Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Killing spree claimed eight lives

As new evidence surrounding Peter Manuel's death sentence comes to light, BBC Scotland reporter David Miller examines why the serial killer is still considered to be one of Britain's most notorious murderers.

Peter Manuel
Files prove Peter Manuel was known to be a psychopath (Crown copyright)

Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel brought terror to the streets of suburban Scotland in the 1950s.

He confessed to eight murders, but was suspected of involvement in many more killings. His victims were battered to death or shot in their own beds.

A teenager from High Blantyre was the first to die.

Anne Kneilands, who was 17, had planned to go dancing in Glasgow on 2 January, 1956. But her date was suffering from a Hogmanay hangover and never turned up.

Manuel stalked Anne after she left a friend's house in East Kilbride and pursued the terrified girl over a golf course, before beating her to death with an iron bar.

Manuel was a known sex offender. He'd been working locally for the gas board, laying mains pipes which were to serve East Kilbride New Town. He'd returned to work on 4 January with scratches clearly visible on his face. Some of his clothes were missing.

But his father, Samuel, gave his son an alibi. Lanarkshire Police simply didn't have enough evidence against Manuel.

No evidence

He would kill again, just nine months later on 17 September, 1956.

Marion Watt, the 45-year-old wife of a prosperous local businessman, her 16-year-old daughter Vivienne and sister Margaret Brown, were murdered at a bungalow in High Burnside, south of Glasgow.

They were shot in the dead of night.

Marion Watt's husband, William, was arrested and charged with the murder of his own family. He spent 67 days inside Barlinnie Prison before detectives realised they had no sound evidence against him.

Meanwhile, Manuel found himself locked up at Barlinnie after he was convicted of housebreaking.

Manuel was released at the end of November 1957, when the tempo of his killings increased.

In early December, Sydney Dunn, a taxi driver from Newcastle was found dead on a desolate moorland in Northumberland. He'd been shot at close range and had his throat slit.

Victim buried

Doubts remain about whether Manuel was the killer but a coroner's jury found him guilty of the crime following his execution.

Manuel's next victim, Isabelle Cooke, was to die on 28 December. The 17-year-old disappeared after leaving her home in Mount Vernon to meet a boyfriend in Uddingston.

Isabelle's body was only discovered after Manuel led detectives to the exact spot in a ploughed field where he had buried her. He's reported to have told police: "You are standing on her".

Manuel was to kill for the last time in the early hours of New Year's Day 1958.

Peter Smart, his wife Doris, and their 11-year-old son Michael, were shot as they slept in an attack horribly reminiscent of the Watt murders. Their bodies were to lie undiscovered until 6 January.

Despite the carnage at the Smart's home, Manuel repeatedly returned to the death scene.

Neighbours noticed the front curtains had been drawn and later reopened. Lights were switched on and off. Manuel later told police he'd even fed the Smart's cat.

Eight murders

All this as Peter, Doris and Michael lay dead.

Manuel was eventually arrested at his family home in Birkenshaw, near Uddingston, on 14 January.

He later confessed to eight murders, although he never accepted responsibility for Sydney Dunn's death or any of the other murder cases with which his name has been linked.

After a dramatic trial at the High Court in Glasgow, during which Manuel conducted his own defence, he was convicted of seven murders. The judge had ruled that Manuel's confession to the murder of Anne Kneilands was inadmissable.

Manuel was convicted in May. His appeal failed in June, and he was executed on 11 July 1958.

Justice had been swift.

Few mourned his passing and Scotland could once again sleep easily.

BBC Radio Scotland's Investigation programme, "Peter Manuel: Inside the Mind of a Psychopath" was broadcast on Monday 16 February at 0900.

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