MURDER, torture and rape – for city cop Lee Cockburn, it was her toughest case ever.
In her sights was a vicious murderer who preyed on successful and independent women. And when he caught them, he’d subject his terrified victims to a brutal, sustained and terrifying attack.
“It was cat and mouse,” recalls Lee, a police officer for the past 14 years. “And all pretty brutal.”
It’s no surprise that police sergeant Lee has seen her fair share of crime since she joined the force. Thankfully, though, this time the culprit, the horrific deeds and his twisted bloodlust are all pure fiction.
For in between fighting real-life crime on Edinburgh’s streets, powering her way to around 80 international rugby caps and, when the need arose, putting her first aid skills to use saving lives, the Drylaw-based sergeant has now written her first book.
Not surprisingly, it’s a crime-based thriller. But there, she insists, is where the similarity between real-life crime fighting in Edinburgh and the world of psychopathic killers ends.
“I work in Muirhouse, West Pilton, those areas,” she points out, “and crime there is completely different to what’s in the book.
“Real-life crime is still pretty brutal and I’ve dealt with some horrible things, but what’s in the book is pure fiction.”
Just as well, her first novel – out next week – is a chilling tale of a vicious killer who stalks his victims mercilessly then subjects them to a terrifying ordeal. On the case is Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks, a faultless, dedicated police officer with a shambolic love life that sees her embroiled in a series of chaotic liaisons with a string of women lovers.
“Back in the day I could have been the main female character,” laughs Lee, 46, who lives with partner Emily and their two sons, Jamie and Harry, both four. The brothers – who share the same dad – were born just three months apart after Lee became pregnant first, followed by Emily.
Occasionally, she adds, the book can get quite steamy – even though writing it with two toddlers to care for meant she had to stretch her imagination. “You don’t really want to think about violence and crime and sex when you have two tiny little people to look after,” she explains.
Originally from Silverknowes, Lee tried to join the police when she was 18, but recruitment had slumped and she ended up working first as a lifeguard, later as deputy manager at the Commonwealth Pool.
After 13 years she again applied to the police and was accepted. Eventually she was seconded to the specialist public order unit – “the ones in the helmets and shields crashing through doors,” she explains.
She was promoted to sergeant five years ago.
Away from the force – and crime writing – she is an accomplished rugby forward, with over 80 caps for Scotland Women’s rugby team and British Lionesses. She also swam competitively for 12 years and represented Edinburgh at the age of 15 at the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984.
And while her police career has, thankfully, not seen her have to deal with anything like the savage crimes that unravel in her book, Devil’s Demise, she’s had her share of challenging moments.
“I was just six months in the job,” she recalls. “There was a fight in the street. I was punched in the face and knocked out.
“I came round to find a wee guy trying to steal my baton. We won in the end – good has to overcome evil, like in the book.”
But it takes a lot to knock her down: “Fifteen stones and still playing rugby at 46,” she laughs. “Openly gay in the police force, two kids and now about a fifth of the way through the next book. I’m pretty chuffed with that.”
Meanwhile her book has already stirred up plenty of interest among her fellow police officers. “I think a few of them are looking forward to reading it,” she adds, “especially the sexy bits.”
Devil’s Demise by Lee Cockburn is published by Clink Street Publishing, £7.99 paperback, £2.99 ebook. It is on sale from November 11 from bookstores and Amazon.co.uk