THE middle-aged grandmother slowly made her way home to her flat in Glasgow’s West End.

It was Wednesday, September 26, 1984, and 58-year-old Mary McLaughlin had spent the evening with friends playing dominos in the Hyndland Pub, in Hyndland Street, Partick.

Mary, who had 11 children, was last seen leaving the bar, at about 10.45pm heading to Laurel Street in Thornwood about a mile away.

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Earlier, during her night out, she had been joined by one of her daughters Catherine Mullen for a few drinks and a chat.

Catherine left the pub early to catch a bus home – and never saw her mother again.

After leaving the Hyndland Bar, Mary stopped off at a local chippy, called Armando’s, where she ordered some potato fritters and bought some cigarettes.

Witnesses would later tell police how Mary was in a good mood that night and was laughing and joking with staff.

Before she left, she asked the staff to say goodbye to her in Italian, which she always loved to hear them say.

Around that time, she was spotted by a local taxi driver carrying her shoes in her hand and seeming a bit worse for wear.

But the driver was more concerned by the mysterious young man who appeared to be with her.

He recognised Mary but not her companion who was more than 30 years her junior.

This was the last time Mary was seen alive.

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Six days later her badly decomposing body was discovered by one of her sons, Martin Cullen.

He was making his usual weekly visit to her home in Laurel Street when he made the grim discovery.

Martin had been forced to kick in the door when he couldn’t gain entry

He had also become concerned because his mum’s hall light had been left on, something that she never did. To make matters worse there was a horrible smell coming from the flat.

After they had forced the flat open, Martin’s then partner went in to the flat first and seconds later came out screaming after discovering Mary’s body.

She was lying on her back with a ligature tightly wound around her neck.

A post-mortem examination found that she had been strangled and had probably been lying there since that fateful Wednesday night.

A major murder hunt was launched by police at nearby Partick police office under the command of Detective Supt Iain Wishart.

Despite a long and exhaustive investigation which included hundreds of statements and interviews, Wishart and his team eventually had to scale back their investigation.

At the time, many officers had postponed or returned early from holidays to help with the probe into the brutal and sadistic murder of a vulnerable woman.

The key pillars of a modern murder investigation – DNA, CCTV, digital forensics and social media – were not available to detectives in 1984 and they had very little to work with.

There were no witnesses and, despite taking hundreds of statements, officers from the then Strathclyde Police were met with a poor response from the local community.

What they didn’t know then was that the killer was a complete stranger to Mary – the hardest type of murder to solve. Over the next 35 years, police and scientists battled to find out who Mary’s killer was.

Forensic science was always going to be the key to unlocking the case, but by 2008 four separate reviews had failed to yield a profile of the suspect.

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The fifth review was launched in 2014 and the eventual breakthrough was made possible by a new DNA-profiling facility at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire.

Previously experts could look at 11 individual DNA markers but the latest technology was capable of identifying 24.

This dramatically increased the odds of scientists obtaining a result from smaller or lower-quality samples.

In Mary’s case experts decided in 2019 to untie a knot in the ligature used by the killer 35 years earlier.

Previous examinations of the cord had only found Mary’s DNA and a trace that was not possible to analyse.

But new DNA analysis techniques picked up a minor profile from the knot.

And when it was run through the Scottish database, police finally had a prime suspect, convicted sex offender Graham McGill.

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He was arrested on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at his home.

Matching DNA was also found on a cigarette end, the dress Mary had been wearing and a black bra.

Detectives then discovered that McGill had been on weekend release from prison when Mary was murdered.

At the time he was serving a six-year sentence for assault with intent to ravish and rape, imposed in 1981. By the time her body was found McGill was already back inside prison in Edinburgh and never featured during the original police investigation.

Ironically McGill was in the final weeks of the six-year sentence, which had been halved due to good behaviour.

Detectives then traced McGill’s ex-wife, Suzanne Russell, who told police that in 1988 McGill had confessed to murdering a woman because he “just wanted to know what it felt like”.

He even said that he was shocked at how long it took to take someone’s life. McGill had also been jailed for life in 1999 for a brutal assault with intent to ravish.

He was out on parole for that crime when he was arrested and charged with murder.

At the time of his arrest he was still being managed as a sex offender, but was working in the Glasgow area as a fabricator for a company based in Linwood,


In April last year the predator was found guilty of murdering Mary following a two-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

After a 37 year wait by Mary’s family for justice, it took the jury a few hours to deliver their damning verdict.

The following month at the High Court in Aberdeen McGill was sentenced to life in prison with the recommendation that he serve a minimum of 14 years before he is considered for parole.

That means he will be at least 73 before he ever tastes freedom again.

It’s not known how Mary met McGill or how he latched on to her.

What is certain is that McGill walked her back to the Crathie Court block on Laurel Street, where she lived alone.

He was a stranger to the area and to a woman who was more than double his age, which explained why the police had struggled to solve the case at the


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Before sentencing McGill, judge Lord Burns said: “Thirty-seven years after the death of Mary McLaughlin, you have been convicted of her murder.

“She was 58 when she died and you were 22. You are now 59.

“Her family has had to wait all that time in order to discover who was responsible for that act, knowing that whoever did it was probably at large in the community.

“They had never given up the hope that some day they would find out what had happened to her.

“The evidence showed that your chance encounter with Mary McLaughlin that night allowed you to take advantage of a vulnerable and lonely woman who was probably intoxicated.

“She was wholly unable to defend herself against any attack from someone like you.

“From the evidence of Suzanne Russell, it may be that you made a calculated decision to kill this woman.

“You continue to deny any responsibility for your actions. You therefore show no remorse for this murder.”

Mary’s daughter, Gina McGavin, who pursued justice for her mum over the years and even wrote a book on her murder, felt the 14-year punishment did not reflect how heinous his crime had been.

Speaking after the verdict, Gina, 67, said: “McGill probably thought he was home and dry – but the fact is he has been held accountable and has not got away with it.

“However, 14 years for what he did is nothing really. A jury found him guilty, life should mean life and there should be no early release for him.

“Should he not die in prison?”