FOR more than 20 years he terrorised the streets of Glasgow stabbing and slashing his victims in often motiveless attacks with a razor concealed in his hand.

Patrick Carraher was known as The Fiend of the Gorbals and his reign of terror only ended when he was hanged for murder.

In the years between the two world wars, most areas of Glasgow had their feared hardmen, but the most notorious of all was Carraher.

Born in 1906 into a respectable working-class family, he developed an appetite for violence from an early age and was first incarcerated at just 14.

Short and slightly built, Patrick Carraher did not look too intimidating at first glance.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Over the years many discovered to their cost that he was not a man to mess with, in any situation.

Two men did, both soldiers, and paid with their lives.

Carraher was always ready for trouble and was rarely known to avoid it.

Over the years he left a trail of destruction and misery for his often-innocent victims and their families.

Carraher loved to fight, and his reputation proceeded him.

Whenever police officers were called to an incident involving Carraher they always went in numbers for their own protection, wooden truncheons at the ready.

Glasgow Times:

In the 1930s gangs like the Billy Boys, Norman Conks and San Toi battled the police and each other on the city’s streets.

However, they had a code of conduct and certain rules – unlike Carraher for whom there were no boundaries.

The Fiend of the Gorbals was said to be in love with violence for its own sake. A modern comparison might be the fictional Begbie, the violent psychopath from the Trainspotting book and movie.

Even when he was in prison the violence didn’t stop.

Fellow inmates and prison staff were just as likely to fall victim as members of the public.

Though he was a career criminal, Carraher wasn’t that interested in making money.

Fighting was his thing, especially with a concealed blade or razor. By August 1934, he had stabbed and slashed his way into infamy, many of his victims being innocent bystanders.

The 28-year-old also had a serious drink problem which inflamed his already incendiary temper.

It was that combination that would result in the first of his two murder charges.

That August a young woman who Carraher had gone out with ended the relationship and he wasn’t happy.

He ordered her friend to pass on a message that he wanted to see her immediately – but she decided not to.

Later that same night, Carraher, now very drunk, spotted the same woman out walking with her fiancee, James Durie, who worked as a window cleaner.

Realising his orders had been ignored, Carraher verbally abused the woman and threatened Durie with a knife.

Durie’s older brothers then heard of the incident and decided that they had to deal with Carraher themselves.

When they confronted him later that evening Carraher unusually refused to fight, saying that he was too drunk.

However, he continued bawling and shouting at the Duries as they walked away.

A passing soldier on leave, James Shaw, told Carraher to be quiet.

A furious Carraher stabbed him in the neck, and he died an hour after arriving at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Soon word reached the police that The Fiend of the Gorbals was the killer, and he was quickly arrested.

There was no shortage of witnesses including the Duries and people to whom Carraher had boasted of the killing.

At his trial at Glasgow High Court, it was obvious he had stabbed Shaw.

However, his lawyer managed to convince the jury that he had not intended to kill him.

The jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide and he was jailed for three years.

The Fiend of the Gorbals had miraculously escaped capital punishment.

The verdict surprised many at the time and was seen as a sign of reluctance by juries to send someone to the gallows.

At the time, the death penalty was automatic for any type of murder.

When war broke out in 1939, Carraher was unexpectedly called up despite his time served behind bars.

The army unfortunately did not have the luxury of refusing people with criminal records at that time.

However, the man who terrorised the streets of Glasgow was rejected as unfit to fight for his country, due to a stomach complaint and bad chest.

During the five years of war, Carraher’s violent behaviour got worse.

He had joined forces with a man called Daniel Bonnar, the brother of his then-girlfriend.

In 1943, after yet another outbreak of violence, Carraher was again arrested and sent to jail for three years.

By the time of his release in November 1945, the war was over, and the city was packed with returning servicemen.

One was John Gordon who had served 20 years with the Seaforth Highlanders and spent several years in a German prisoner of war camp.

Now, he was set to be demobbed and was having a few celebratory drinks with his brothers.

Later that evening, Bonnar bumped into the Gordon crew drinking in the Gorbals.

Bonnar had an ongoing feud with one of the Gordons but when he invited him to have a fight, Bonnar ran off.

When Carraher found out he went looking for the Gordons with Bonnar.

Eventually, they found Gordon along with his brother-in-law Duncan Reevie in Taylor Street, near where Strathclyde University now sits.

When the fight started, Bonnar once again ran off.

However, Gordon fell to the ground with Carraher appearing to have punched him.

He hadn’t punched the war hero but instead plunged a razor-sharp chisel deep into his neck.

John was taken to nearby Glasgow Royal Infirmary where he was pronounced dead.

Carraher was charged later that night with murder.

By a strange coincidence, he was arrested by a police officer called John Johnstone, the same man who had detained him on his first murder charge 12 years earlier.

Now Johnstone was going to get another chance to get Carraher off the streets for good.

He stood trial at High Court in Glasgow in February 1946, before Lord Russell.

Carraher appeared relaxed in the dock and turned frequently to smile at two women in the public seat.

The defence tried to argue that the two-inch-long chisel blade found on Carraher after the murder could not have produced the wound that killed the soldier.

The prosecution contended that if the chisel had been wielded with sufficient force it could.

The evidence against Carraher was undeniable, especially when Bonnar gave evidence for the prosecution.

All Carraher’s defence could do was bring in doctors to say he was psychopathic, claim diminished responsibility and hope for a lesser sentence.

It didn’t work. The jury took only 20 minutes to find him guilty following a three-day trial. But would he hang?

Though the judge had sentenced him to death, there was no guarantee it would go ahead.

Along with most of Britain, Glasgow hadn’t hanged any civilians during the war as it was seen to be bad for public morale.

But if Carraher thought that policy would continue, he was sadly mistaken.

He had cheated the hangman once but was not going to do it a second time.

Carraher’s appeal was refused the following month and he was executed in Barlinnie on April 6, 1946, by famed executioner Thomas Pierrepoint.

He was the second murderer to have hanged at the jail that year.

Two months earlier, a young man called John Lyon was hanged for a gang-related killing.

Barlinnie was the place that Carraher had spent half his life and now it was going to be the place that he died.

Glasgow Times: Members of the public waiting for the executionMembers of the public waiting for the execution (Image: Newsquest)

Members of the public waited outside for news that the 8am execution had taken place.

There was relief across the city that one of its most notorious citizens was now dead.

However, there was also anger as many believed that The Fiend of the Gorbals should have hanged 12 years earlier.

Carraher was one of 10 people who were executed at Barlinnie before hanging was abolished in 1969. His remains were buried there in an unmarked grave and remain to this day.

A Glasgow detective at the time described him in the following terms: “Carraher was like a human time bomb, set to explode in all directions, but no one could gauge just when.

“That depended on Carraher. But when the moment came, he was lethal.”