From Ann Ballantine to Neil McCann: 7 of Edinburgh's most tragic murder cases which remain unsolved

With their killers possibly still walking the streets of Edinburgh and beyond, the victims’ devastated families have been left without many answers.

Sunday, 31st May 2020, 2:35 pm
Updated Monday, 1st June 2020, 4:15 pm

Here, the Edinburgh Evening News takes a look back at some of the Capital's most tragic murder cases - spanning back to the 1960s - which remain unsolved to this day.

Neil McCann

Ex-boxer Neil McCann was stabbed and beaten to death in Craigmillar Castle Loan as he walked to his girlfriend's home on February 20th, 1974.

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A number of murder cases in Edinburgh remain unsolved.

After 34 years, former petty criminal John McGranaghan broke his silence to claim he was the intended target of those responsible.

McGranaghan told the Evening News in August 2008 that a city businessman, who moved to live in Spain, went to Glasgow crime baron Arthur 'the Godfather' Thompson to organise the hit.

He said four hired killers were sent from Glasgow and paid £12,000 but went after the wrong man, and that the men allegedly responsible were all dead. Arthur Thompson died in March 1993.

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Ex-boxer Neil McCann, who was murdered in the Craigmillar area. Pic: TSPL

Mr McGranaghan told police at the time that the businessman behind the hit wrongly suspected him of setting a fire at one of his premises in the city's West End. He claimed the businessman asked him to meet for a drink at the International Bar in Tollcross on the night of the murder, but he 'smelled a rat' and decided to return to London where he had stayed on and off for two years.

Instead, his brother Charlie went to the bar to 'feel him out' but the businessman was a no show. However, Charlie met his old school friend, Neil McCann, in the pub that night and they stayed out drinking together.

The two men later shared a bus back to Craigmillar and Neil, who was 37, was apparently attacked just minutes after getting off.

Mr McGranaghan claimed a friend in the know told him the next day that he had been the intended victim of a professional hit.

Ann Ballantine and the scene where her body was found by Lower Gilmore Place, Edinburgh.

A fresh report on the case was passed by police to the Crown Office in 2009, but the inquiry has not been re-opened.

Prior to this, some of the focus had been around whether Charlie was the intended target, as he had connections to heroin dealers in London who were associates of a family called the Arifs, who went on to be one of the most powerful firms in the Big Smoke.

Ann Ballantine

Ann Ballantine was just 20 when her body was found wrapped in a carpet in the Union Canal at Fountainbridge in January 1987, about 100 yards from her home - weeks after she was bound, raped and strangled.

Billy Sibbald with sisters Janice (left) and Lorraine in 1991. Pic: Neil Hanna

Her mother, Isobel, last saw her daughter on November 18th, 1986 after Ann had visited a family friend in hospital.

Ann's black shoulder bag, her black leather sleeveless jacket, a brass petrol lighter with her initials and two keys on a keyring were never recovered. A camera and a photo album were also taken from her flat.

At the time of her murder, a suspect was named in a report submitted to the procurator fiscal but there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Twenty-five years after her death, Ann's devastated father, Graham, told The Sun he knew who had killed his daughter and that he has a picture of him sitting beside her at a family function - but could not reveal who it is due to legal reasons.

Her father told the newspaper his daughter was killed in a jealous rage because if this man could not have her, then "no one else could" - but he thinks the person doesn't have the guts to confess.

In January last year, Ann's brother Alan Ballantine told the Evening News that a new theory in the case should be investigated. Former detective Chris Clark believes Ann may have been killed by the Beast of Bramley, John Taylor. Taylor is serving life for the 2000 murder of 16-year-old Leanne Tiernan and a series of sex attacks.

Steven Brown's battered body was found in a field near Tranent, East Lothian, on the morning of Sunday February 21st, 1999

Mr Clark said the crucial time lapse in where Ann's body was is the key to linking the case to Taylor.

He said Taylor, who would pass Edinburgh on his way to using prostitutes in Glasgow, kept his victim Leanne's body in his kitchen freezer for nine months before dumping it.

William Sibbald

Edinburgh pub boss William Sibbald, known as Billy, was last seen alive leaving his Portobello home to go to a business meeting at about 8pm on Tuesday, October 8th in 2002.

Three months later, on January 10th 2003, the 48-year-old's body was discovered lying in woodland down an embankment at the side of the A1, between Newcraighall Road and Whitehill Road.

On the tenth anniversary of his death, the Sibbald family released a statement expressing hope that someone would come forward with information.

It is believed father-of-three Mr Sibbald, who ran the Pop In pub, was murdered in the hours after his disappearance and his body dumped.

Lothian and Borders police said that he suffered multiple stab wounds and that a number of items of clothing and jewellery belonging to Mr Sibbald, including a gold bracelet and DuPont Gatsby lighter, have never been recovered.

Mr Sibbald's sister, Lorraine Syme, later told The Sun that he hinted he was going to be killed six weeks before his death. He told her he "did not worry" about dying as he'd be reunited with their other siblings, Catherine and Avril, who both passed away tragically young.

She said it didn't mean much to her at the time but that, looking back, suggests he may have been threatened - although she feels if he had been he would not have said anything so as not to worry her.

It was claimed that Mr Sibbald had fallen foul of Russian gangsters, while others say Glasgow crime kingpin Tam 'The Licensee' McGraw ordered his killing after a drug deal went sour.

But Lorraine said these theories are all lies and described her brother as a "bighearted, loveable rogue" and valued member of the community who had raised £5,000 to send a local girl to the Paralympics and also looked after older people.

Craig Millar

The unsolved case of tragic tot Craig Millar in March 2001 is particularly harrowing.

It is thought the baby boy lived for less than 24 hours before he died and was then deliberately set on fire and dumped next to a public footpath, between Harewood Road and Harewood Drive, just a few days later.

Craig's tiny body was found by a dog walker lying next to a charred white cot blanket, the remains of a carrier bag, a babygrow and, bizarrely, a certificate of authenticity for a porcelain doll.

The newborn was only named after locals in Craigmillar arranged a funeral for him and built a memorial in his honour.

A massive police investigation was launched at the time to establish the child's identity but interviews with hundreds of locals led to nothing. A post mortem failed to establish a cause of death — only showing he was born alive.

His mother and father have never been found but police said the boy had been bottle-fed, bathed and clothed, suggesting he was wanted - and officers believe the mother did not act alone.

Police said there were no records of the baby being born in a hospital or medical centre, suggesting a secret birth or a concealment.

Police still have the DNA - half from the mum and half from the dad - and believe this will be key to solving the mystery, with more people being added to the national criminal database all the time.

Steven Brown

Steven Brown's battered and stabbed body was found in a field near Tranent, East Lothian, on the morning of Sunday February 21st, 1999 - but the crime remains a mystery.

Witnesses at the time of the murder reported hearing a disturbance in nearby Kerr Road in Tranent at about midnight, the night before his death. A large group of men and women are thought to have been involved.

Three men were initially charged in connection with the murder of the 35-year-old but they were later released due to lack of evidence.

In 2013, cold case detectives reopened the investigation and sought to re-interview key witnesses, speak to residents and revisit some sites, with Crimestoppers offering a £5,000 reward.

New information came to light which police say centred around a disturbance after two vehicles pulled up in King's Road, close to Kerr Road, which they think led to Mr Brown being chased into the field and murdered.

At the time Steven's brothers - Colin, William and Kenneth - said no one had ever been brought to justice for the killing.

Police believe the breakthrough most likely lies in the community and stressed that personal circumstances and loyalties may have changed as time has passed, allowing for new information to come to light.

As part of their reinvestigation, officers arrested a man for witness intimidation, something which also posed a concern during the original investigation in 1999.

Helen Kane

The 25-year-old's body was discovered in a shallow building site excavation south of the Pleasance by a man walking his dog on May 25th, 1970. She died from head injuries after being hit with a slab.

Mrs Kane, of Greendykes Terrace in Craigmillar, had been out with friends and her husband, Joe, in Leith the previous night, leaving their company in Duke Street at about 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, unidentified 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" there was no connection with Bible John, who was thought to be responsible for the killings of three women in 1968 and 1969.

Six years ago, former Detective Superintendent Allan Jones told the Evening News he suspected World's End killer Angus Sinlair may have been responsible for Mrs Kane's murder. He was living in Edinburgh at the time, about half a mile from where her body was found.

Sinclair was quizzed about Mrs Kane's death but his family gave him an alibi, and he was linked again to the murder decades later after his conviction in 2014 for the deaths of 17-year-old pals Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.

Mrs Kane's son, Michael Kane, also told The Sun a few years ago that he believes Sinclair may have murdered his mother - but Sinclair died in March 2019.

But former Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, Tom Wood, who headed the World's End inquiry between 2004 and 2007, discounted any likely link to Mrs Kane's murder. He stressed that Helen Kane was killed by having her head slammed by a paving slab, whereas Sinclair strangled his victims.

David McMenigall

David McMenigall's body was found at his rented bungalow in Glasgow Road in Corstorphine on February 24th, 1966.

The 55-year-old, who was chairman and managing director of Central Refrigeration Services, was found by his housekeeper having suffered head injuries, with his Mark 10 Jaguar still parked outside.

On the night he died, he dined alone at L'Aperitif restaurant in Frederick Street, a regular haunt in the 1950s and '60s for Edinburgh's writers and creative types.

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

After 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 search.

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 - but this remains a mystery.

In 2016, the Daily Record reported that a vintage metal motor horse emblem - typically used on classic Ford Mustang front bumpers - that disappeared from Mr McMenigall's house at the time may have been used to murder him.

The murder of Helen Kane in 1970 remains unsolved.
Police investigate the murder of David McMenigall in Glasgow Road, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, in February 1966