Edinburgh police officer recalls coming face to face with World’s End killer Angus Sinclair
SIXTEEN years old, first days in the job and rookie cop Allan Jones was already being introduced to the disturbing murder mystery that would dominate his police career.
It was 1979, around 15 months after Christine Eadie and Helen Scott were found dead in East Lothian. A grainy black and white photobooth picture of the girls, another of Helen with her short blonde hair, smiling, one of Christine, auburn hair in Charlie’s Angels style flicks meant their faces were painfully familiar to most Scots from the front pages of newspapers.
Most were aware that whoever killed them still roamed at large. Few knew the full gruesome and disturbing details of the hellish final hours of their young lives.
Fresh-faced former Lasswade High pupil Jones was around the same age as Helen and Christine were when they were bound, gagged, sexually assaulted and murdered. Perhaps that meant he had already forged a connection with the case long before the grim task of helping find their killer would land on his shoulders.
Today he is retired from the force. Christine and Helen would be in their fifties too had Angus Sinclair and his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton not brutally snuffed out their young lives one dreadful October night in 1977.
Years have passed for the case which he was introduced to in his early days as a Lothian and Borders officer, went on to lead and then suffer the crushing blow of watching it collapse in the High Court the first time around, to finally reach its conclusion. For him - and dozens of others who dedicated countless hours working on the case down the years - getting justice for the families of Christine and Helen was more than just a job. It was personal.
“It meant a lot to me throughout the course of my career, ” he explains. “The case struck a chord with everyone. It was so personal to investigate, everyone was looking at it like these two girls could be your daughter, anyone’s daughter.”
For scores of officers, backroom staff, forensic scientists, Crown Office legal staff, the World’s End case was an open sore that seeped throughout decades of their careers, longing to be healed.
“I started as a young boy at 16, first being introduced to the squad which had reduced considerably at that time, but was still working in Dalkeith investigating the murders, ” Jones, now boss of a city security firm, recalls.
“In 1977 it was one of the biggest investigations in Scotland, at some points 80 officers in the main squad, it stretched to the west of Scotland, other forces were involved working for us. There were 10,000 names on the database, 6000 statements in 1977 alone. It reached a stage in the middle of 1978 when there was nowhere to go but it was still being worked on.”
One of his first tasks as a young cadet in January 1979 was to be briefed on the case by the scene of crime officer at the time and meet detectives involved in the investigation.
“Throughout the years of being exposed to and working with people exposed to the case, there has been an ownership about the case,” he adds.
“That has happened right down to the grassroots, to the people who store productions and take care of them.”
He was in charge when the forensic breakthrough came in the early 2000s. Originally just one sample of male DNA evidence had been traced. Now forensic lab staff found another. Further analysis led them to convicted killer Angus Sinclair and brother-in-law Hamilton.
Jones came face to face with Sinclair around 2005. He was left in no doubt that he was staring at the man who killed the teenagers - and probably murdered again and again.
“He is an inveterate liar, ” he says. “He is calculating, everything he’s done, he’s done in his mind first - that sets him apart from people who act in the spur of the moment or as a result of anger.”
Hopes were raised that finally Christine and Helen’s families would be given the justice they so richly deserved and bring to a conclusion so many hours of police work.
When the case dramatically collapsed, it was a devastating blow.
“Horrible disappointment, ” nods Jones, a sentiment echoed by Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Flanagan, the officer who took over from him when he retired.
“But the first thing we did, because it was still an unresolved case, we just gathered all the productions, all the statements, and put them back into storage just the way they’d been preserved since 1977 in the hope that something was going to happen in the future.”
The case, says Jones, had an almost mythical air surrounding it, and a unique place in people’s minds. “It became almost like folklore,” he adds. “And when it gets to that stage, it’s never allowed to go into the past.”
Det Chief Supt Flanagan agrees that the World’s End case left an indelible mark on those involved in investigating it. “In terms of the World’s End, there was something about that expression. We always knew that was a big case, the one that everyone wanted to see resolved.
“Everyone had awareness of the case,” he adds. “As a citizen you were reminded every time you crossed the High Street you would see the sign, it was always there, a constant reminder of the past.
“Every case is important to families. It’s important to officers, to scientists. There was a palpable sense that people had all their service been committed to it. Everyone had a determination over the years, regardless of what it took what was involved, we would get to the bottom of it. That’s because of the families and the determination that justice would prevail.”
In 2014, Mr Jones spoke of his relief after Sinclair was convicted.
“From the beginning, seeing it through, the horrible disappointment of 2007, seeing it get another breath of life and getting to the stage it’s at now, ” reflects Jones. “It’s fantastic, this part of it.”
DCS Flanagan says there is “immense pride” in seeing justice done. “I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for families that had to live with this. It’ll never bring back Helen and Christine and the lives they lost but hopefully it does help bring about some closure for them.
“I hope the public recognise that across the generations we have all been equally determined to do this. Hopefully that’s a massive reassurance message for the public. “And it’s a warning: no matter how long it has going to take, if you are still alive, there’s an opportunity for justice.”
• This article originally appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on November 15, 2014