Detectives investigating the life of serial killer Peter Tobin said they would continue to examine dozens of other unsolved cases after his conviction yesterday for the murder of a teenage hitchhiker.
It took a jury just 15 minutes to find the 63-year-old handyman guilty of drugging and then strangling A-level student Dinah McNicol after she accepted a lift in his car on her way home from a music festival in 1991.
Tobin was ordered to spend the rest of his life in jail by the judge at Chelmsford Crown Court at the end of a three-day trial in which he offered no defence. He has already been convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old Polish student, Angelika Kluk, in a Glasgow church in 2006, and was last year sentenced to a further 30 years in jail for killing Vicky Hamilton, 15.
He also has convictions for raping and sexually assaulting two 14-year-old schoolgirls in Hampshire in 1994, for which he served 10 years in prison. He was released early, only to kill again.
Miss McNicol's body was found alongside that of Miss Hamilton buried in the backyard of Tobin's former home in Margate, Kent. Yesterday the fathers of both girls, whose bodies had lain alongside each other undiscovered for 16 years, were together in court. The teenagers remains were only discovered after a nationwide cold-case review and searches of Tobin's old addresses.
Tobin, who was sent to reform school at the age of seven and has been married three times, has persistently refused to acknowledge his guilt. But police said the successful conviction would now see them follow up 1,400 lines of inquiry which it is hoped could lead to the resolution of some of Britain's most notorious unsolved murders. Police believe Tobin used a number of different aliases and was linked to 38 mobile phone SIM cards.
Detective Superintendent David Swindle of Strathclyde Police, who set up Operation Anagram to look at other cases involving Tobin, said new addresses would be searched should fresh evidence arise: "Every day there is new information about his movements and I am confident that as more information comes to light, it will [help us] identify other victims."
Among the new leads made public for the first time yesterday were pictures of women's jewellery recovered from Tobin's various homes, which, it is believed, could be trophies kept from his other victims. Police are busy reconstructing the killer's movements from the 1960s onwards, during which he lived an itinerant existence travelling extensively on the motorway network.
The unsolved cases to which he has so far been linked include Glasgow's so-called "Bible John" killings in 1968 and 1969 in which three women died. He has also been investigated in connection with the murders of girls and women in London, Sussex and Northern Ireland.
Miss McNicol, from Tillingham in Essex, was murdered six months after Vicky Hamilton, whose dead body Tobin cut in half and brought with him when he moved from Scotland to Kent in 1991. Neighbours spotted him digging a deep trench in his back garden but he dispelled suspicions by telling them he was building a sandpit for his son.
The family of Miss McNicol, who had to sit through evidence twice after the first trial was abandoned when the slightly built Scot was taken ill earlier this year, welcomed the verdict. Her half-sister Sara Tizard said: "After all these years, we at last know the truth and justice has prevailed. We would like to put the trial behind us and remember Dinah as the unique and inspiring daughter and sister that she was."
One friend of the family waved a sign at Tobin as he was led away from the dock which said: "May all your dreams be nightmares."
Michael Hamilton, father of Vicky, said he had come to support Ian McNicol, Dinah's widower father. He said of Tobin: "I'm glad he's going to be in prison for the rest of his life. I hope he lives to be 100."