Edinburgh Crime News: Sheila Anderson and the police's 40-year search for answers about young mum's murder

Sheila Anderson was murdered in Edinburgh in 1983, and her case remains unsolved.

By Rachel Mackie
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 4:55 am

What happened in 1983?

Sheila Anderson was 27-years-old when she was murdered in Edinburgh, her death leaving a scar on the city.

She was brutally and deliberately run over, several times, on April 7, 1983.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Her body was found on the beach front at Gypsy Brae in Granton, not half an hour after she had been spotted talking to a man outside the Willie Muir pub, on West Granton Road.

There was red paint on her from the car, and her handbag was later found in an East Lothian car park, her shoes and underwear elsewhere.

Police have confirmed that, in 2008, they found forensic evidence, a DNA profile, which led to another appeal for information.

The crime so far however, remains unsolved.

Edinburgh Crime News: Sheila Anderson and the police's 40-year search for answers about young mum's murder

Sheila’s two young sons were left motherless and heartbroken after she was killed.

Her family has described her as a gentle woman, intelligent, beautiful and strong, and still harbour hope that her murderer will be brought to justice.

How did Sheila’s murder change policing in Edinburgh?

Sheila had become addicted to heroin and was working as a prostitute at the time of her murder.

Sheila Anderson

Tom Wood was the Deputy Senior Investigating Officer on Sheila’s case and still harbours hopes that the perpetrator will one day be caught.

He believes that this case “pulled back the curtain" on the new dangers that sex workers were facing across the Capital.

“The influx of heroin changed everything completely,” he explained, adding that in the late 70’s, people were getting into sex work to feed their addiction, which made them prime for exploitation.

"Sex workers now included young, vulnerable people who were drug dependent.

Sheila Anderson - body found at the Sea Wall in Granton 1983 Gypsy Brae Park, off West Shore Road.

"Predatory men were now coming from across Scotland to Leith,

"Violence, intimidation, drug dealing, pimping all increased over about two years.

"We recognised then that public safety had to take precedence over criminal justice, we had to take a different approach to policing the sex industry.”

The former detective went on to add that driving sex work underground by aggressive policing, or bans from authorities, is not an appropriate approach.

"[if it is to happen] it is better to have it out in the open. Not just for women but for men too.

"Driving it underground can make it even more dangerous and unpredictable.”

Evening News headlines at the time of the murder

Although Sheila’s death changed the way police in Edinburgh viewed the vulnerability of sex workers, and addicts, her death has not yet been solved.

Mr Wood still believes that it could be though.

"My hope is that one day, I’ll get a knock on the door, and someone will tell me ‘we’ve got him’.

"She was a young mother, a young woman….

"It is why I collaborate with articles such as this one, it draws attention to the case.

"There is still information out there, allegiances change - so it’s still worthwhile."

"There is an increased visibility and awareness.”

Sacro is a Scottish community justice organisation who work hard to help those whose life is in crisis.

John Kennedy is their Director of Public Protection and Community Safety, and a former detective with Police Scotland.

He says that in the almost 40 years since Sheila’s death, it is “night and day” in the crime against sex work is approached.

"There is an increased visibility and awareness – treating prostitutes who are victims [of crime] with respect.

"Also, offering help for anyone who has suffered violence, is addicted to drugs or who wants to get out of the life trap they are in.”

He added: “Even the way police approach this type of crime has dramatically changed.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson added: “All crimes committed against people involved in prostitution are investigated professionally and consistently by Police Scotland with the emphasis on a victim-centred approach, and recognising their needs and expectations.

“We will continue to work with partners to build trust and confidence with people involved in prostitution to encourage an increase in reporting of criminality.”

Violence against women

According to statistics from the Femicide Census 110 women in the UK were killed by men in 2020, this is one woman every three days.

In a statement on their website, they explain “111 men have been implicated in their killings, but to date only 79 men have been found guilty or, or pleaded guilty to the killing of a woman, or otherwise have been held responsible for the killing in the cases where the perpetrator was detained under the mental health act or died by suicide prior to conviction.”

In a recent press release, Femicide Census founders Karen Ingala Smith and Clarrie O’Callaghan said: "We want perpetrators brought to justice but better still, we want the killing of women by men, femicide, to stop.

"We consistently find that men are killing women at the same rate, with the same methods, in the same relationships and patterns and with the same excuses.”

Police statement

Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes said: “Police Scotland never considers undetected homicide cases closed and the passage of time is no barrier to the investigation.

"Homicide Governance and Review actively keeps all undetected and unresolved homicides under review and meets regularly with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in an attempt to review these cases and pursue resolution.

“In the case of Sheila Anderson, an extensive and exhaustive investigation was carried out into a number of lines of enquiry, and it remains under review.

“Police Scotland, along with our partners, continues to relentlessly pursue advances in technology and investigative approaches which help bring those responsible for serious and violent crimes to justice and provide answers for families of the victims of such crimes.

"Scientific and forensic developments, combined with information from the public and determined investigative work, can yield new opportunities in such cases.

“If anyone has any new information about the murder of Sheila Anderson in 1983, please contact police via the non-emergency number 101, alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.”

Read More

Read More
Scottish Cup Final: Rangers and Hearts fans fight at service station on way home...
Tom Wood