A MAN could face a new trial for the World’s End murders of teenagers Helen Scott and Christine Eadie. New evidence allegedly linking Angus Sinclair to the girls’ deaths is understood to have been obtained by prosecutors.
If it meets the “new and compelling” requirement for evidence, it could trigger a second prosecution under double jeopardy laws, which were passed in the Scottish Parliament last year.
Lothian and Borders Police has been asked to launch a new investigation into the 35-year-old murder and prosecutors are expected to lodge an application to have Sinclair’s acquittal set aside within weeks.
The families of Miss Scott and Miss Eadie, who were both 17 when they were beaten, raped and strangled, are being kept informed.
The previous trial collapsed in controversial circumstances in 2007, when Lord Clarke ruled that Sinclair had no case to answer.
It triggered a row between the then Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, and Lord President Lord Hamilton, Scotland’s most senior judge, over whether it should have been allowed to proceed.
The running sore of one of Scotland’s most infamous murders failing even to reach the jury, after it had taken 30 years to bring it to court, helped to motivate the political will that eventually led to double jeopardy laws coming into force in November last year.
Former Deputy Chief Constable Tom Wood, who was in overall command of the case until he retired in 2005, said: “This is a very good day for the justice system in Scotland, for Helen and Christine, and for their families who have carried this burden for 35 years.
“Credit must go to the Crown Office. The police in Lothian and Borders never gave up on Helen and Christine over all those years, and it’s very clear now that neither have the Crown.”
When the case collapsed in 2007, Lord Clarke found that advocate depute Alan Mackay had not presented enough evidence to allow the charges to be brought before the jury.
For a new trial to take place, the evidence must “substantially strengthen” the case against the accused, and must not have been available at the original trial.
“The key words are new and compelling evidence,” Mr Wood said. “That’s what it requires.
“I’m very hopeful. I think it’s unlikely the Crown would have done what it’s done if it did not have new and compelling evidence.I would guess it’s to do with advancements in forensic science.”
The World’s End murders took their name from the Edinburgh pub where Miss Eadie and Miss Scott were last seen alive in October 1977.
The next day, their bodies were found six miles apart in East Lothian.
Since that day, their families have faced a long and so far fruitless search for justice.
Speaking in November last year, Helen’s father, Morain Scott, 81, from Edinburgh, said he had never given up hope.
“I would like to see justice for the girls, for my daughter and for Christine,” he said. “My hopes have been up so often before that I just try and keep a level head about this.
“A lot of people talk about closure, but you never get closure. It was so long ago – you think about would she have been married, would she have had children? That has gone completely now.”
Mr Wood added: “I’ve met the family on several occasions. They have conducted themselves with the utmost dignity over what has been an intolerable strain over an intolerable length of time.
“They deserve to see justice done for their daughters, who were little more than children when they were murdered.
“I suppose this will be bitter-sweet. On one hand, they have lived with this for 35 years and will be thinking, here we go again. On the other hand, I know they would desperately wish to see justice done, and some sort of closure for their daughters.”
Representatives of the Crown have met the families of Miss Scott and Miss Eadie. The Crown Office has also said arrangements will be made to meet those affected in all double jeopardy cases.
The Crown Office has already asked Strathclyde Police to reinvestigate the murder, 13 years ago, of waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar.
In launching the new inquiry into the World’s End murders, prosecutors warned that time would be no barrier in their search for justice. A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “Whilst it is not appropriate to comment or speculate on the live investigation into these murders, the public can be assured that, where there is new, compelling evidence of guilt, the length of time since committal or acquittal should offer no protection.”
She added: “We are committed to using the powers under the new double jeopardy legislation. We hope that this commitment will give reassurance to the families of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie.”