Disco death’s unanswered questions

IT was one of Edinburgh’s best-known nightspots, a place where the young gathered to enjoy themselves and dance the night away.

In 1984, Annabel’s, in Semple Street, Fountainbridge, was one of the Capital’s busiest and liveliest places to be - fashionable and a favourite nightclub of the in-crowd.

On Friday, April 27, 19-year-old Pauline Reilly, the club’s day manageress and daughter of owner John "Paddy" Reilly, was working in the office. The former pupil at George Heriot’s spent her days taking telephone calls and dealing with advance bookings, often with her dog by her side.

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Her father last saw her alive that lunchtime, when he dropped in to the office to sign pay cheques. But when he returned at 6.40pm on his way to restock the bar, he was met by a dreadful sight.

Pauline had been strangled with a rope made of sash cord, wound three times around her throat. Her body was then left partially suspended from a spiral staircase. And more than 3000 was missing from the safe.

Pauline had been working alone in the office, but outside it was a busy Friday afternoon with lots of traffic and passers-by.

Murder squad detectives immediately tried to trace two men in their early 20s of "swarthy appearance" - possibly from the Middle East - who had been seen two hours earlier standing at the Semple Street doorway as if waiting to get into the office. A dark car with three occupants was parked nearby.

There was no sign of a forced entry to the premises, and evidence suggested there was a strong chance that Pauline knew her killer.

Pauline’s grief-stricken father later said he had often warned her not to work there with the door of the safe left open. He offered a 5000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the killer.

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Police investigators found no sign of a struggle in the office, and the pathologist suggested she had been standing when the rope was applied from behind. She would have lost consciousness within seconds.

It was a piece of paper with the name, address and the telephone number of Shu-Kee Leung, a Hong Kong-born waiter at the Dragonara Hotel, found in Pauline’s office, which led to his arrest on suspicion of murder.

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Asked how it got there, Leung denied all knowledge. Perhaps, he suggested, it was left by his wife Norah, a former barmaid at Annabel’s who left in August 1983 but remained a frequent visitor.

He denied threatening Pauline with a knife stolen from the Dragonara and strangling her.

But the police’s suspicions were aroused. On the day after the murder, Leung had been heard boasting to a fellow waiter that he had won 2000 at a casino. And the manager of the Royal Chimes Casino in Royal Terrace told how Leung was a regular but small-time gambler who, on the Sunday just after Pauline’s murder, had placed unusually large bets - about 200 a time - in cash. A few days later, a croupier cashed in chips for him worth 2000.

Evidence was building against Leung. Police found his fingerprint on the scrap of paper with his name on, and he was asked to provide specimens of his handwriting. At this point, Leung was said to have become agitated and officers suspected he was trying to disguise his writing.

This, plus further information that he had debts of 1000, led to his arrest.

At the trial, Pauline’s father Paddy strongly denied having put out a 30,000 contract on Leung - a rumour that had gone around the city and reached the prison where the former waiter was being held.

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He said he knew of no-one who would want to murder his daughter, but he agreed that during his time in the competitive disco business, he could have made friends and "maybe some enemies".

At his trial, Leung denied murdering Pauline. He claimed he had been forced "by gangsters" to hang up Pauline’s body. He said she was already dead when he entered Annabel’s Disco, taken there by a recent casino acquaintance called Mr Hasin who had twice loaned him 10 after he had lost all his money. Leung claimed he had repaid half the loan but, on the afternoon of the murder, Mr Hasin had phoned asking for the remainder and suggesting they meet near the disco.

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It was then, Leung claimed, that he was offered a lift to Annabel’s.

The door was opened by a man in a white T-shirt, and Leung saw a girl lying in the middle of the room.

"I see this guy walk to the corner near the window and he was putting a pair of white gloves on," Leung told the High Court trial. "I was really shocked and did not know what to do. I asked them ‘What’s happened to the girl?’ and they said ‘We killed her and that’s what we do for a living’."

Leung added that they told him they wanted to get him involved, to be one of them, and said it was easy work with lots of money. When he said he wanted to leave, he was told ‘You don’t think we would let you go just like that’.

Leung claimed that the man in the T-shirt produced a gun and said they knew where his wife and child lived. If he did not do as he was told, he would be killed.

The waiter was told to write down his name and address, the High Court heard. And then he was told to move the body to the stairs and to hang her up.

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"I was that frightened," Leung claimed. "I can’t even think why they wanted me to hang her up, for she is dead already.

"It doesn’t make sense at all. But I just wanted to get out - get it over with."

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As Leung did as he was told, he was photographed as "just a little guarantee". He was given 500 and a bag of coins, then driven to his job at the Dragonara.

The next day, Leung claimed, Mr Hasin phoned and he was taken to a flat in Tollcross where the man who had worn the T-shirt told him that a knife from the Dragonara Hotel and a piece of paper with Leung’s name and address had been left at the disco office.

When he asked if they were putting the blame on him, he was told it would be enough to get the attention of the police - and give them time to escape.

"They are gangsters," Leung claimed. "They would do anything they would think is necessary."

He added that if he was cleared of murder, he would have to flee the country in fear of his life. He had told the truth, he said, because while awaiting trial he had heard the rumour of a 30,000 contract out on his life.

But where had Leung come by the money he had? It was, he said, gambling winnings of up to 4000, some of which police found hidden in his car in the hotel car park.

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After a seven-day trial, the jury returned a majority verdict of guilty. Leung was sentenced to life.

But loose ends remain. Were the mysterious Mr Hasin and the gangsters the men seen outside the disco two hours before Pauline’s death?

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Could Leung have been strong enough to hang up a body - whether dead or alive - on his own?

And why hang up her body at all - could it have been some kind of warning?

Finally, if Pauline had been alive when the rope was placed around her neck, just why had she been so passive?

Handkerchief clues led police to hammer killer

ROBBERY has been the motive for many senseless killings. But few robbers perhaps appreciate the lengths to which the police will go to catch a murderer.

It was the evening of February 28, 1973, when Douglas Rhodes Knowles set out, armed with a claw hammer, with the intention of robbing his local bookie’s at 91 Slateford Road.

He had already considered the possibility of leaving fingerprint evidence - two handkerchiefs were wrapped around its shaft and head.

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He calmly watched as Alex Stewart, the betting shop owner, prepared three betting slips which Knowles had been careful not to sign. Then he struck Mr Stewart a death blow with the hammer.

He stole 568 and left, no doubt believing he had got away with murder. But he failed to anticipate the perseverance of Lothian and Borders Police forensic squad.

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The betting shop wasn’t short of possible clues: it yielded fingerprints, footprints, blood samples and many discarded, crumpled-up betting slips - but nothing definite.

The murder weapon was found two days later, half a mile away in Robertson Avenue. There were no fingerprints, but there were two other clues: two white handkerchiefs, one embroidered with the letter L and the other with the initial D.

Neighbours pinpointed the exact time when Mr Stewart was killed - his screams were heard while they watched a TV news item about Vietnam. The BBC confirmed that was between 5.53pm and 5.54pm.

Only one crumpled betting slip was stamped at around that time, and two others were found with the same distinctive handwriting.

It led to hundreds of betting slips being checked and the handwriting analysed before detectives found slips which matched. Many bore the initials DK or the name D Knowles, or the nom de plume Betty 328.

It was only a matter of time before a betting shop worker connected the slips to Knowles, a compulsive gambler. But police by then had waded through some 25,000 betting lines, which revealed he had placed 538 in bets in the days after the murder.

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The evidence against Knowles was strengthened by a laborious search of Edinburgh’s drapery trade for the source of the handkerchiefs, a search which ended in Portadown. It emerged that the handkerchiefs, one of a set of just 144, had been given to Knowles by a late aunt.

One was found to bear a red ink mark - similar to stains found inside Knowles’ jacket pocket.

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It was a long, thorough investigation. But the evidence showed that police had their man.

And Knowles was jailed for life.

Dying for more?

Adapted from Close & Deadly: Chilling Murders in the Heart of Edinburgh, by Alanna Knight, published by Black and White Publishing on June 27, price 9.99 (ISBN: 1-902927-39-7). Readers can obtain a signed copy for the special price of 8.99, including free postage and packing, by sending their name, full address with postcode, and telephone number to: Reader Offers, Black and White Publishing, 99 Giles Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6BZ. Please include Access/Visa/Switch card number, start date, expiry date and signature. Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to Black and White Publishing. Please allow 28 days for delivery.

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