Prostitutes' killer brings fear to streets of Glasgow

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The Independent Online
THE battered body of 27-year-old Margaret Lafferty lay in a doorway in a narrow cobbled street for about 16 hours before it was noticed.

Known to her friends as Margo, she was the seventh prostitute to be murdered in Glasgow in less than seven years.

Her brutal killing in the early hours of Saturday morning has left the city's 700 street prostitutes in fear. But despite the fact that there is a serial killer or a number of murderers targetting vice girls in Glasgow most street workers feel compelled to continue working to feed their heroin habits.

The risks seem enormous. Of the seven killed, one was stabbed 17 times and strangled, another was mutilated and dumped in a car park and a third was found naked in some bushes.

Police believe Margaret Lafferty, a drug user, was killed during a "sustained and violent" attack in West Regent Lane at about 2am on Saturday. The dingy single-track road, where shops and offices pile their rubbish, joins two busy streets and is close to the city's red light district, known as "Anderstone". By day the area is frequented by professionals working in solicitors' firms, legal practices and financial institutions. By night it is taken over by dozens of women selling sex.

Margaret's body, which was partly hidden, was found by a passer-by at about 6pm on Saturday.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Campbell said Ms Lafferty had put up a struggle with her killer. He added: "The person who carried out this attack may well have been covered in both mud and blood."

As the death toll has risen so has the terror felt among the city's street walkers.

Roseann Coutts, a worker at the city's Base 75 support centre, said: "The women are terrified. Some have stopped working because they were so frightened.

"But most of the street workers are drug users and they need the money to fed their habit - most are on heroin. They just don't see any other option."

Some prostitutes now work in pairs, with one keeping a note of the car registration number of any punters.

They are also all advised to pick up their clients in view of the city's surveillance cameras so that any potential attacker will be fearful of being identified.

They are warned to always check in the back of a vehicle - for a second man - and to never wear a scarf, as it could be used as a murder weapon.

Strathclyde police yesterday played down speculation of a serial killer saying there was no evidence of a link between any of the previous murders and that of Margaret Lafferty.

Shops and offices in Glasgow city centre have been asked to keep CCTV video footage shot over the weekend which may contain pictures of the killer.