bible john

The Hunt For Bible John: The true story of a mystery serial killer

BBC’s new true crime doc is brutal

BBC’s newest true crime documentary tells the story of Bible John – a Scottish serial killer who remains undetected to this day. The mini-series features former journalists, family members and detectives remembering the investigation.

While there have been tons of conspiracies about who the killer might be, the man known as “Bible John” was never actually found. He was believed to have met three women at a club called The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow between 1968 to 1969. Afterwards, he murdered them and disposed of their bodies.

Who were Bible John’s victims?

patricia docker

Photo via BBC

His victims were all young women aged between 25 and 32. The similarities between them gave the police a victim profile to work from – they were all single, brunette and were on their periods at the time of being killed.

Bible John’s first victim was a 25-year-old nurse named Patricia Docker. She was single, having split up from her husband and left with a child to take care of. She told her parents she was going out to the Ballroom the evening of her murder  – and when she didn’t come home, they assumed she was with a friend.

Two days later, her body was found in a lock-up in Battlefield, Glasgow. She had been strangled to death, and her clothes had been stolen.

jemima mcdonald

Photo via BBC

Almost a year and a half later, 32-year-old Jemima McDonald was found dead in a disused building, having been discovered by a group of young children.

Earlier that morning (12:40AM), she had been seen going home with a well-dressed man, who couldn’t have been older than 35 himself. He was said to have dark brown hair, a strong Scottish accent and occasionally quoted Bible verses in conversation.

The postmortem found that Jemima had been strangled to death with one of her stockings, as well as brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. Eyewitnesses who saw her go home with the stranger were able to give a detailed description of his physical appearance.

The investigation

Initially, the police were apprehensive about linking the two murders together – despite the fact that they’d met their murderers in the same place, were killed in the same way, had physical similarities and were both on their period when they were killed.

Patricia Docker’s case was the first to go cold. Eyewitnesses never came forward, even though the police appealed to the public a few times for information. When Jemima McDonald was murdered the following year, they found it strange that a man with so much knowledge about the local area wasn’t known to a single person who lived there.

Police sketches were rarely broadcasted in public during those days – and for the first time in Scottish criminal history, a speculative drawing of Bible John was sent straight to the press.

barrowland ballroom

Photo via BBC

Police security were present at the Barrowland Ballroom for a while afterwards – but decided in October 1969 that the area was safe enough to go unsupervised again, as no new murders had taken place and a suspect was never spotted.

Bible John’s third victim

bible john

Photo via BBC

On Halloween 1969, a third young woman was found beside a drain pipe near her Glasgow flat. Just like the others, she had been brutally beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled to death with her own stocking. A used period pad was slotted underneath her left arm.

This was 29-year-old Helen Puttock, who has been to the Barrowland Ballroom the night before with her sister, Jean. Both sisters had met men called John that night, and spent it dancing, drinking and chatting with them until closing.

Helen went home with the guy she’d met, while Jean and the other man went their separate ways. In the taxi, Jean remembered the stranger talking about how he was sober and actually hated the Ballroom, calling it an “adulterous den”. He quoted from Bible verses and expressed his hatred for married women who went out dancing.

bible john

Photo via BBC

After Helen’s murder, the police appealed to the public several more times. They updated the drawing based on a description given by Jean, asked for dental records, even used photofit (which was state-of-the-art tech at that time) to try and create a better likeness. Even though 100 detectives worked on the case and over 50,000 witness statements were taken, no further developments were made and the case gradually became cold once again.

With no other reports from the Barrowland Ballroom, police assumed Bible John had either moved out the area, been jailed for other crimes or even died.

The Hunt For Bible John is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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