THE kitchen of her Bathgate home had just been decorated. The young mum was making dinner while her toddler son played at her feet, his two pet guinea pigs scampering across the floor.
It had been a fairly ordinary day. But all that would change in the most nauseating manner, when husband Peter arrived home.
“The guinea pigs roamed free in the kitchen, but they’d nibbled three or four inches of the wallpaper,” recalls Cathy Wilson.
“Peter came in, saw this and screamed in anger. He grabbed both guinea pigs. I turned Daniel’s face towards me so he couldn’t see his father launch his pets out of the back door towards the garden shed.
“It was like he was throwing two cricket balls,” she shudders. “They smacked into the shed and, of course, they died. And it was at that point I knew I needed to get out.”
It took three months but eventually Cathy found her chance to scoop up Daniel and flee her Bathgate home into a cold October night. She stood, shivering, frightened and with barely any money at a bus stop, praying the bus would arrive before he did.
Cathy had escaped. But her departure sent her husband’s mind unravelling. Within a few months, he’d lure a teenage girl called Vicky from a bus stop close to his Robertson Avenue home, and into his car . . .
The mystery of exactly what happened to Vicky Hamilton – and 18-year-old Dinah McNicol, snatched from a roadside shortly after – would take years to solve. Eventually, Cathy’s husband, Peter Tobin, would be revealed as one of the country’s most vile and notorious serial killers.
Whether Tobin had killed before those 1991 murders – indeed, whether he might be the notorious murderer dubbed Bible John – remains uncertain. What seems clear now is that Tobin’s twisted mind snapped the day Cathy bravely fled Bathgate, taking their young son with her.
Now Cathy, who continued to live in terror of Tobin for years after fleeing their marriage, is recalling her nightmare experiences in a powerful new book, Escape from Evil, which reflects on life with the serial killer.
In it, she reveals the misery she endured behind the front door of their unassuming semi-detached home in Bathgate’s Falside area, how her incredible escape appears to have ignited the spark that led Tobin to kill and how she revisited the house, unaware that Vicky lay dead inside.
“It’s like a horror movie,” she says softly. “It’s the kind of thing you’d read and not believe could happen. But it did.”
Cathy was a vulnerable 16-year-old with an erratic family background when she met Tobin.
He was charming and full of exotic stories, all lies, of fighting in Aden and working on oil rigs.
Having gained the teenager’s interest, he then tricked her into thinking he was undergoing cancer treatment, a spur for the vulnerable girl to bear his child and marry him in 1989.
They were living in Brighton, in the south of England, at the time. But Tobin soon manipulated a move north which would leave his young wife isolated from family and friends and at his mercy.
And once in West Lothian, Tobin was able to keep her in domestic servitude, shutting her off from neighbours, abusing her verbally and mentally.
“I didn’t have a clue where Bathgate was,” admits Cathy, now a successful businesswoman with a property portfolio. “I cried when we arrived. It was cold, foggy and grey and I was eight hours away from my grandparents in Portsmouth.”
Almost instantly, Johnstone-born Tobin’s attitude to his young wife deteriorated further. Cathy remembers: “He became increasingly verbally aggressive towards me.
“If I cooked dinner wrong, he’d throw the plate at me. He would say ‘Oh you bitch, f*** off into the kitchen and make me tea. You’re so stupid.’”
Of course, some might wonder why Cathy ever put up with his behaviour. But Cathy, still just a teenager juggling a young baby, friendless in Bathgate, miles from her roots and increasingly confused, explains a lifetime of being raised around abusive men simply left her thinking his behaviour was simply part of ordinary married life.
“I had no-one to ask if this was correct behaviour,” she says. “And I was fiercely proud. I didn’t want to admit I’d made this huge mistake.”
Tobin did all he could to manipulate and suppress his wife.
Once a vibrant fashionable teen, by the time she’d arrived in Bathgate she was scrubbed of make-up and wearing dowdy clothes, rarely leaving the semi-detached house overlooking a stretch of wilderness.
Tobin, she recalls, reinforced his power over her by claiming Scotland was a land where women could expect to be beaten.
“I saw a woman outside with a black eye and wondered if her husband had done it,” she recalls. “Peter said ‘That’s what all Scottish men do to their wives. It’s their right’. So I thought that’s how it was to be.”
Twenty years on and it’s understandable that Cathy struggles to recall every element of life at Robertson Avenue. But she believes that’s not entirely down to the passing of time, it’s probably because Tobin secretly fed her his own prescription medication to sedate her mind.
“I’ve had some flashbacks, but there are things the police say happened which I can’t remember,” says Cathy. She’s hazy on claims Tobin entertained prostitutes at the house, forcing them into humiliating sex games and apparently making his wife watch.
“Apparently prostitutes have documented that he had them at the house, so it must be true,” she says. “They have said they didn’t like him, he was very aggressive towards them.
“I can only think he used his medication on me – he certainly went on to use medication to sedate his victims.”
The kitchen incident with the guinea pigs was, she adds, pivotal. Still shocked from his cruelty, Cathy mentioned “divorce” and Tobin, enraged, grabbed their son, raced to the top of the stairs and threatened to throw him down should she think of ever leaving.
He kept her locked inside for three months until one evening when, having watched her husband leave, Cathy seized her chance to escape.
She fled with little idea of just what her husband was capable of doing.
It was a February evening just over three months later that Tobin made his way through Bathgate town centre and spotted schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton waiting at a bus stop.
Within a few weeks, he had quit the town and headed south – Cathy believes in pursuit of her and Daniel – to a home in Margate. By August, he had picked up 18-year-old Dinah McNicol from a roadside, and killed her, too.
Now firmly behind bars, Tobin is said to have boasted of killing 48 women. But Cathy insists there was nothing to suggest at the time they were married that Tobin was a killer. “I honestly thought the only person he was aggressive towards was me,” she says. “Now I realise I fitted perfectly the profile of his victims: similar looking, dark hair, young. What saved me was having his child. I became a possession, not a victim.”
n Escape From Evil by Cathy Wilson is published by Pan, £6.99