Arthur Donaldson talk

Arthur Donaldson MBE : World’s End Murders

By a cruel twist of fate teenagers Christine Eadieand Helen Scott were murdered in 1977.  Arthur Donaldson explained that but for a successful bet on the horses, the girls might not have gone to the World’s End Pub that night!  However, they did, and the Scottish public were left with the mystery of the World’s End Murders which lasted for decades. What emerged from Arthur’s detailed talk was a story of persistence and commitment.  

The two girls were last seen leaving the World’s End Pub with two men.  Helen’s body was found naked on Gosford Bay, East Lothian.  Christine’s body was found stripped from the waist down at Coates Farm 6 miles away some four hours later.  Initially the bodies were not associated, it was only later that as the facts emerged that the murders were linked.  Arthur noted that all the facts of the case with respect to the girls were known within 2 days.  However, neither of the two men they had been seen talking to in the pub had been identified.  However, the forensic scientist involved, Lester Knibb, recognizing the potential for science to improve, carefully stored the evidence in the hope that improvements in DNA science would eventually lead to an identification and conviction of the culprits.

Arthur explained in some detail how DNA evidence gradually became more reliable for court cases. In this case the final breakthrough came in 2004 when three Scottish Police Forces came together to do an investigation of unsolved murders in the 1970sknown as Operation Trinity.  This resulted in Angus Sinclair being identified as a possible culprit from the National Data Base.  Arthur noted that Sinclair’s name would come up fro time to time in cold searches as he had a string of convictions including theft, rape and murder dating back to the age 13.

He first murdered a 7 year old girl in1961 when he was 16 and only sentenced for 10 years in view of his age.  Sinclair is then thought to have murdered 6 women in 1977 over a seven month period including the World’s End Murders.  He then murdered Mary Gallacher in Glasgow in 1978.  However, he only was convicted for her murder as a result of a cold case review in 2000.  When evidence came together for Christine Eadie and Helen Scott in 2007, this case collapsed because the Judge was persuaded by the defence that the DNA evidence was unreliable.  One juror said ‘Shame on you!’ to Judge Lord Clarke who had heard the arguments without the jury present.

This outcome which caused public outrage at the time.  It spurred action by the Scottish Law Commission to address the Double Jeopardy Rulewhich frustrated Sinclair being tried again.  Lord Mulholland was a key figure in driving this forward.  Finally in 2011 new legislation was delivered allowing cases to be re-tried if there was new evidence.  However, it took till 2014 to marshal fresh evidence with very careful DNA work to bring Sinclair to trial.  The jury took just over two hours to reach their verdict of guilty!

As Arthur said the successful outcome was a tribute to the efforts of the police, the forensic scientists and the Crown Office.  A very interesting talk.

Arthur Donaldson talk