Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Vicky's purse 'hampered' search

Vicky Hamilton
Vicky Hamilton's purse was found at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh

The father of Vicky Hamilton has attended for the first time the trial of the man accused of her murder.

Michael Hamilton heard a retired senior officer describe how the discovery of Vicky's purse days after she vanished had a huge impact on the investigation.

The purse was found near Edinburgh's main bus station by chef Hamish Watson, leading police to investigate whether the schoolgirl had run away to London.

Peter Tobin, 62, denies murdering the 15-year-old in February 1991.

He has lodged a special defence of alibi claiming he was in Portsmouth when she disappeared.

At the High Court in Dundee, retired Det Ch Insp Keith Anderson told the court that the search for the Vicky involved more than 40 officers and had been concentrated on the Bathgate and Livingston areas.

'Extensive inquiry'

He told jurors that more than 6,500 people were spoken to and 3,000 statements were taken in the first year of the inquiry.

I would say that the majority of May and June was dedicated to the inquiry in London
Keith Anderson
However, Mr Anderson said the discovery of her purse at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh, close to the city's bus station, had a "dramatic effect" on the inquiry.

The parameters of the search were widened to include Edinburgh, Aberdeen and London.

He added that officers looked into the possibility that Vicky had "moved on" from Edinburgh, given that the purse was discovered near the city's bus and railway stations.

Mr Anderson said: "Over the months of May and June 1991, there was an extensive inquiry carried out in London on four occasions.

"I would say that the majority of May and June was dedicated to the inquiry in London."

Solicitor-general Frank Mulholland QC, prosecuting, asked whether officers found any evidence of Vicky in London, Aberdeen or elsewhere.

"None," the witness replied.

He said the initial inquiry was wound down on 1 April 1992 but that Vicky's disappearance was kept in the public eye on key anniversaries by police operations in Bathgate and notices in the national media.

He said the case was reviewed in 2006 and grew to include dozens of officers.

"The inquiry grew considerably and at its height had 32 officers," he said.

Knights Templar

Mr Anderson said police looked for any trace of Vicky since 1991 and checked with places such as the Department of Work and Pensions, the General Registrar, the NHS, Inland Revenue, DVLA and the Passport Agency.

He said all the results of the searches came back negative.

Vicky Hamilton's remains were found last year buried in the garden of a former home of Peter Tobin in Margate, Kent.

The trial also heard evidence that a woman named Margaret Mulgrew had told police a man had admitted to killing Vicky.

Mr Anderson told the court that the claim was part of a 2001 police inquiry involving 10 officers.

He said that Ms Mulgrew had made a number of allegations, including a claim that a Hugh Gunn told her he killed Vicky.

Michael Hamilton
Michael Hamilton was at the High Court in Dundee

She said that he told her he had picked Vicky up in Bathgate, "whacked" her on the head, and then later buried her.

The court was also told that Ms Mulgrew told police Mr Gunn had said he and a group of White Knights Templar sacrificed Vicky and cut her heart out while she was still alive, before burying her.

Prosecutor Mr Mulholland said: "Is there any evidence you are aware of that Vicky was sacrificed by a number of White Knights and her heart taken from her body?"

"No," replied Mr Anderson.

Mr Anderson then confirmed that an interview was carried out with Mr Gunn as well as an inquiry into his mental state.

Mr Mulholland said: "Was a report obtained from two psychiatrists who had been treating Mr Gunn for mental illness?"

"It was, yes," Mr Anderson said.

Donald Findlay QC, defending, later put it to the witness in cross-questioning: "What we have at this point in time, in terms of what Hugh Gunn is saying to Margaret Mulgrew, is an account which is, on the face of it, an admission by Hugh Gunn to being involved in the killing of Vicky Hamilton."

He continued: "Some of that admission is clearly bizarre.

"But there are other aspects of the things that he said which either, firstly, would appear to be true or at least potentially could be true."

The witness agreed.

The charges

Mr Tobin is accused of abducting Vicky and taking her to Robertson Avenue in Bathgate, West Lothian, on 10 February, 1991, which the Crown alleges was then occupied by him.

The charge also alleges that there or elsewhere he drugged her, struggled with her, compressed her neck, indecently assaulted her and murdered her.

He is also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

It is alleged that he concealed Vicky's body and removed and disposed of a number of items of her clothing and footwear.

He is also accused of cutting her body in two and wrapping it in coverings and bin bags.

Then, allegedly aware that police were conducting a missing person's inquiry, Mr Tobin is said to have put Vicky's purse under a portable cabin to mislead police into believing she had run away from home.

Mr Tobin denies all the charges against him and has lodged a special defence of alibi, saying that between 1700 GMT and midnight on 10 February, 1991, he was in the Portsmouth area and was thereafter travelling to Scotland, arriving in Edinburgh at 0630 GMT the following day.

The trial, before Lord Emslie, continues on Monday.

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