“THE BALLROOM KILLER” BIBLE JOHN
“THE BALLROOM KILLER” BIBLE JOHN
A Bible quoting serial killer stalks his prey within a decaying city that had fallen far beyond its once glorious past — it sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie but this is the real life story of Bible John — a predator lurking in the shadows of the 1960's in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
To date John has yet to be found — and while he may not have the worldwide infamy of Jack the Ripper, his story is no less deplorable. He has been described as a “Scottish Zodiac”.
Glasgow is now one of the most remarkable cities in Britain — a rejuvenation which began in the 1980's has served the city well. However, in the 1960's Glasgow was at the time suffering from a decline caused by a number of issues which emerged in the aftermath of World War 2. There was urban decay, rapid de-industrialisation and high unemployment and to make matters worse there was Bible John.
John was linked to three murders (as always with unidentified killers — it could be potentially more) and the victims were young women between the ages of 25–35.
The victims were all young and slim Scottish brunettes and they all frequented the same nightclub in Glasgow before their deaths — they were:
- Patricia Docker — 25 year old — recently separated mother of one. Patricia was an auxiliary nurse working in South Glasgow.
- Jemima McDonald — 32 years old — a married mother of three.
- Helen Puttock — 29 year old — described as a “lovely girl”; she was one of four children.
Three pretty Scottish girls all unfortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a Bible-quoting, teetotaller. One peculiar thing that ties all of the women were that they were all menstruating at the time of their murder.
John’s physical appearance was composited by the Crown Office and released publicly and his odd mannerisms were seen by many eyewitnesses (including Helen Puttock’s sister).
With so much information on the man — how the hell did he evade capture?
On 22nd February 1968 25 year old Patricia Docker decided to go dancing at the Majestic Ballroom in Glasgow. Life could not have been easy for Patricia. She was recently separated and her ex-partner was living in England while working with the RAF. Patricia was staying with her parents alongside her four year old son Sandy at Langside Place in Glasgow’s Southside.
A night of dancing was probably just what Patricia needed to take the stress out of her claustrophobic life. For reasons unknown it wasn’t the Majestic where Patricia found herself but the Barrowland Ballroom in Gallowgate, Glasgow. While at Barrowland Patricia caught the eye of a handsome red-headed man — this was the likely encounter that would seal Patricia’s doom…
Failing to return that night; Patricia’s body was found in the doorway of a garage by a passing man who was on his way to work. Her body bore many physical injuries including blunt force trauma and strangulation. It seemed likely (according to the autopsy) that Patricia was beaten, punched and kicked before the strangulation. At the time of her discovery, Patricia’s death was a media footnote (the frenzy of a serial killer not yet gaining traction) with many Glaswegians not yet caught up in the hysteria.
The next victim was Jemima. Another attendee of the Barrowland Ballroom — she spent the evening 16th August 1968 dancing. It was during that evening that Jemima was spotted by witnesses chatting to a young, well dressed and soft spoken man. They seemed to have had a friendly conversation….
It was this encounter which gave John one half of his nickname — the man was said to have been quoting Bible scripture during their conversations. Jemima was spotted leaving Barrowland with this Bible quoting, handsome Scotsman. Jemima was last seen alive outside Barrowland.
Jemima’s body was found by her own sister Margaret. Margaret had walked into the derelict building tenement where she discovered Jemima dead. Margaret decided to look in the MacKeith Street derelict building after hearing children talk of seeing a dead body and having a feeling of dread that it was Jemima.
Jemima’s death would help in the description of Bible John. Eyewitnesses established the look that would later be famously reconstructed and distributed to the wider public. And the eyewitnesses noticed Bible John’s strange manner of speech and constant phrasing from the Old Testament thus creating the alias BIBLE JOHN.
Noting the similarities between the murders of Patricia and Jemima and the proximity of their death including the connection to Barrowland Ballroom — as well as both women being strangled to death while menstruating — it became apparent that a multiple murderer was at large in Glasgow.
Police began surveillance of the Barrowland Ballroom, which would then cause a sharp decline in punters subsequently attending the dancehall. The initial investigation lost early momentum when Patricia’s parents had falsely said that she was at the Majestic Nightclub (which they believed she was) and not Barrowland. The police lost a lot of valuable time focusing on this angle until it emerged they were investigating the wrong nightclub — those three days lost was invaluable to the police and may have cost them finding Bible John.
A further ‘witness’ had lied that he danced with Patricia at the Majestic and this again set the police back further. The possible reason Patricia told her parents that she was at the Majestic was potentially because of the salacious reputation that Barrowland had at the time.
The final known victim was Helen Puttock who was discovered on the 31st October 1969 by a man walking his dog. Helen had put up a furious fight before being strangled which was theorised by police from the grass stains on the soles of Helen’s feet which demonstrated a horrific struggle.
Helen was yet another victim that was menstruating at the time of her murder — and like the other two women, her handbag was taken from her. Helen’s story is very strange. She did attend the very same Barrowland Ballroom on the evening prior to her murder and was with her sister Jean and the two women coincidentally both met two different men named John. One John was living in Castlemilk, Glasgow and the other John did not disclose where he lived but was said to be very well spoken and suave.
One of the Johns (the suave John) shared a taxi with the women and had many of the psychological traits identified in the other murders by the other witnesses. The man was said to have described himself as teetotal and he continually referred to the Old Testament while in the taxi. He stated that he disapproved of married women visiting clubs like Barrowland and spoke of an ‘adulterous den of iniquity.’ It would more than likely be the final amicable conversation that Helen would partake in and the last time Jean would see her sister alive and well.
The crimes of Bible John had a trail of evidence and clues and the perpetrator left behind a coherent pattern and signature.
- Bible quotes.
- The Barrowland nightclub.
- All of the women were menstruating.
- All of their handbags were taken.
- They were all strangled and raped before being killed.
- And a well-spoken, fair headed and tall Scotsman was spotted in their company at some point before their deaths.
The description of Bible John given was as follows (by Jean Puttock):
John was tall, slim and well dressed and approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall — 1.78 metres. The name given was either John Templeton, John Sempleson or John Emerson (clearly misheard at the time).
Glasgow is religiously a very split community but despite the Bible quotes, there is no clear indication of John was Catholic or Protestant. Due to the sectarian nature of Glasgow — this would have been a vital clue.
It is worth noting that Jean not only saw and spoke to John but also shared a taxi with him and would’ve had a great scope to see who her sister’s killer was. Jean would’ve heard his voice, seen his face and remembered his odd mannerisms.
Can you imagine sharing a taxi and being one foot away from the man that would end up murdering your sister?
This is one of Scotland’s biggest ever manhunts and the story has been subject to documentaries and books and pub speculation in and out of Scotland. And with the fame goes a list of 5,000 suspects.
Since Helen’s murder in the late 1960's John has simply disappeared. There is something to be said for someone that stops at only three murders (or at least three with the same M.O — Jack the Ripper stopped at five) and it’s a wonder why there isn’t more victims identified in this case. There may very well be more.
John McInnes — John’s body was exhumed in 1996. John had committed suicide in 1980 at the age of 41. A DNA sampling was shown as inconclusive and thus far the former Scots Guard is simply a suspect and nothing more. He would however be officially cleared by The Crown in July 1996.
John White — Mr. White was interviewed in 1969 and was dismissed as a result of differences in John’s front teeth against the victim’s bite marks. John White did however have a very close resemblance to the facial composite and he is currently mentioned as one of the best suspects in the case, with just a small issue — nobody knows who John White is.
The individual arrested and named as John White was later discovered to have given an alias and nobody knows the real identity of this suspect — he seemingly escaped hospital custody around the time of questioning.
The mysterious John White was never found again…
Fifty years on it seems unlikely that the REAL Bible John will ever be caught and if he is discovered, he is more than likely dead.
But the sickening profile is an oft-repeated one of a woman hating figure of fake piety that is unleashing the beast that lays within and masking it in theatrics. This is a case that will forever sit high in the annals of British Criminal History and at the very top of Scottish Manhunts. Unfortunately; it seems likely that it is also a case that will lead to vast speculation with very little identification.