When Bible John's reign of terror struck fear into Glasgow's dancing youth

As the Swinging Sixties came rumbling to a close, there emerged in Glasgow’s night scene a sinister element that would strike fear into the hearts of the city’s young females.

There was a murderer on the loose. The newspapers dubbed him Bible John.

Between 1968 and 1969, the papers reported on how three young women, Patricia Docker, 25, mum-of-three Jemima McDonald, 32, and Helen Puttock, 29, had been murdered after nights out in the city.

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Each woman was found partially naked, having been beaten extensively before being strangled to death. Helen Puttock was also raped before she was killed.

Suspect number one was a curious figure who went by the name of John and frequently quoted the Bible in public.

"I don’t drink at Hogmanay, I pray,” the killer was heard telling one of his victims.

Rumour spread that Bible John was targeting dance halls as he believed them to be dens of iniquity where Scotland’s sinful youth gathered en masse.

In keeping with that line of thinking, Bible John’s reign of terror centred on Glasgow’s Barrowlands ballroom. The East End venue was hugely popular during the decade, but, as one woman after another began to vanish, fear quickly spread and the dance floor steadily emptied.

Bible John's reign of terror centred on Glasgow's Barrowland ballroom.

Ronnie Simpson, who has been involved in the music industry in Scotland for more than 50 years, says the Bible John murders had a profound effect on the city and led to attendances falling at the Barrowlands for a time.

He said: "The Bible John thing had a massive effect. From memory it was very bad for the Barrowland in particular. The local polis were in there every Saturday night for two or three months or more.

"The whole audience became fed up of constantly being questioned to the point where they stopped going to Barrowland.

"And, let’s face it, if the women aren’t going to the dancing, then the men aren’t turning up either – simple as that.”

Following Bible John’s third murder, the killer sank without trace and his identity remains a mystery to this day.

As time wears on and with the number of witnesses from the era diminishing fast, the likelihood of Bible John, a man often labelled Scotland’s most notorious serial killer, ever being brought to justice is now remote.

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