In the latest episode of the Glasgow Crime Stories podcast, meet the detective who was behind the investigation into one of Scotland’s most notorious uncaught killers Bible John. The late Joe Beattie is a police officer who is almost as well known as the crimes he investigated.

  It's not often that a police officer becomes as famous as the crimes that he is tasked with solving However, in the 1960's Detective Superintendent Joe Beattie was that man.

He was often the public face of many major high-profile inquiries appealing for their help in solving crimes.

Beattie led the hunt for Bible John, the man suspected of murdering three young women Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock in the late 1960's.

In his day Beattie was a real-life Jim Taggart - the fictional 1980's Glasgow TV detective made famous in the Scottish Television series of the same name.

Regretfully Beattie retired without catching the killer of the three mothers, crimes which remain unsolved to this day.  A larger-than-life character Beattie was part of a golden generation of officers who joined the police after serving with distinction in the Second World War.

As a fighter pilot in the Bomber Command, he had taken many a daring allied raid over German territory before being demobbed and joining the then City of Glasgow force in 1946.

It was also said that Beattie was a promising footballer, whose career was cut short by the war.

In his 1988 book, the Defender, the legendary defence lawyer Joe Beltrami told of how he tried to question Beattie in the witness box about his eyesight and identification skills.

Glasgow Times:

A tactic which fell flat when the jury were told of his exploits bombing German military installations at night.

As a young rookie cop, Beattie quickly showed an aptitude for solving crime, joining the CID three years later and by 1960 had reached the rank of Detective Sergeant.

One of his first cases as a young Detective Constable, was the murder of a four-year-old girl Betty Alexander in Garnethill, Glasgow in 1952, which is still unsolved to this day.

Over the years as a police officer Beattie would show the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time.  He once encountered a barefoot man being chased by a police officer.

Beattie arrested him only to discover that the man's wife was about to give birth and both he and the chasing officer were looking for help.

With no midwife about, Beattie and his colleagues delivered the baby themselves.

He was also said to be the master of the good cop, bad cop routine, happy to play the former after a particularly tough interrogation of a suspect by a colleague.

Beattie would then offer the suspect a cigarette and a friendly word or two before obtaining the necessary information or confession.

His time in the RAF meant he had developed keen powers of observation which he put to good use in fighting crime rather than the Germans.

Beattie was said to have solved one murder after spotting that some of the knives in the kitchen drawer of the prime suspect were too clean and shiny - clearly, they had just been washed to eliminate any evidence.

In another case the only clue was a Swan Vesta match found near the elderly victim's body.

With his local knowledge Beattie knew that men in the area seldom if ever used that brand.

On door-to-door inquiries he questioned one possible suspect and asked him to empty his pockets, revealing a box of Swan Vesta.

In one double murder inquiry he was able to use his powers of observation and sixth sense about a suspect to solve the crime.

A man and his 17-year-old daughter had been murdered in their home in Kinning Park.  Both had been stabbed more than 30 times and a kitchen knife had been left at the murder scene with any incriminating prints removed.

It was while studying the hall linoleum that Joe noticed what seemed like a single toe print.

It appeared that the killer had also removed his shoes and socks so as not to leave a footprint on the bloodstained floor - but he had accidentally left a print of his bare toe.  During door-to-door inquiries Joe spoke to a 16-year-old neighbour who he suspected of being their killer.

Not only did his toe print match the one found in hall, but he also later confessed to the murder.

By the 1960's Beattie had risen through the ranks to Detective Superintendent when he took on the case that would define his career.

His job was to lead the investigation into the three unsolved murders of Patricia, Jemima  and Helen, all mothers.  If you are a keen listener of the Glasgow Crime Stories, you may recognise those names.  All three deaths were linked into one inquiry based at Partick Police Office due to the similarities with all the women meeting their killer at The Barrowland Ballroom. A killer who would later become known as Bible John.  The body of Patricia Docker was found first on Friday morning, February 22, 1968, in Carmichael Lane after she headed to the Barrowlands the previous night.

Eighteen months later a second woman's body was found in a tenement close in MacKeith Street, Bridgeton in the east end of Glasgow.  This turned out to be a single mother-of-three Jemima McDonald, then 32, who lived nearby.  She was last seen alive at the Barrowland Ballroom where she had spent the night dancing.

Her murder on the night of August 16, 1969, had occurred approximately thirty hours before her body was discovered.  However, like the Patricia Docker murder the second investigation ran out of steam and detectives were moved on to other inquiries.

On October 31, 1969, came the discovery of a third young woman, Helen Puttock, 29, in the back gardens of her tenement home in Earl Street, Scotstoun by a man out walking his dog.

She had also been had been at the Barrowland Ballroom that night and left with a mystery man   Crucially Helen's sister Jean Langford – oftentimes referred to as Jeannie - had shared a taxi home with her sibling and her new admirer – becoming the first eyewitness to a possible suspect.

 Langford told detectives that her sister's companion, who claimed to be named John, had said that he didn't drink and repeatedly quoted from the Old Testament during the time they conversed with him in the taxi.

During the taxi ride, the suspect had explained to the women the reason he refrained from consuming alcohol due to his strict upbringing, before adding: "I don't drink at Hogmanay; I pray."   She was dropped off at her own home in the West End before the taxi continued onto Scotstoun with Helen and the well-spoken stranger. It was the last time Jean saw her sister alive.  More than 100 detectives were assigned to work full-time on the case and thousands of witness statements were taken.

It was Joe Beattie, who revealed details about the biblical references adding: "I'm positive this man comes from Glasgow or nearby.  "I do not think he is a religious man but just has a normal, intelligent working knowledge of The Bible that he likes to air."  Jean later worked with Lennox Paterson, deputy director of Glasgow School of Art, to create the famous artist's impression of the suspect, who had already been dubbed Bible John by journalists.   Due to the suspect's hair being unfashionably short for the time more than 450 barbers in the Glasgow area were shown the new drawing of the suspect to see if they recognised him as a customer.  Dentists were asked to examine their records to see if they had a male patient with overlapping teeth.  Teams of young detectives - male and female - were instructed by Beattie to mingle with dancers at the Barrowland over many weeks to see if they could pick up any clues as to the killer or killer’s identities.  One theory was that the well dressed, well-spoken suspect might be a military man.  As a result, Beattie circulated copies of the Bible John drawing to British Army, RAF and Naval bases at home and abroad.  The creation of an artist’s impression and photofit of the suspect were innovative at the time.

Beattie tried every trick in the book and even used the services of a Dutch clairvoyant with no success.

A psychiatrist, Dr Robert Brittain was also hired to produce a criminal profile of their suspect in in 1970 - predating similar efforts by the FBI in the USA by many years.

Former police chief Joe Jackson worked on the Patricia Docker case and was later called into the Bible John investigation.  Mr Jackson, who retired in 1992 at the rank of Detective Supt, travelled to several military bases in Scotland and England with Joe Beattie to interview possible suspects.  Helen Puttock's sister also accompanied them on a trip to Catterick in North Yorkshire.  In his memoir Chasing Killers, Joe Jackson recalled his time serving alongside Joe Beattie in the Bible John case.

Joe said: "He worked round the clock and was totally obsessed.

"Around January 1970, it was decided to bring in fresh detectives. I was one - and would spend a year on the hunt.

"Sometimes, an officer would produce a more reasonable suspect but would be dismissed with a shake of Beattie's head."

Mr Jackson feels that too much reliance was placed by Joe Beattie on the eyewitness account of Jean Langford.

He added: “Beattie was totally dedicated but I felt he was too narrowly focused.

"I made sure in later years when running major inquiries that I listened to the views of all the detectives and incident room staff, to make sure I covered not just one but all angles."

Mr Jackson also thinks that the investigation should have relied more on the evidence of two bouncers at the Barrowland.  They had seen the suspect with Helen Puttock and described the much shorter man.  They had also been present when he had complained loudly about losing money in a cigarette machine.   Mr Jackson added: "It's my belief too much information was issued in this case, including the nugget that the suspect quoted the Bible.

"Reporters were even told about the dance hall squads - by alerting the Press we also alerted the killer. There was no hope of him turning up at the halls.  "I would never discount the efforts of Joe Beattie.

"I believe these murders should have been separated and dealt with by different senior officers, who could then have compared results."

Like all such unsolved cases the inquiry was wound down and officers transferred other duties.

Joe Beattie would then take on another demanding role that would challenge his skills of detection, but in a tragically different way.

He was ordered to investigate the deaths of 66 fans at Ibrox Stadium on January 2, 1971, which happened at the end of the traditional New Year match between Rangers and Celtic.

Beattie attended the game himself and had headed home afterwards unaware of the terrible events that had just taken place.

He got a phone call from the then Chief Constable Sir James Robertson who said: “There has been a terrible accident and I want you to take charge."

Beattie set up an investigation team at Govan Police Office where more than 1000 statements were taken from fans and other eyewitnesses including police officers and ambulance men.

Such was the swiftness and efficiency of his investigation that a Fatal Accident Inquiry was held into the deaths the following month at Polloshaws Burgh Hall in Glasgow.

The patient gathering of evidence was crucial to getting at the truth of the tragic events of that day, which still resonate with football fans across Scotland more than 50 years later.

During this investigation, Beattie was called to Glasgow Sheriff Court where a meeting of creditors was taking place involving a Cypriot restaurant owner called Nicholas Perdikou.

He had been told that Perdikou was armed and might be planning to shoot the sheriff who was hearing his case.

Beattie headed for the court where he spotted the suspect claiming a staircase and promptly arrested him.

When he opened the suspects coat, he found a shotgun and a cartridge belt.

Perdikou was later jailed for nine months and also lost his gun licence thanks to Beattie's efforts.

After the successful Ibrox disaster investigation Beattie was moved to the Scottish Police Training College at Tulliallan Castle in Fife where he was made deputy commandant before retiring in 1976 while in his mid 50's.

His failure to solve any of the three Bible John murders weighed on Beattie's mind right up to his death in 2000 at the age of 82.

He famously once said: “I know more about this man than I do some members of my family.

"If he walked into the most crowded of rooms I would pick him out right away."

In 1996 the Bible John investigation was reopened and the body of a suspect John McInnes, who had taken his own life in 1980, was exhumed in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire. However, McInnes was later cleared of any involvement after investigators failed to match his DNA with a DNA sample found on the victim.

In an interview at that time Beattie said of Bible John: "Sometimes you get the ones you shouldn't get, and you don't get the ones you should. This was one we should have got. We knew so much about him."  Beattie became known to a new generation last year when a critically acclaimed BBC two-part documentary featured original television interviews with the detective about the case.

In his autobiography The Pleader criminal defence lawyer Len Murray, who spoke at Beatties' funeral, paid a glowing tribute to his old friend.

He said Beattie had been ahead of his time as a detective and an early advocate of using computers, at a time when most investigations involved hard slog and boots on the ground.

Murray said: “He was one of the best and most talented detectives that I ever knew.

"If there were 25 hours in a day Joe would have worked them.

"Joe Beattie was truly a legend in his time.

"He undoubtedly had one of the sharpest intellects go any police officer that I have ever knew and certainly he had great vision.

"I also never heard a client say a bad word about him."