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DNA BREAKTHROUGH: POLICE TRACE FAMILY OF BIBLE JOHN SERIAL KILLER.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE By CHARLES LAVERY

THE hunt for serial killer Bible John has been narrowed down to one Scots family, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

The breakthrough in the search for the 60s killer who preyed on women in Glasgow's Barrowland ballroom came through a crime in the city within the past two years.

The crime is said to have been a minor one - but DNA taken from the scene was found to be an 80 per cent match for that found on one of the three victims of Bible John.

And experts say that means the criminal involved is almost certainly related to the killer.

Bible John got his nickname after three killings of women who had been out at Barrowland in the late 1960s were linked.

A friend of the third victim, Helen Puttock, recalled her friend leaving with a man who fitted the description of previous suspects and who quoted passages of Scripture.

It was DNA found on Helen's tights which was linked to the new evidence.

Detectives in Partick, Glasgow, sent the new sample to a national database where the link to Helen's murder was found.

They are now re-investigating the two year-old case, described as a 'relatively minor' offence, since it could hold the key to the identity of one of Scotland's most infamous murderers.

The police officers leading the hunt for the killer would not comment on the Sunday Mail's new information yesterday.

Last week, we revealed the Bible John case had been re-opened and a number of men originally suspected of the crime had been asked to give DNA samples.

One 58-year-old father-of-three, a relative of a British rock star, admitted giving a sample but denied he was Bible John.

Sources close to the probe say officers, working with criminal profilers, have targeted a 'small number' of men who were suspects in the original inquiry.

Detective Chief Inspector David Swindle, in charge of the hunt, would only say: 'We are continually involved in reviewing and detecting cases and following up lines of inquiry.'

Sources close to the investigation say police could start exhuming bodies once they establish a family link.

Every male connection to the family tree, alive or dead, will be tested.

DCI Swindle said no bodies had yet been exhumed, except for that of former soldier John McInnes, whose remains were dug up in 1996.

The exhumation from a cemetery in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, proved inconclusive.

Scientists have already grown a full genetic fingerprint of Bible John from a tiny sample found on Helen Puttock.

Now sources close to the investigation say there is an active line of inquiry being followed up.

Another officer involved in the hunt for the killer, Detective Inspector Billy Little, refused to be drawn on the new lead.

He would only confirm that 'a number' of men had been DNA tested as part of the ongoing inquiry.

But one source said: 'The DNA (from the recent offence) is enough of a match to lead officers to believe the person who committed that offence is related to the killer.

'They are now re-investigating that offence with a view to narrowing down the hunt to a single family tree.

'That could involve brothers, fathers, grand-fathers and great-grandfathers.

'At some point, they may have to apply for at least one exhumation but they are reluctant to do it too quickly after what happened the last time.'

It is understood there will be no exhumations until every living person who could be linked to the inquiry has been ruled out.

We revealed last week how police had reopened their inquiry into the 60s killer after scientists 'grew' the killer's genetic fingerprint from material found on the tights of third victim Helen Puttock, murdered in 1969.

A small number of men - fewer than 10 - have been DNA tested. The men were suspects in the original inquiry.

One of the UK's leading experts in forensic DNA testing, Dr Mark Jobling of Leicester University, said the 80 per cent match could point to a family member but it all depends on the quality of the samples.

He added: 'If the sample for the killer is old, it could be some of the material has degraded to such an extent that it cannot be matched.

'If it was an 80 per cent match, then I would say that yes there would be every likelihood that there could be a family connection.'

Although hundreds of suspects were interviewed by police at the time of the deaths in 1968 and 1969, only a few men are thought to have been asked to give DNA tests.

Bible John is believed to have stalked Glasgow's dance halls 35 years ago.

The first victim, Pat Docker, 25, died in February 1968, followed by Jemima McDonald, 32, 18 months later, and Helen Puttock, 29, 10 weeks after that.

It is one of Britain's most baffling murder mysteries but police in Glasgow have never given up in the hunt.

The case returned to the public eye in 1996, when police exhumed the body of McInnes, buried in a graveyard in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire.

But the tests failed to prove any link conclusively. The men now being targeted by police are in their 50s or 60s.

At the time, witnesses described the victims leaving Barrowland with a tall, charming man with red hair in his 20s or 30s.

CAPTION(S):

Suspect: A photofit; First to die: Patricia Docker; Second victim: Jemima McDonald; Gene match: Helen Puttock
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 19, 2004
Words:912
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