Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Conviction ends 17-year mystery

By Jo Perry
BBC Scotland news website

Peter Tobin's conviction for the murder of Vicky Hamilton solves a mystery which has endured for more than 17 years.

Vicky Hamilton
Vicky Hamilton's school photograph was used in the campaign to find her

The case sparked one of the biggest missing person inquiries in Scotland's history with more than 7,000 people interviewed and 4,000 witness statements taken.

For a long time, the now familiar photograph of the schoolgirl had come to represent a case which many thought might never be solved.

She vanished while heading home to Redding near Falkirk on Sunday 10 February 1991 after spending the weekend with her sister Sharon in Livingston.

At about 1700 GMT the pair hugged and said goodbye as Vicky boarded a bus bound for Bathgate.

She had to change buses in the town en route to Falkirk.

Itinerant lifestyle

A number of witnesses reported seeing a girl matching Vicky's description, including shop assistant Lynda Newman who said she came into Valente's chip shop in Bathgate at about 25 or 20 minutes to six.

The precise details of what happened to Vicky that evening are not known although the murder trial in Dundee heard evidence from pathologists that she suffered a violent death.

For her family the days spent not knowing were torturous.

Speaking during the long search for Vicky, her father Michael had said: "I am hoping and praying they find her body.

"We gave up hope long ago that she is alive, so to be able to at last say goodbye would let us finally get on with our lives."

Taking the witness stand during the trial, Sharon said her family had endured a "17-year-long nightmare".

Loft
Searches of Tobin's loft uncovered a hidden dagger-like knife

Peter Tobin moved into 11 Robertson Avenue in Bathgate from Brighton with his new wife Cathy Wilson and their young son Daniel on 29 September 1989.

A year later Cathy left him and went to live in Portsmouth taking the child with her, although Tobin was given regular access to the boy.

According to records, Tobin was leading an itinerant lifestyle when Vicky vanished and was not working other than doing odd jobs and fixing up cars.

Despite Tobin claiming he was in Portsmouth when she disappeared, his Bathgate neighbour Wendy Love told the court she saw Tobin outside a pub in the town on the night Vicky went missing.

The initial investigation into the case was hampered by the discovery of Vicky's purse near to the bus station at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh on 21 February 1991.

The significance of the find was at first unrecognised by police who simply handed it back to her family, not connecting it to the missing persons inquiry.

11 Robertson Avenue
Tobin moved to 11 Robertson Avenue in Bathgate in September 1989
Despite an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme in April, the police only received four calls from the public.

The case was eventually scaled down in the summer of 1991 after it was decided there was "no evidence" of criminality having taken place.

It was not until 2007 that technology uncovered traces of Tobin's son's DNA on the purse.

A little more than two months after Vicky's disappearance, Tobin left Bathgate and moved to Margate through a council house mutual exchange scheme.

After investigations into Tobin began it emerged he had lived in Bathgate when Vicky disappeared. As a result police began searching the former address at Robertson Avenue.

Searchers found a knife hidden in the loft of the property, which none of the people resident in the house since Tobin left it in 1991 had seen.

A partial DNA profile obtained from the knife matched Vicky. Police said the chances of the profile coming from someone else not related to the schoolgirl were one in one billion.

Cabin
Vicky's purse turned up near a cabin in the centre of Edinburgh
Searchers then turned their attention to Irvine Drive in Margate, the house Tobin moved to two months after Vicky first went missing.

It was in the back garden of this property on 12 November 2007 that Vicky's remains were found by police buried in bin bags. Tobin's fingerprints were found on one of the bags.

Just over a fortnight later on 30 November the schoolgirl's funeral was held as hundreds of people packed into the small Redding Parish Church to say their farewells.

Vicky Hamilton was finally laid to rest in her father Michael Hamilton's plot at Grandsable Cemetery 16 years after she disappeared.

The trial in Dundee has helped shed light on the many unanswered questions posed by the teenager's disappearance.

Tobin's convictions finally brings to a close the 17-year police investigation.

However, the details of the case have not only shocked but led to questions about Tobin himself and whether he is at the heart of other similar mysteries.

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THE VICKY HAMILTON TRIAL

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Peter Tobin Guilty verdict
Peter Tobin is jailed for at least 30 years
ANALYSIS/BACKGROUND
THE COURT CASE
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Peter Tobin being interviewed Police interview Peter Tobin


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