The Scotsman’s home affairs correspondent Chris Marshall looks back on one of Scotland’s most notorious murder cases
It was a Sunday afternoon in October 1977 when two walkers found the body of a young woman on the foreshore at Gosford Bay, East Lothian.
Within hours, a second female body was discovered a few miles away by a dog walker in the stubble of a wheat field on the Huntingdon-Coates road near Haddington.
Both girls had been raped and strangled, their hands bound behind their backs and ligatures tied around their necks.
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From that day on, the deaths of teenagers Christine Eadie and Helen Scott came to be synonymous with the last place they had been seen alive: the World’s End pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Today a series of brass cobbles on the street outside marks what was once the Netherbow Port, the main gate in the Flodden Wall, the city’s medieval defences which marked the “world’s end” to the men and women living in the capital during the Middle Ages.
That description of where the city finished and the world outside began gave its name to the pub which now marks the site on the corner of St Mary’s Street and which in turn gave its name to one of Scotland’s most notorious murder cases.
It was a case which would ultimately lead to reform of the 800-year-old double jeopardy principle so that Angus Sinclair could finally be brought to justice for the girls’ deaths almost 40 years after their bodies were found on that autumn day.
Within 24 hours of the bodies being discovered, police had identified the first as Christine, an office worker, and the second as Helen, a shop assistant.
Detectives issued detailed descriptions of two men the girls were seen with in the World’s End on the night of Saturday 15 October 1977 and would later release a photofit.
During the trial, Helen’s elderly father, Morain Scott, said his daughter had gone straight from work in a tartan shop on Princes Street to meet her friends Jackie Inglis and Christine Eadie that evening.
A recent change to the licensing laws meant pubs in Edinburgh were allowed to stay open an hour later - closing time was now 11pm.
At around 11.20pm a young on-duty police constable named John Rafferty saw Christine Eadie slip and fall in the street outside the World’s End.
He helped her to her feet rather unceremoniously by grabbing hold of the imitation fur collar on her recently purchased black trenchcoat.
Confident her friend Helen Scott would get her home safely, the policeman let the two teenagers be on their way.
The last he saw of the girls was them walking down St Mary’s Street with two men, before all four disappeared from view up a side street.
Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Rafferty, now retired, said the city would turn into a “ghost town” in a matter of minutes in those days as people made their way home for the night after closing time.
He had first caught sight of Sinclair standing in the pub’s doorway.
Sinclair, who was 32 at the time, was staring at the young policeman from a distance of two or three yards away.
“I remember looking at his style of dress,” Mr Rafferty told the trial at the High Court in Livingston. “His dress was out of fashion.”
Mr Rafferty said Sinclair wore a V-neck jumper with blue or red stripes around the collar and cuffs as well as flared trousers.
Following last orders, the girls’ friends decided to go onto a house party. But Christine and Helen choose to leave with the unfashionably dressed older man and his friend that they had met in the bar that night.
In the weeks that followed the discovery of the bodies, dozens of witnesses who had seen the men in the pub came forward. Officers also spoke to those who had been in two other pubs on the High Street, the Allan Ramsay and the Lorna Doone.
In time, witness statements from more than 20,000 people across the UK and Europe came to fill two filing cabinets at divisional headquarters in Dalkeith.
Police received countless anonymous letter and phone calls from those claiming to know who was responsible, but none took their investigation any further.
At one stage police in Plymouth interviewed the crewmen of Scottish trawlers at the request of Lothian and Borders Police.
Detectives even went to question the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, about the killings.
As the months and years passed, media interest in the case would wane before periodically re-igniting amid rumours of fresh leads.
In June 1981, detectives received an anonymous letter naming two men as the murderers.
Consisting of four lines on a scrap of paper, it said the men had been living locally at the time of murders.
Then in 1994, a man contacted police to say he had seen two men in the Aberlady area in the early hours of the morning on 16 October 1977. But at no point did the name Angus Sinclair feature in the investigation.
It was not until 2001 that the case would receive fresh impetus, when Sinclair was given his second life sentence for the murder of Mary Gallacher in 1978.
Sinclair had been jailed for life in 1982 for sex offences against children, including three rapes. He had already served six years for the culpable homicide of seven-year-old Catherine Reehill in 1961.
Advances in DNA profiling, which had allowed police to match semen taken from Mary’s body to Sinclair, led to a new operation in 2004 looking at the unsolved murders of seven young women, including Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.
Nearly 30 years after the girls’ bodies were discovered, Sinclair finally appeared in court charged with their murders.
The indictment which appeared ahead of the trial in 2006 charged Sinclair with acting alongside his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton, who had died in 1996 aged just 41 with no criminal record.
Forensic officers had visited a flat in Slatefield Street, Glasgow, where Hamilton had once lived, removing coving he had put up in a bid to find anything which could be used to build a DNA profile.
Hamilton, a chronic alcoholic, died alone, leaving not so much as a wrist watch or wallet for police to seize.
It was when Sinclair’s trial collapsed in September 2007 with the judge citing lack of evidence that changes were made to the law of double jeopardy.
Another prosecution could now be brought, but only with fresh evidence.
The key plank of that new evidence has come from Crime-lite, relatively new technology which uses a powerful light to detect previously unseen traces of blood, bodily fluids and clothes fibres.
During the trial, the jury heard from forensic scientist Geraldine Davidson that a full DNA profile of Sinclair had been obtained from knots tied in the bra of Christine, which was used as part of a ligature to strangle her.
The court heard it was 20 million times more likely the DNA evidence, which had been preserved due to being in the knots, had come from a combination of Sinclair and Hamilton than either of them acting alone or from neither of them.
Expert evidence also showed different types of knots had been used to tie the ligatures, indicating two men were involved in tying them.
With a weight of forensic evidence linking Sinclair to the girls, he claimed he had had consensual sex with Christine and Helen after driving his camper van into Holyrood Park. In Sinclair’s version of events, he had then gone fishing while Hamilton bound and strangled the girls.
But the jury didn’t believe him, finding him guilty of acting along with his brother-in-law in the rape and murder of the teenagers.
In the years that followed his daughter’s death, Morain Scott could not help but study the faces of men he passed in the street, wondering if they had played a part in Helen’s death.
Now aged 84, Mr Scott finally knows who was responsible. Finally he, and the family of Christine Eadie, have justice for the daughters they lost nearly 40 years ago.
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