CHRONOLOGY OF THE CASE:
Margaret McLaughlin murdered in the evening.
July 7th, afternoon,
Her body discovered, Chief Superintendent William Muncie on the case.
Under pressure, George Beattie says he witnessed the murder. The police say he said it was done by six men, two wearing top hats with mirrors on them. The police also say he described items of the victim's clothing which had been inside her suitcase. Beattie is charged.
July 13th - early morning.
Beattie shows officers around the scene of crime, he points to where the men with top hats had cleaned the knife in the ground. He accurately describes the knife which had already been discovered in the position Beattie points to, and which was being tested at the labs.
September 1973 - Beattie at trial.
The evidence against him is:
a) his alleged admission
b) his descriptions of the victim's suitcase contents
c) a small spot of blood found on a tissue in his pocket - it is O rh D+, ( as is the victim's) Beattie's blood is A RhD+
His defence counsel allows the prosecution to present the case without much interference, confident that there is no case in law to answer. The police forensic scientists are called for the defence to testify that nothing was discovered to connect Beattie with the scene of the crime.
The Judge rejects Defence Counsel's plea that there is no case in law to answer.
The jury find Beattie guilty on a majority decision ( rumoured to be 8-7) after 35 minutes deliberation.
Beattie tries to take action against his lawyers for mishandling the case. The Scottish Law Society investigate the case and find nothing wrong with the conduct of the lawyers.
Beattie's first appeal is dismissed. In his judgement, the Judge says Beattie gave evidence ( he did not) - and that he repeated the story of the men with top hats ( he did not, in fact he was denying he had ever said it).
The Solicitor General for Scotland replies to letters from Beattie's Member of Parliament, Mrs Judith Hart. He says that Beattie gave evidence (a mistake - Beattie did not give evidence) and that there is nothing new in the revelation that there was blood at the scene of sub-group MN. This is a minor breakthrough in that there had never been any evidence of an MN sub-grouping in the blood. This is the first time that anyone suspected that important evidence had been withheld from the court and the defence.
However, Dame Judith Hart does not realise these are errors and concludes there is nothing more she can do.
Peter Hill investigates the case for "Rough Justice". The main points of his programme are:
a) there were apparently no stomach contents in the victim although she had had a meal less than an hour before she was supposed to have been killed.
b) The bloodspots on the leaves around the body had no 'halos' - i.e. they were made when it was dry.
Thirteen prosecution witnesses testified to the fact that it was raining at the time the murder was supposed to have taken place.
c) Beattie could have seen the girl's clothing ( from the suitcase) whilst he was waiting the police station on the 12th before being interviewed.
d) Beattie had been given a tour of the scene of crime by two officers on the 10th - two days before he made the admissions and described the scene. This tour was a timing exercise of the route he took on the evening of the murder. This trip was a timing exercise which was not completed. It ended at the scene of crime because it was raining ( according to the police)
e) Beattie's description of the girl's possessions was inaccurate. He did not describe one item accurately.
f) Beattie's 'admission' was made under some kind of duress - he was 'having a fit' at the time.
g) The men with top hats were most likely the pop group SLADE - who had a number one hit at the time and had been on the TV on the night of the murder.
h) The incidence of O RhD+ in the area is very high - at around 50% ( 60% in some places), and that the figure quoted in Court for the whole of the West of Scotland was misleading.
A further edition of "Rough Justice " has some ten minutes devoted to the blood evidence in the Beattie case - pointing out that that the MN sub-group was withheld from the defence and the jury.
The Scottish Office order a re-investigation of the case - they only investigate the blood evidence which they send to Professor André at the University of Liege. He receives inadequate evidence on which to base a firm opinion.
Secretary of State George Younger announces that the re-investigation, and Professor André's report, has supported the original verdict.
Beattie is released on parole.
He moves to his sister's home in England. There he is harassed a little by the police, but receives good reports from his parole officer.
He obtains a licence to drive buses and lorries. He moves back to Carluke to support his ailing widowed mother and epileptic sister. He gets a job as a bus driver. He must check in with his social worker ( parole officer) in Lanark once a fortnight. His parole officer generally goes to his home for such visits because it is convenient to both parties.
Beattie gets a new parole officer who insists Beattie should attend meetings in Lanark. Beattie is late for one meeting, the parole officer becomes angry; they miss each other at another meeting. They meet subsequently and have an argument.
The parole officer informs the police who arrest Beattie in his bus that same evening at take him to Saughton prison in Edinburgh to continue his life sentence.
The parole officer says that he believes he has a duty to protect the people of Scotland from people such as Beattie.
Beattie appears before the Parole Board. The decision is that he should remain in jail.
Beattie appears at the Sheriff court in Lanark changed with a breach of the peace to which he pleads guilty. This concerns the incident with the parole officer.
Jimmy Hood, Beattie's current Member of Parliament, makes a speech in the House of Commons which provokes the Scottish Secretary of State to search for and produce the document on which the Solicitor General had based his remarks about sub-group MN in 1974.
The carbon copy of this document that had been made by the serologist had somehow found its way into the Prosecution files, but it had never been given to the defence. The original, with the proper Serologists' notepaper heading, had never left the police HQ - and was presumably destroyed in 1973 by Chief Superintendent Muncie. This is the first example in this case where there is some proof that important evidence was destroyed by the police.
This document reveals that:
a) there was an irregular pre-examination and testing of items before proper corroborated tests were conducted.
b) The document showing this had been kept from the defence.
c) the knife produced in court as being possibly the murder weapon ( and the one described by Beattie at the scene) did not have any blood on it.
d) the existence of MN in the victim's blood was known to the police, but kept from the defence.
The Secretary of State orders a further examination of the blood evidence by Professor Busutill of Edinburgh University. Busutill's report produces evidence from one of the serologists on the original case, Thorpe, which shows that something highly irregular had occurred when the preliminary tests had been made.
Beattie's case is referred back to the High Court of Justiciary ( Scottish Appeal Court) by the Secretary of State Scotland. It is only the 13th ever granted in Scottish legal history and only the 3rd since the Second World War.
Beattie released on bail because he is ill.
March 1994. - Police Forensic scientist Thorpe precognosed ( deponed) by Beattie's lawyer. Thorpe says that the tests for blood were very sensitive, that blood in such circumstances could still be found in the hilt of a knife after cleaning, and that MN tests were generally carried out before RH tests.
The implication of this is clearly that the knife presented at trial cannot be the murder weapon.
December 1994 - Beattie's "appeal on reference" the longest recorded in Scottish legal history, takes place. His appeal is dismissed.
March 1995 - Beattie released on licence. Peter Hill discovers Johnston's notebook. The Scottish Office is informed about the important information in the notebook. Johnston, having taken legal advice, goes into the woods behind his house and burns all his notebooks.
In September 2008 Beattie was back in the Appeal Court in Edinburgh - following a second reference by the SCCRC. By now he was too ill to attend for many days.
The court heard that a statement had been taken by the Crown Office from
Johnston about his notebook - but no further inquiry about the notebook was made
by the court. After some three weeks of deliberation, in September 08 and January 09, Beattie's appeal was again dismissed.
Anyone wishing to know why should watch the film called "The defeat of Justice", elsewhere on this site.
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In September 2008 Beattie was back in the Appeal Court in Edinburgh - following a second reference by the SCCRC. By now he was too ill to attend for many days. The court heard that a statement had been taken by the Crown Office from Johnston about his notebook - but no further inquiry about the notebook was made by the court. After some three weeks of deliberation, in September 08 and January 09, Beattie's appeal was again dismissed. Anyone wishing to know why should watch the film called "The defeat of Justice", elsewhere on this site.
Return to Main Index
Move to Beattie Background