Crime scene investigation: the Glasgow detective who became a legend in the 1960s

CID Chief Tom Goodall and other detectives leave the scene of a double murder St Partick'circa October 1969
CID Chief Tom Goodall and other detectives leave the scene of a double murder St Partick'circa October 1969
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Tom Goodall made his name during the Peter Manuel enquiry in 1958. He became famous for being ‘the man who was always there’, insisting on being called out at any hour of the day or night when a major crime occurred. Such dedication took a heavy toll on his health and he died suddenly at the age of 58.

The image of Tom Goodall portrayed in the press and confirmed by those who worked with him was of a quiet man who sat smoking his pipe, deep in thought as he wrestled with the complex strands of an enquiry. “I’ve seen him... pipe-smoking his way through murder investigations with the skill and wisdom of a man dedicated to his job 48 hours of the day,” was how one commentator put it. Yet some of his most dramatic cases showed that he could also assume the role of a man of action when faced with armed and dangerous criminals.

In November 1958 the Glasgow Herald reported an incident in the Gorbals under the heading Officer in Manuel Case Hurt – a sure sign that Goodall’s high-profile role in that inquiry had cemented his reputation. CID had received information that a car had been spotted in Camden Street which had been used in a burglary in West Kilbride, Ayrshire in the course of which £1,000 worth of jewellery had been stolen. The thieves were looking for buyers and Goodall came up with a typically astute move. At the time two Indian police officers, one a Sikh who wore a turban and the other a Hindu, were attending a training course in the Identification Bureau at HQ. Goodall asked them if they would go to the Camden Street house and find out if the jewellery was there by acting as prospective buyers. They were instructed to say they were prepared to buy it but would have to leave in order to get the necessary money for the transaction. They duly reported back to Goodall at an agreed rendezvous and he took the decision to raid the premises, accompanied by Detective Sergeants Farmer and Sloan and Detective Constable Watson.

They arrived at exactly the right moment. A man called Jack Marsden and two associates were sorting out the loot, which they hastily tried to cover up with a newspaper. Thirty eight year old Marsden, also known as John Edmiston, was no stranger to the CID: he had progressed through the system of approved school, Borstal and prison since the age of ten and had 18 previous convictions. Sloan and Watson approached Marsden to search him, while Goodall and Farmer did the same with the other two men. Marsden shouted, “Don’t come any further; you’re not searching me.” The officers grabbed him but he managed to put his hand inside his jacket pocket and pull out a pistol and, as Goodall and Farmer advanced towards him, he fired, grazing Goodall in the right thigh. “I felt some pain in my leg,” he said, “and I rolled up my trouser leg and found that I had a small abrasion high up on the inside of my right leg. The abrasion had black blood coming from it, but the bleeding was very slight.” The others managed to force their assailant to the ground, but not before he had fired a second shot. Fortunately this one only penetrated the floor.

Marsden’s advocate, AA MacDonald, later argued that the gun had gone off accidentally when the officers jumped at him. “He is a fool, but he is not a violent criminal,” said MacDonald. Marsden pled guilty to a charge of ‘assault on the police in the execution of their duty’ and was sent to prison for ten years. Released early, he was then stabbed to death in an Edinburgh flat in 1965.

After the shooting incident Goodall was taken by car to the Royal Infirmary where doctors told him that if the bullet had been a fraction of an inch closer to his leg, it could have severed a vital artery and killed him.

It was typical of the man that, after treatment, he went straight back to his office and resumed duty.

In August 1966 Goodall successfully hunted down an even more dangerous gunman wanted by Scotland Yard for his involvement in the murder of three policeman in London. Plain clothes officers in an unmarked car were suspicious of three men in an old Standard Vanguard estate car in Braybrook Street, East Acton, near Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Three shots were fired, two at the officers who approached the men and the third at the driver of the police car. As a result of a tip-off from an underworld source, the estate car was located in a Lambeth garage and one of the men arrested. The two others, described by Scotland Yard as ‘dangerous and both known to be armed,’ were named as Harry Roberts and John Duddy. The latter was a Glasgow man who had gone to London about ten years previously and it was reasonable to assume that he would head back home. Officially, Glasgow CID’s comment was that ‘There is no indication of any kind that Duddy is in Glasgow but the possibility exists that he could be. In that event fairly extensive enquiries were going on’.

In fact, 40 specially selected detectives were visiting his known haunts in the city and rounding up his relatives for questioning. It was his brother Vincent, shocked by the details of the London murders which had provoked nationwide outrage, who agreed to take police to where he was hiding, a tenement in Stevenson Street in the Calton district – only 100 yards away from the Eastern division police headquarters. Armed officers with protective shields made their way to a first floor flat at 1.30pm where Duddy was found, unarmed and offering no resistance. The arrest was carried out by Goodall himself, and amongst the detectives with him were James Binnie, a future CID Chief, and David McNee, later Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Duddy was then quickly despatched to Scotland Yard. Two of their officers had flown up to Glasgow and spent an hour at the Central Police Station before returning to London on a BEA (British European Airways) flight the same evening. A 20 seat section at the back of the aircraft was sealed off and occupied only by Duddy and the two detectives.

The third wanted man, Harry Roberts, employed his military training to survive in hiding in a wooded area in Hertfordshire before being caught in November. All three were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Duddy’s arrest was one of the highest points of Tom Goodall’s career but, as ever, his statements to the press were brief, factual and to the point. Whatever the potential danger, he considered he was doing no more than carrying out his duty. “Seniority matters in these things,” he said afterwards. “We cannot send a younger man out to do something we should do ourselves.”

The Real Taggarts by Andrew G Ralston, published by Black & White Publishing, is out now, £9.99.