Vicky: 16-year mystery close to an end

MISSING schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton's DNA has been found at sex killer Peter Tobin's former Bathgate home, it was reported today.

Police refused to confirm or deny that pieces of crucial evidence had been found following a search of the property last month. Fifteen-year-old Vicky was last seen in the town in February 1991, less than a mile away from where Tobin lived in Robertson Avenue.

Detectives are now expected to question Tobin in prison.

Vicky's father, Michael, has always maintained that his daughter did not just run away. He said: "She was a bright and bubbly teenager, tall for her age, who was starting to strike out on her own. I believe she was abducted and murdered. I hope the police will knock on my door some day soon and finally let me know what happened."

The schoolgirl was 15 when she disappeared on her way home to Redding, near Falkirk.

Tobin, who was jailed in May for the rape and murder of Polish student Angelika Kluk, is believed to have left the town just days after Vicky's disappearance.

A police spokesman said: "A number of samples that were taken from the house in Bathgate are currently undergoing scientific examination. Lothian and Borders Police is not yet in a position to definitively report the outcome of those examinations."

Police began a search of the house last month after Tobin, 60, was sentenced to life imprisonment. All the furniture of the family of three now living at the house was removed and the house stripped to a bare shell.

Police dug up the garden and removed the wallpaper and floorboards as they conducted a minute search of the premises.

A specialist underwater team also searched a pond at the Boghead Nature Reserve, about 500 metres away from the house. Tobin was sentenced to at least 21 years in prison for the murder of Angelika Kluk, 23, at St Patrick's Church in the Anderston area of Glasgow on 24 September last year and hiding her mutilated body under the floorboards.

The court heard Tobin had been convicted in England in 1994 for raping and sodomising two teenage girls, and the judge told him it was clear he was a danger to women.

A huge search was launched for Vicky when she went missing on February 10, 1991.

She was last seen waiting at a Bathgate bus stop as she changed buses on her way home to Falkirk after visiting her older sister, Sharon Brown, in Livingston.

The house where Vicky's DNA has been discovered lies in a quiet cul-de-sac of terraced ex-council houses in Bathgate's Falside estate, which was sealed off last month as forensic officers began a two-week search for clues.

Jenny Gillies, a shop assistant at the nearby Falside mini-market, said local residents buying their newspapers this morning had been shocked by the reports.

"I think in a way it will be a good thing for the parents as it gives them more of an idea about what happened to their daughter," she said. "All that remains to do now is to find her body. It was a real surprise to hear the news this morning and I don't think the people who live there quite know what to make of it. I know the people who live in that house but I haven't spoken to them this morning. It must be very strange to hear something like that about the place where you live."

Heather Ness, 36, a housewife and mother of two who stays in nearby Boghead Crescent, said: "It doesn't seem like it's been 16 years since that girl first went missing. It's been going on so long for the parents that I suppose this must be of some comfort to them as it might help them to get some closure.

"So if that helps then it is in a way good news. I do feel really sorry for her family though and as a mother it's quite upsetting to know that somebody like that could have lived so close."

Local resident Fiona Johnstone, 47, a sales advisor, added: "I don't think anybody expected this, it's a bit of a shock and a surprise because I think a lot of people felt once the police had carried out their search and had left the house that that was it all over with.

"So to hear this now is upsetting. I do feel for the family at this time although I suppose this will be welcome news for them in a way as at least they now have more of an idea about what happened to their daughter." At the time of the search, neighbours were bemused by the chaotic scenes, which some claimed were like "something out of a TV show".

Others even likened the situation to the soap opera Brookside and said that, if police found DNA evidence or a body in the back garden, it would mirror one of the programme's most memorable storylines.