Retired police tackle 30-year-old killings

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The Independent Online

More than 60 retired detectives have been recalled to try to help solve three of Scotland's most mysterious murders from nearly 30 years ago.

More than 60 retired detectives have been recalled to try to help solve three of Scotland's most mysterious murders from nearly 30 years ago.

The officers, who range in rank from former constables to chief superintendents, have been asked to review their original notes on Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley and Agnes Cooney who were murdered between 1977 and 1980 in the Strathclyde area.

Using DNA technology, police have discovered "strong links" between the murders, which they believe to be the work of one man. The murders have also been linked to four other deaths in Scotland.

More than 100 serving officers from the Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders and Tayside forces will help the former detectives trawl through all the original information again.

Last weekend, the retired officers were invited into Strathclyde Police headquarters to review all evidence. Detective Superintendent Edward McCusker said: "The aim is to get as many officers who worked on the initial inquiries gathered together and essentially debrief them. They may be able to provide us with vital information from their memories or clarify a piece of documentation."

Det Supt McCusker said that while everything possible was done by the original investigating teams to catch the killer, science had now moved on such a degree that it provided a fresh opportunity to solve the cases.

Anna Kenny, aged 20 from Glasgow, was found murdered in Glasgow in August 1977; Mathilda "Hilda" McAuley, 36, was discovered on wasteland in Renfrewshire in October 1977, and Agnes Cooney, 23, from Lanarkshire was dumped on moorland near Airdrie in December 1977. All three vanished after a night out at either a pub or dance in the Strathclyde area.

Their deaths also bear a resemblance to the murders of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie, both 17, last seen in a pub in Edinburgh in 1977 and found dead several miles away in East Lothian; Carol Lannen, 18, was discovered in Templeton woods near Dundee in March 1977 and Elizabeth McCab, 20, a nursery nurse from Dundee was also found in woods, the day before her 21st birthday.

All but one of the seven had been sexually assaulted, and in most cases their hands or ankles had been tied. In each, killing the victim's handbag or an item of clothing was missing.

Jimmy Johnstone, a former detective chief superintendent, said: "Unsolved cases remain with you for the rest of your service; they never go away." Mr Johnstone retired four years ago as commander of the Scottish Crime Squad and was involved in the investigations.

"I'm sure every officer feels like it was yesterday they worked on these cases, not 27 years ago. I think it's a great idea to bring us all together and I believe the excellent turnout is testimony to the commitment of the officers who worked on those inquiries all those years ago. We want a resolution for the victims and their families." The information gathered will be reassessed by the present investigation team of 70 officers based at Cathcart police station.

Since Operation Trinity was launched in May it has been disclosed that police want to interview Angus Sinclair, who is serving two life sentences for the murder of a teenager in 1978 and a series of rapes in the 1980s. He was jailed three years ago after new forensic techniques found his DNA at the crime scenes.