Peter Manuel - Scotlandís worst ever serial killer.

 

Background.

Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel was born in New York on March the 15th 1926 to Scottish parents.Five years later, in 1932, the family returned to Scotland and set up home in Motherwell.By the age of 10 Manuel was considered a juvenile delinquent and served his first term in custody at age 15 for sexual assault.In 1946 Manuel attacked and raped a woman for which he served nine years in Scotlandís Peterhead prison.On release in 1953 he moved to Glasgow where his parents now lived.Manuel was fascinated by American gangsters and perhaps sought to emulate them.

The 5 foot 4 inch tall Manuel had a girlfriend, Anna O'Hara, and was due to marry her on the 30th of July 1955.Fortunately for Anna she decided to break off the engagement when she found out about his criminal record.Sadly on that same day Manuel took out his anger on 29 year old Mary McLaughlan, whom he abducted and threatened to kill by decapitating her.She was able to escape him and his sexual advances and would be the only later victim to live to testify against him.

Click here for a photo of Peter Manuel.

 

The murders.

Manuelís killing spree began on the night of the 2nd of January 1956 when he followed 17 year old Anne Kneilands onto a golf course in East Kilbride, near where he was working at the time as a gas fitter, there he raped her and battered her to death with an iron bar.As a known sex offender Manuel was questioned but released without charge after his father provided him with an alibi.Although he later confessed to Anneís murder he was not convicted of it.

 

On the 17th of September 1956 Manuel broke into the home of Marion Watt in the High Burnside district of Glasgow.Marion, 45, her sister, Margaret, 41, and Marionís16 year old daughter Vivienne were all shot in their beds and Vivienne sexually assaulted.Manuel was on bail at this time for a burglary.Marionís husband, William, was initially charged with the killings but was released two months later for lack of evidence.He had been away on a fishing trip on the night in question.

 

Manuel then served an 18 month prison sentence for burglary and was released in November 1957, to resume killing.His next victim was 36 year old taxi driver Sydney Dunn who was murdered on the 8th of December in Newcastle on Tyne where Manuel was looking for work.Mr. Dunn was shot in the head and then had his throat slit.By the time Dunnís body was discovered on the Northumbria moorland Manuel had returned to Lanarkshire.Northumbria police attended his trial and would have charged him with this murder had he been acquitted of the Scottish killings.

 

17 year old Isabelle Cooke was abducted on the 28th of December 1957 as she went out to meet her boyfriend at a nearby bus stop to go to a dance at Uddingston Grammar School.Isabelle was raped and then strangled.Her body was buried in a field and would only be discovered when Manuel pointed out the spot to police.

 

In the early hours of January the 1st 1958, Manuel broke into the Uddingston home of the Smart family.Here he shot Peter and Doris Smart and their ten year old son Michael.Manuel stayed in the house for a week, living on the Smartís food and surprisingly looked after their cat.45 year old Peter Smart had some cash in new banknotes in the house which he was saving for a family holiday.Manuel took the Smartís car and strangely gave a lift to a policeman looking into Isabelle Cookeís death.

 

Arrest and trial.

A bartender in a pub became suspicious of Manuel when he paid for rounds of drinks using new banknotes.This was in the days before ATM machines when new notes were not a common sight.This led to Manuelís arrest on the 13th of January 1958.Police were able to identify the banknotes as belonging to Peter Smart.

Additionally police had letters written to William Watts, while the latter was on remand, containing details that only the killer could have known.Manuel confessed to eight murders while in custody.

 

Manuel came to trial at the Glasgow High Court before Mr. Justice Cameron on the 12th to the 29th of May 1958.Here he pleaded not guilty and withdrew his confession, claiming it was extracted under coercion.

He was represented by Harald Leslie, W. R. Grieve and A. M. Morrison but on the ninth day of the trial dismissed them and decided to conduct his own defence.

It took the jury just two an a half hours to convict him of seven murders.Mr. Justice Cameron directed them to acquit Manuel on the charge of killing Anne Kneilands.

 

In the condemned suite.

The original execution date was set for the 19th of June but this had to be postponed, pending the hearing of Manuelís appeal on the 24th and 25th of June.This was dismissed and a new date of Friday the 11th of July set.Click here for a photo of Manuel entering Barlinnie prison.

Manuel now tried to feign insanity as he sat on his bed in Barlinnieís condemned suite.He refused to talk to the death watch warders and just listened to the radio he had been allowed to have.As a Catholic he was also permitted the ministrations of Father Smith.He was visited by his mother, Bridget and on one of her latter visits, in the presence of Father Smith, she became enraged at his behaviour and slapped him across the face, telling him "You can't fool me!"

 

Execution.

At 8.00 a.m. on Friday the 11th of July 1958, Harry Alan, assisted by Harold Smith, led Manuel the few paces from his cell to the gallows.Manuelí last words were ďTurn up the radio and Iíll go quietly.ĒThe execution took just eight seconds to carry out and 24 seconds after the drop Manuel was certified dead by Dr David Anderson, the prisonís medical officer.His body was taken down at 8.35 a.m. and placed in an open coffin for the inquest held at 9.30 a.m. before Sheriff Allan Walker.

Father Smith conducted a burial service later that day and Manuel was interred in an unmarked grave near the wall of D Hall.

 

Footnote.

In 2008 it was claimed by Dr Richard Goldberg, a reader in law at Aberdeen University, that evidence about Manuel's mental state was suppressed during his trial and a subsequent review of his case.Electroencephalograph evidence indicating suffering from frontal lobe epilepsy was to be presented at the trial but was not because Manuel decided against introducing it after he took over his defence.Whether the jury would have found this evidence amounted to diminished responsibility is something we will never know.

 

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