IN THE long history of policing in Glasgow, the city’s officers have often been at the forefront of the latest investigatory techniques.

Their ground-breaking expertise has been frequently called upon to help other forces solve crimes on their patch.

In 1932 the City of Glasgow police, run by the legendary Sir Percy Sillitoe, had set up Britain's first ever specialist fingerprint department.

Three years later a smaller neighbouring force would ask for their help after the bodies of two women were found dumped in the idyllic town of Moffat, 60 miles away.

On September 29, 1935, Susan Johnson and her mother decided to go for a stroll from their hotel in the Dumfriesshire market town.

Reaching the beauty spot of Gardenholm Linn, Susan spotted what looked like a severed human hand and arm in a stream 40ft below.

In a state of shock, she returned to the hotel and told her brother, Alfred, who returned with a family friend.

They scrambled halfway down the embankment before an awful stench stopped both men in their tracks.

Not only could they see the hand and arm protruding from a package, but also a human head wrapped in cloth. 

Other packages with body parts lay scattered nearby. The two men immediately alerted the local Dumfriesshire constabulary.

Glasgow Times:

They immediately sought assistance from the City of Glasgow force, and detective lieutenants William Ewing and Bertie Hammond travelled to Moffat the following day.

It was obvious they were dealing with two bodies, but whose? Both skulls had been defaced and the fingertips and other identifying features removed.

Their body parts were also wrapped in a variety of clothes and bedsheets.

The case was dubbed the Jigsaw Murders by the press due to the 30 blood-soaked packages found dumped in the water, containing a total of 70 body parts. 

Police then began the search for two missing people in an attempt to identify the victims, but questions remained over how long the body parts had been in the ravine.

The most important clue was the manner in which the dissection had been carried out. 

Evidently the murderer had an expert knowledge of anatomy. Could he have been a doctor?

Glasgow Times:

The killer had clearly made a determined attempt to remove every possible means of identification including the fingertips.

While in Moffat, DL Ewing read a newspaper report about a missing maid, Mary Jane Rogerson, 20, who was last seen alive on September 14.

She worked in the household of Dr Buck Ruxton in Lancaster and had been reported missing by her parents. 

Mrs Ruxton had also not been seen for some time. Her husband was suddenly under the microscope.

Over the years he had established a successful medical practice at the elegant family home at 2 Dalton Square, in the town.

The doctor was popular, outwardly charming and compassionate. He frequently waived payment for patients struggling to make ends meet in what were pre-National Health Service days.

However, Ruxton was controlling and abusive to Isabella, the mother of his three children. 

Over the years the local police had been called to several domestic disputes at the family home.

Ruxton was now a prime suspect in the Jigsaw Murders investigation.

Glasgow Times:

Following his arrest in October that year, the City of Glasgow police had unrestricted access to his house. 

In the bathroom and on the stair carpet they found considerable evidence of bloodstaining.

However, it still remained to be proved that the mutilated bodies were those of the doctor’s wife and her maid.

If fingerprints from one of the bodies and fingerprints on articles in the house were found to be identical, it would establish beyond doubt that the deceased had lived in the house. 

But the fingertips were only intact on one body - the house maid.

DL Hammond and another Glasgow officer, detective sergeant Duncan, carried out a top to bottom search of the doctor’s house and nothing escaped their attention.

Every article likely to bear fingerprints – from the lampshades in the attic to the medicine bottles in the basement – was examined and taken back to Glasgow to be photographed. 

Comparing the prints found on the articles with those of Mary confirmed her identity.

Glasgow Times:

In Scotland, investigators led by Professor John Glaister of Glasgow University had to reassemble the bodies of the two women from the dismembered parts.

He was certain a surgical knife had been used and estimated that the cutting up of the victims had probably taken the killer around eight hours.

Glaister had the brilliant idea of superimposing family photographs of Isabella and Mary onto specially reconstructed images of the two dismembered skulls positioned at matching angles.

This had never been tried before to prove identification of murder victims.

The results were startling - the skulls and photos matched perfectly.

Glasgow Times:

Maggots taken from the remains by Glasgow-based entomologist Alexander Mearns helped establish how long the bodies had lain in the ravine and when they had been dumped, again a first in the history of crime scene investigation.

Fingerprint experts from Glasgow police were later praised by J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI in America, for using random prints taken from Ruxton's home to identify Mary.  

Suddenly a clear picture of what had happened to the two women emerged.

In the early hours of September 15, 1935,  Dr Ruxton snapped and flew into a jealous rage, beating and strangling his wife as she returned from a night out in Blackpool. 

Caught in the act by Mary, he asphyxiated her, fractured her skull and stabbed her.

Ruxton first dissected his victims' bodies in the family bath - with his children asleep in their beds.

He then wrapped their unrecognisable remains in whatever came to hand including rags, a child's romper suit, and newspapers.

The following day he left his children with friends while he drove to Scotland to dispose of the body parts.

Initially he denied having been to Scotland and claimed he had no idea what had happened to his wife and maid.

But on September 17, two days after the murders, his car had knocked down a cyclist in the Lake District town of Kendal as he drove home from the Borders to Lancaster. 

The cyclist caught the number plate and alerted police, who stopped the vehicle. Ruxton was issued with a caution. 

As pieces of the puzzle literally fell into place, he was soon arrested. 

Because of the public and media interest, the trial in March 1936 was switched from Lancaster to the much larger Manchester Assize Courts.

The hearing before Lord Singleton lasted 11 days - then the longest trial in English criminal history.

However, the jury took less than an hour to find Ruxton guilty of both murders. 

In the words of the trial judge, the fingerprint evidence of the City of Glasgow Police had proved the most damning of all.

Ruxton was hanged on May 12, 1936, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester with 5000 people gathered outside.

As a result of the ground-breaking efforts of the City of Glasgow Police and Professor Glaister, the UK Government decided to invest substantially in forensic services and laboratories. 

Proper training for detectives was introduced and fingerprinting and photography facilities were provided for every force in the land.

The pioneering techniques the Glasgow detectives had employed had presented prosecutors with a watertight case against Ruxton and would form the template for all future murder inquiries.

Despite the verdict, 10,000 Lancaster people refused to believe Ruxton was guilty.

They signed a petition to save him from the hangman's noose for the sake of his three children. But their efforts were in vain.

There was however a final twist in his case.

A few days after his execution a Sunday paper published Dr Ruxton's confession. 

It was dated shortly after his arrest, but the doctor, now dubbed the Savage Surgeon, had told the newspaper it could only be printed after he had been hanged. 

It said: "I killed Mrs Ruxton in a fit of temper because I thought she had been with a man. I was mad at the time. Mary Jane Rogerson was present at the time. I had to kill her."

A remarkably frank admission from a man guilty of one of the most gruesome murders of the 20th century.