THEY had none of today’s technology, but the thorough police work of the first officers to investigate the notorious 1977 World’s End murders was crucial to solving the case three decades later.
Retired deputy chief constable Tom Wood, who helped lead the investigation, says the careful gathering of forensic evidence after the killing of 17-year-olds Helen Scott and Christine Eadie laid the vital groundwork for the conviction last year – at the second attempt – of Angus Sinclair.
Now Mr Wood is to talk about the case at a special True Crime session of the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling in September.
He said the deaths of the girls, who were last seen leaving the World’s End pub in the Royal Mile at the end of a Saturday night out, had shocked the public in Edinburgh and East Lothian, where their bodies were later found.
“It was a seminal moment,” he said. “I meet a lot of people in their 40s and 50s who were teenagers at the time and they remember exactly where they were at that time.
“It changed things. Teenagers could not go out unsupervised in the same way any more. It was an end of innocence in many ways.
“While you read of these horrible things in America and even in London, they didn’t happen in Edinburgh.”
Mr Wood, who retired in 2005, has already written a book about the case – partly, he says, to debunk the myth of “the great detective” who solves crimes single-handed.
“It’s simply not true, ever, especially in long-running murder investigations,” he said. “Not only was the World’s End not solved by one person, it was not solved by one generation of officers. It was solved by hundreds of officers working over 30 years.”
The reason it took so long to solve the case, he said, was simple – Sinclair and his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton (who has since died) were not on their radar.
He said: “They were not in our database. They had no known connection to this part of the country. We had no intelligence on them.
“And we were living in a different time. In 1977 there were no mobile phones, no CCTV, no telephone records, no records to get from cashline machines. It was a completely different era.
“After the first year of the investigation, we were no closer to Angus Sinclair than on day one.
“But what our people had done was a superb job of gathering and retaining forensic samples both from the girls and the locus of the crime. In the end that’s what stood us in good stead.
“Hindsight is always 20-20 but I can’t think of anything that the early investigation teams could have done with the knowledge and expertise they had that was better than what they did do. They did not have the science, the techniques we had in the 1990s, the 2000s and certainly nothing like the techniques we have today.”