Road, Corstorphine on February 24, 1966, could be among those selected for re-investigation by the unit.

Mr McMenigal was the chairman and managing director of Central Refrigeration Services, which was then based in George Street.

The 52-year-old was found dead in his home by his housekeeper, having suffered head injuries, his Mark 10 Jaguar still parked outside.

At the time, CID detectives revealed that Mr McMenigall’s house had been broken into two months earlier, on Christmas Day.

Following his murder, a team of 30 officers searched a caravan site, playing fields and farmland near Mr McMenigall’s home, even using a tractor to plough up ground as part of the hunt.

Detectives later appealed for help in tracing a black Hillman car, made between 1947 and 1949, which was seen in the area on the night of the murder. However, the person responsible remains a mystery.

Catherine Duncan

The killing of 46-year-old Catherine Duncan, who was found dead in her council flat in Wallyford, East Lothian, on February 2, 1968, also remains open.

Mrs Duncan had been out playing bingo in the Miners Bowling Club in Wallyford on the previous evening with her 53-year-old husband, Tom, who discovered her stabbed to death at 6.30am the next day after he returned from his night-shift as a miner at Smeaton Colliery, near Dalkeith.

Detectives appealed to anyone who might have seen Mrs Duncan after 10pm on the night before she was found dead as they searched nearby gardens for the murder weapon.

Witnesses had described Mrs Duncan, who occasionally worked at the bowling club “laughing and joking” with her husband before he left to go to work at around 10pm. Her body was found in her home in Albert Crescent, about a quarter of a mile from the club.

Helen Kane

The cold case unit may also choose to re-investigate the murder of 25-year-old Helen Kane, whose body was found on a hillside overlooking Holyrood Park on May 25, 1970.

The partially-clothed body of the housewife, who died from head injuries, was discovered in a shallow building site excavation south of the Pleasance by a man walking his dog.

Mrs Kane, of Greendykes Terrace, Craigmillar, had been out with friends and her husband, Joe, a hospital porter, in Leith on the previous night, leaving their company in Duke Street at around 11.25pm.

Detectives later appealed to any taxi drivers who may have taken a man and woman to the Dumbiedykes area between 11pm and 2am.

Police in Glasgow hunting the notorious serial killer Bible John contacted their counterparts in the Capital to try and determine whether there could be a link with Mrs Kane’s murder. But detectives later said they were “reasonably satisfied” that their was no connection with Bible John, who was thought to be responsible for the killings of three women in 1968 and 1969.

Neil McCann

Ex-boxer Neil McCann, 37, was stabbed and beaten to death in Craigmillar Castle Loan as he walked to his girlfriend’s home on February 20, 1974. In August 2008, former petty criminal John McGranaghan broke his silence to claim that he was the intended target of the killers.

McGranaghan said a city businessman, who now lives in Spain, went to Glasgow crime baron Arthur “the Godfather” Thompson to organise the hit. A fresh report on the case was passed by police to the Crown Office in 2009, but the inquiry has not been re-opened.

J Ralph McIntosh

Widower J Ralph McIntosh, 72, died after being beaten and stabbed in his home in Gullane, East Lothian. A drawer in a bedroom had been forced but no other sign of disturbance was found after the murder on January 26, 1982.

Sheila Anderson

Prostitute Sheila Anderson, 27, was deliberately run down by a driver on a muddy path in Granton on April 7, 1983.

Dozens of kerb-crawlers in Edinburgh’s red light district were interviewed after Ms Anderson, a mother-of-two who turned to prostitution to pay for her heroin habit, was found dead.

Ann Ballantine

In May, cold case squad detectives made a renewed appeal for information about the murder of 20-year-old Ann Ballantine, who was strangled and dumped in the Union Canal.

Ms Ballantine vanished in November 1986 and was reported missing when she failed to turn up to celebrate Christmas with her parents. On January 21, 1987, her naked body, bound at the hands and feet, was pulled from the city waterway 100 yards from her Polwarth flat.

Billy Sibbald

Billy Sibbald, 48, of Joppa, disappeared on October 8, 2002, after telling his wife, Julie, he was going to meet business associates.

Three months later, his body was found in woodland by a lay-by on the A1 near Musselburgh. Police suspect his death was the result of a gangland hit. Mr Sibbald was involved in both the licensed trade and the sauna industry.

STEVEN BROWN

Steven Brown was found dead in a large field overlooking Elphinstone Road in Tranent, on February 21, 1999 after being attacked by a gang of men wielding baseball bats.

The 35-year-old father-of-one was beaten around the head and body in what police believed was the culmination of a long-running feud. Three men were charged with the murder of Mr Brown, of Kerry Road, Tranent, on February 24, 1999, but they were released due to a lack of evidence.

JOHN NISBET

AND WILLIAM LINDSAY

The charred remains of John Nisbet and William Lindsay were found on a farm track in Elphinstone, near Tranent, on October 13, 1999.

The victims were believed to have been shot in Lanarkshire in a gangland-style execution before their bodies were dumped and burned.

In both cases, detectives identified suspects but not enough evidence was produced to bring them to trial. It was thought the deaths of Mr Nisbet, 25, of Craigneuk, and Mr Lindsay, 26, of Motherwell, may have been drug-related.