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Scotland and its History. Crime.

Forty-five years ago, on the evening of October 15, 1977, teenagers Christine Eadie and Helen Scott entered the World’s End pub on the Royal Mile, ready to celebrate their new jobs and the start of what they saw as their adult lives.

But less than 24 hours later, police would launch a double murder investigation after the bodies of both 17-year-olds were discovered six miles apart, both having been bound, raped and strangled.

It was a crime that shook Edinburgh to its core, not only in the immediate days, weeks and months to follow but for the almost 40 years it would take for the man responsible to be brought to justice for the senseless killings of the girls.

The Night of The Murders.

Although a far cry from the bustling, tourist-driven city centre we know today, back in the 70s the Royal Mile still offered a choice of traditional pubs at which friends could meet and chat over a pint.

And that’s what the night of October 15 was meant to hold for Helen and Christine who, along with their friends Jacqueline and Toni, had been on a pub crawl before walking through the doors of the World’s End, just as last orders were looming.

Jacqueline and Toni decided soon after to head to a house party to continue the night’s celebrations but Christine, along with Helen who was normally expected back at her parents’ Swan Spring Avenue home at around 11.30pm, decided to call it a night and head back.

It was a decision that would seal their fates, robbing them of all that was ahead of them to look forward to, and change the lives of all those who knew and loved them forever.

The dark nights and colder temperatures were already setting in, ready for winter to hit, so it was onto a gloomy high street that the girls stepped at around 11.15pm, ready to make their ways back to the warmth of their homes and their beds.

The pair were met by policeman John Rafferty who stopped to help when Christine stumbled on the cobbles. He would later tell his colleagues how he watched the two young friends disappear into the night with two shadowy strangers.

The discovery of the bodies

Morain and Margaret Scott, Helen’s parents, had waited for their precious daughter to return home on the Saturday evening, but when there was still no sign of her the following morning, panic began to set in. They called Jacqueline and later Toni, with the both girls having confirmed that neither Helen nor Christine had been seen or been in contact since the previous night.

The group gathered at the Scotts’ family home, desperately awaiting answers from the police. And their worst nightmares would be realised a short time later, after a couple’s Sunday morning walk in East Lothian ended in a grisly and tragic discovery.

Christine’s body was found on Gosford beach, near Aberlady. The teenager had been gagged, underwear stuffed in her mouth, and she had been strangled with her own clothing. Four hours later, Helen’s body was discovered on farmland near Haddington. Like her friend, Helen had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled; her body dumped, left for someone else to find.

Police investigation

A manhunt was launched immediately after the girls’ lifeless bodies were found, with roadblocks installed and people in the area questioned. Punters who had drank beside the girls on the Saturday night were also tracked down but all lines of enquiry led police to dead ends.

It was old-fashioned police work and, without the advances in DNA profiling and forensic testing which would come years later, officers were forced to scale down the investigation with the question of who killed the teenagers still without a hint of an answer.

The first sign of hope came in 1997, 20 years after Helen and Christine were murdered, when traces of DNA found on Helen’s raincoat were used to pinpoint a profile. Later, scientists would discover the DNA of two men on the jacket, though their identities remained mysteries, with no matches appearing on the police database.

Angus Sinclair

It wasn’t until 2004 that the DNA database produced a result and a name – Angus Sinclair. It was a name that the force knew all too well, with Sinclair already having been put behind bars three years earlier for the murder of Glasgow teenager Mary Gallacher, who had been killed one year after Helen and Christine.

He had also spent time in jail as a teenager, after he was convicted of raping and killing a seven-year-old girl, whom he strangled with the inner tube of a bike tyre.

Later, police were able to match the second DNA profile to Angus’ brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton who had died of liver failure in 1996. And an extensive search for the Toyota which Sinclair had driven at the time of the murders led police to be able to match fibres found on the girls’ bodies to the upholstery inside the vehicle.

It was old-fashioned police work and, without the advances in DNA profiling and forensic testing which would come years later, officers were forced to scale down the investigation with the question of who killed the teenagers still without a hint of an answer.

The first sign of hope came in 1997, 20 years after Helen and Christine were murdered, when traces of DNA found on Helen’s raincoat were used to pinpoint a profile. Later, scientists would discover the DNA of two men on the jacket, though their identities remained mysteries, with no matches appearing on the police database.

Justice

In 2014, Sinclair became the first person in Scotland to stand trial a second time for the same crime under the new double jeopardy laws, and this time a jury found him guilty of the murders of Christine and Helen in just two and a half hours.

The 69-year-old was convicted at the High Court at Livingston and sentenced to 37 years in jail – the same length of time both girls’ families and friends had been left without answers, closure or justice.

Branded a “beast” by Helen’s father, Sinclair died in his cell in 2019 at the age of 73.

Speaking outside the court on the day he watched his sister’s killer be found guilty and led to a cell, Helen’s brother Kevin said the two girls’ legacy was to have “changed Scotland’s justice system for the better”.

“We have waited 37 years for justice. Today that wait has ended and we finally have justice for Helen and Christine,” he said.

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