Dismembered body found in wealthy Edinburgh suburb

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The Independent Online

The dismembered body of a convicted sex offender was discovered yesterday in the back garden of a house in an Edinburgh suburb. Detectives were waiting last night for formal confirmation of the identity of the victim, who is believed to be a former school teacher who was jailed for 18 months for sexually abusing pupils.

The body was discovered in Polwarth, one of Edinburgh's most prosperous areas, where houses sell for up to £500,000. The politicians Robin Cook and Alistair Darling and the writers J K Rowling and Ian Rankin have homes there.

Officers from Lothian and Borders police discovered the body in the early hours of yesterday after receiving a phone call from a member of the public. It is understood that the body had been mutilated, with the head, torso and arms wrapped in a carpet before being concealed in a shallow grave in the communal gardens of a block of flats.

The victim's legs were later recovered from a wheelie bin outside a tenement block in Merchiston Avenue.

Police forensic science experts have begun a detailed search of the area, and a spokesman said they were following a "positive line of inquiry".

Detectives were investigating the possibility that the man they believe to be the victim, Alan Wilson, 51, was killed and dismembered in a nearby house where bloodstains are understood to have been discovered in a bath.

Wilson, a former principal history teacher at James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh was jailed for 18 months in 2000 for abusing three boys over a five-year period.

As the author of seven books, a director of Mercat Tours - a company operating guided historic walks through Edinburgh - and an adviser to the local education authority, Wilson had been a well-respected school figure until he was suspended from his job in February 1999.

Despite claiming that his victims invented their accusations, he was convicted of eight sex assaults on boys aged 16 and 17 after plying them with alcohol. Described in court as "calculating, cool and calm", he was also placed on the sex offenders register.

It is understood that Wilson's mutilated body was discovered in the garden of a home belonging to a convicted rapist that the schoolteacher met while in prison. Wilson is believed to have been a regular visitor to the man's flat in Merchiston Avenue.

Wilson was known to take great delight in recounting the macabre exploits of Edinburgh's ghosts and murderers to tourists.

A tour guide who used to work for Wilson's company recalled: "He loved all the tales of the body-snatchers Burke and Hare and could describe in minute detail how Burke was skinned and hung in front of a huge crowd.

"Another of his favourite tales was one about two Englishmen who had their ears sliced off and tongues cut out on the Royal Mile, the former tour guide added.

"It sounds horrible to say, but I suppose in years to come people will be telling tales of how he was killed, in the same way he told stories of how others died in the past."

Last night police officers continued to search for clues on the ground floor and the first floor of the four-storey property.

Although a police spokes-man said it was unknown how long the body had been in the garden, he appealed to anyone who lives in the area to contact the police if they had seen anything suspicious in the past few days.

The writer Ian Rankin admitted last night that he had been unable to resist visiting the site. Despite writing the bestselling Inspector Rebus novels, the author confessed that he had never visited a real murder scene.

"I took a walk down before lunchtime and saw the police removing the wheelie bins outside and tagging them for evidence," he said. "It was extremely interesting to see how many police were there and what they were doing.

"It's not the kind of thing you expect to get in Edinburgh at all," said the writer, whose fictional Edinburgh detective deals with average of two murders per book.