A 62-year-old handyman with a brutal history of sexual violence against women was found guilty yesterday of murdering a schoolgirl whose disappearance in 1991 sparked one of Britain's biggest missing person hunts.
Peter Tobin, who was already serving a life sentence for the murder and rape of a Polish student in a Glasgow church in 2006, was given a minimum of 30 years in jail at the High Court in Dundee for abducting and dismembering 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton in 1991 as she made her way home after visiting her sister in West Lothian.
Her body was found buried in Tobin's back garden in Margate, Kent last year, prompting searches at up to 20 addresses and leading to detectives re-investigating the unsolved cases of more than a dozen women who had been murdered or gone missing since the 1960s.
Police who interviewed Tobin said he had showed no remorse for his actions, insisting he was innocent despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
Vicky's father shouted "rot in hell" as Judge Lord Emslie described Tobin's serial crimes as "among the most evil and horrific acts that any human being could commit" at the end of the 21-day trial. He said: "Once again, you have shown yourself to be unfit to live in a decent society."
Tobin, whose three wives all left him because of his violence, was brought to justice after police linked the DNA found on the missing teenager's purse to that of his son. In a macabre twist that was to be his undoing, the toddler was given the wallet as a toy after his father had lured the girl to his home at Robertson Avenue, Bathgate, West Lothian, drugged, sexually assaulted her and cut her body in two.
Tobin then dumped the purse in Edinburgh, a bid to convince the world that Vicky Hamilton had run away. Detectives described the teenager as a lonely, insecure girl. She had been anxious about making the bus trip to her sister's flat in Livingston from her home in Falkirk and police believe she was abducted by Tobin as she bought chips and asked for directions after changing buses in Bathgate.
At his house, she was given the anti-depressant amitriptyline, a drug on which Tobin had attempted to overdose the previous year. It is believed she may have remained alive for up to six hours before she died, most likely from strangulation. During those horrific last hours, she fought back against her attacker, suffering bruising to her hands.
Tobin celebrated the murder by going drinking in Bathgate where witnesses said he was in high spirits. On his return, the odd-job man used a long-bladed knife to cut the girl's body in two, trussing up the parts with an old window sash. He then wrapped them up like "Russian-dolls" using curtains and bin bags.
The body remained at the house for more than a month until Tobin moved to Irvine Drive, Margate. Among the possessions he squeezed into his second-hand van for the overnight drive 500 miles south were the two large packages containing the remains. Once there, he buried them under concrete and earth, telling the neighbour David Martin who spotted him digging that he was building a sand pit for his son to play in during custody visits.
Vicky's mother died in 1993, a virtual recluse destroyed by grief and guilt at the loss of her daughter. But Tobin remained undetected. During their investigation, police questioned more than 6,500 people and took more than 3,000 statements. In 1994, Tobin was jailed for 14 years for raping and sodomising two teenage girls in Portsmouth, Hampshire. Once again he used amitriptyline to subdue them. He was released after 10 years.
It was not until October 2006 when Tobin was arrested in Glasgow for the rape and murder of Polish student, Angelika Kluk, in a Catholic church that his name entered the investigation. Police had launched a cold-case review of the disappearance and still hadVicky's purse, planted by Tobin between Edinburgh's main bus and railway stations. Crucially, it still contained the DNA of the killer's child. A search of his former home in the town unveiled the five-inch knife in the loft that he had used to cut up the girl's body. It contained a fragment of her skin. The hunt moved southwards, retracing Tobin's steps to Margate where radar equipment revealed her body buried in the garden.
So tightly was she wrapped that even her liver remained well enough preserved to find evidence of the drugs administered 17 years earlier. Her mother's rings, worn as a treat during that visit to her sister on that snowy night in February 1991, were still on her fingers.
Detectives who visited Tobin found him unrepentant, telling them to "piss off" and insisting "Sorry I cannae help you, know what I mean. As I say, I've never met her, you know what I mean, I've never ever."
Vicky's sister, Lindsay Brown, said her family was relieved the 17-year nightmare was over. "We are hoping we can now move on as a family and start to remember Vicky as the loving sister she was before she was so tragically and cruelly taken from us."
Last night, Tobin's ex-wife Margaret described how he had put his victims "under a spell" by appearing to be gentlemanly. "He was a well-dressed guy in a suit, well mannered, took out a chair for me, bought us the drinks. He had a car, which was great back then with the lift back home. I thought this is it, this is grand."
She recalled how Tobin had forced her to marry him and had then violently raped her after they had an argument about their pet puppy.
Speaking about his victims, she said: "I think they've just been put under a spell like I was and there's absolutely nothing they can do.
"I feel so sorry for the parents – they've had to go through the ordeal that my parents had to go through. The only difference is that my parents got me back."