THE KILLINGS of Scottish prostitutes are not properly investigated because of prejudice and discrimination, it was claimed yesterday as figures revealed that of ten murders, only three had led to convictions.
Eight prostitutes have died in suspicious circumstances in Glasgow since 1991, but only one conviction has been secured. A further two women were killed - one in Aberdeen, one in Edinburgh - which resulted in murder convictions.
The most recent murder was that of 27-year-old Emma Caldwell, who went missing in Glasgow on 4 April last year. Her body was found five weeks later near Biggar, Lanarkshire.
Last night Ruth Morgan Thomas, project manager of Scot-pep, a charity for prostitutes in Edinburgh, said the women would continue to be failed by Scotland's justice system because they were not taken seriously by the police.
"Some police officers see the violence as part of the job of a sex worker. No woman should have to accept that.
"When they report violence, the police are dismissive... and tell women they shouldn't be out on the streets.
"Sex workers are dehumanised by the media and the general public and there is an underlying discrimination in the way they are treated."
The homicide rate for sex workers in Britain is 12 times higher than for other women; prostitutes constitute the largest single group of unsolved murders. It is estimated that at least 60 in the UK have been murdered in the past 10 years, with only 16 convictions.
Recent research suggests prostitutes in Glasgow are at a higher risk of meeting a violent death and are more likely to be attacked than their counterparts in Edinburgh. During the last two years, Strathclyde Police reported 100 attacks on prostitutes in the city - compared to 41 attacks in Edinburgh over the same period.
Edinburgh had a prostitution tolerance zone for 18 years, but it was abolished in November 2001. Campaigners representing prostitutes in the city warn that women are facing danger on the streets every day. They have consistently called for the tolerance zone to be reinstated before more lives are lost.
Jean Rafferty, who is writing a book on prostitutes entitled Disposable Women, said prostitutes were very often treated as second-class citizens.
She said: "
The police have a lot of sexism in their ranks. Some officers have not moved as quickly as they should have done. It's a fact that the police don't prioritise.
"It should be a level playing field and the resources should be there for these women."
The safety of women walking the streets has been brought to the fore by Margo MacDonald MSP who has lodged the Prostitute Tolerance Zones Bill before the Scottish Parliament. Police and local authorities in Edinburgh and Aberdeen support her proposals but Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police remain opposed, despite the high number of attacks in the city.
Tom Wood, the former deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, explained that the murder of a prostitute was among the most difficult crimes to solve, partly due to the public's reluctance to get involved.
"Most murders are committed by somebody you know, there is a relationship. When it is one stranger killing another stranger you have evidential problems and forensic problems.
"You can imagine the reluctance of witnesses to come forward and say they were with the prostitute.
"These women can lead very chaotic lives. About 95 per cent are drug dependent and they're really not well-placed to look after themselves."
The danger facing vice girls remains evident in Scotland, but desperation - usually to feed drug addictions - means scores of women are still prepared to put their lives on the line by working the streets.
The risks are highlighted by crime statistics for 2005-6, which show high numbers of violent attacks - and many sex attacks or indecency crimes - in the area of Glasgow where most prostitution offences are recorded.
Strathclyde Police beat AB20, an area in the city centre near Anderston Station, had 168 prostitution-related crimes last year. It also had 33 sex attack or indecency crimes - the highest total of any beat.
A spokesman for ACPOS - the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland - rejected claims that the police had failed to make prostitutes a priority.
"When a prostitute is murdered in Scotland, full resources are put into that case. I would totally refute the suggestion that these women are treated as second-class citizens.
"However, there is no doubt that the public don't always see prostitutes in a sympathetic light. If a 10-year-old girl is killed, the public comes forward in droves. That simply doesn't happen when a prostitute is murdered."
The Scots victims, few of whose killers have ever been found
Emma Caldwell, 27: Last seen in Glasgow city centre on 4 April last year, her body was found five weeks later, on 8 May, at a remote spot near Biggar. It is thought she had been picked up by a client on the Broomielaw, next to the Clyde. Despite repeated, high-profile appeals for witnesses and information, no-one has been arrested for her murder.
Margo Lafferty, 27: A heroin addict and dealer, she was found dead in West Regent Lane, Glasgow, close to the city's red light district on 28 February, 1998. Brian Donnelly, 19, was found guilty of strangling and robbing Margo and jailed for life.
Tracey Wylde, 21: Found beaten to death in her flat in Barmulloch, Glasgow, in November 1997. Though nobody has been caught, police believe the young mother was killed by someone she knew.
Jacqueline Gallacher, 26: Last seen alive during the early hours on 24 June, 1996 in Glasgow city centre. Her body was found the next day dumped on a grass verge next to a bus stop on a main road in West Dunbartonshire. She was hidden in shrubbery and wrapped in an unusual home-made curtain. Eight years later, a man was tried for her murder but the case was not proven.
Leona McGovern, 25: Found stabbed 17 times and throttled about just a couple of hundred 200 yards from Anderston, Glasgow's red light area, in June 1995. George Walker was cleared of her murder after his defence team produced another man who they said killed her. Detectives said that the other man had been questioned and eliminated from their inquiries.
Karen McGregor, 28: The mother of two was found dead at the SECC in Glasgow in April 1993. She had been beaten around the head and throttled. Her husband, Charles, was tried for murder but the jury found the case not proven.
Dianne McInally, 23: Found in bushes in Pollok Park in October 1991, she worked the streets to fund a drug addiction. Two men were charged with her murder - it is believed over money owed for drugs - but were freed due to lack of evidence.
Marjorie Roberts, 34: Found dead in the Clyde, near Jamaica Bridge, in August 1995. It was unclear whether the mother of three had fallen in or was pushed. CCTV cameras showed her with a man in Broomielaw hours before she was found.
Christine Dinnie, 40: Beaten to death by a client with a car-jack after she had apparently mocked him. The Edinburgh mother of four had been working in Leith on the night of 7 October, 1995, when she was approached by John Law, from Bo'ness. He confessed to attacking her after he claimed she had taunted him after he failed in an attempt to have sexual intercourse with her.
Susan Third, 21: Her semi-naked body was found in an Aberdeen field in February 2005. The drug addict had been strangled by a client, Joseph Harrison - jailed for six years for culpable homicide on grounds of diminished responsibility due to his drug addiction.