The brutal murder of Dr Brenda Page remains one of Scotland’s most notorious unsolved cold cases.
It is 40 years since the brilliant geneticist was found beaten to death in her flat in Aberdeen. It later emerged that Page, aged 32, also worked as an escort – fuelling speculation that her murderer was one of her clients.
In early July 1978, Page had dinner with William Austin, who ran the Capital Escort Agency. Austin recalled that Page seemed frightened and “concerned about her safety”.
On July 13, she went as an escort to the Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen to meet two business men. Page is spotted leaving the hotel at 2.30am – the last time she’s seen alive. Page failed to show up for work the next day, and her body was discovered when a colleague called at her home looking for ‘material for a research programme’.
She had been working at Aberdeen University on a project for the Department of Energy, investigating dangers facing divers in the North Sea oil industry. There have been claims that her death could have been linked to her research.
Marius Reikeras, a Norwegian human rights campaigner who represented oil industry divers working in the 70s and 80s, referred to a number of Norwegian cases where people investigating corruption in the North Sea died.
Reikeras said: “There are various parties that stand to lose a lot so perhaps her research was a factor in her murder.”
However, a more prosaic explanation for her death than industry conspiracy or escorting, is that she was murdered after disturbing a burglar.
By the end of July police ruled out Austin, the escort agency boss, as well as the two men she’d met prior to her death, and her ex-husband Dr Christopher Harrison, who later left Scotland.
A cold case review was launched in 2015, and has so far gathered 800 individual pieces of information, on top of all the evidence gathered at the time.
Her sister Rita, 84, said: “Not a day goes by when we don’t think about Brenda and the horrendous ordeal she must have suffered that night. Brenda was an extremely intelligent woman with her whole life ahead of her. It pains us to think of the great things she would undoubtedly have achieved.”
Detective Inspector Gary Winter of Police Scotland’s major investigation team, said of Page’s time as an escort: “Most people’s accepted definition of being an escort in 2018 is very different to what it was 40 years ago. Nowadays, if we use that word, people assume the person is involved in the sex industry – that was not the case in 1978.
“It was a means for Brenda to meet people, get companionship and company and go out socialising in an era before the internet, dating websites and apps.
“Escorting was something Brenda spoke about widely with friends and colleagues – it was no secret. People connected to that part of Brenda’s life have spoken to us and what that has unearthed is that it wasn’t a seedy business.”