Tom Wood says World’s End victims failed by system

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The police chief who led the investigation into the World’s End murders has said the justice system failed the victims and their families for not acting on earlier warnings about killer Angus Sinclair.

Tom Wood, the former Lothian and Borders Deputy Chief Constable, was involved in investigating the crimes of Sinclair, as well as serial killers Peter Tobin and Robert Black.

And following Sinclair’s conviction for the murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott after a night out at the World’s End pub in Edinburgh in 1977, Wood said the killer should never have been freed to commit his crime – and warned the current over-stretched justice system may repeat the same tragic mistake.

Sinclair was jailed in 1961 for killing seven-year-old Catherine Reehill, and the judge at his sentencing said he was “obsessed with sex and, given the minimum opportunity, he will repeat these offences irrespective of what promises he may give to the contrary”.

He served six years in prison before being released, and Wood, 65, now retired, said: “He was released to brutalise, rape and kill again and again. Much, of course, seems to have changed over the last 37 years but I wonder how much really has. With pressure on prison places, how many young Angus Sinclairs are even today being processed towards liberty despite the assessment of professionals who warn they are still a danger to the public?”

In a new edition of his book, The World’s End Murders: The Final Verdict, wood also suggests the police force of the day was simply unprepared to cope with the crimes committed by Sinclair, Pater Tobin – who killed at least three girls including Vicky Hamilton – and Robert Black, the killer of at least four young women.

Wood was involved in investigations into the crimes of all three men, said: “What is so remarkable about Sinclair was that at the time of the World’s End murders, he was not the only serial killer in Scotland.

“Black, Tobin and Sinclair were born within a year of each other and they were all sexually motivated criminals who used methods of transport to conceal their crimes.

“The chances of a place as small as Scotland, which has the same population as Yorkshire, having three such men operating at the same time is absolutely remarkable – and the police service at the time didn’t have the necessary equipment and means to prevent or detect those men.”

And the former top cop paid tribute to the young scientific officer who collected the DNA samples that would eventually lead to the conviction of Sinclair and the closure of one of Scotland’s most infamous murder cases.

“When Christine and Helen were killed, Lester Knibb, a very junior scientific officer, attended the scene and took possession of forensic samples,” he said.

“Lester could see into the future. He knew that one day forensic science would reveal who had killed these girls.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com