THE death of Peter Manuel at the end of a hangman’s noose at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow on July 11, 1958, brought to an end a two-year killing spree that had horrified Scotland.

Manuel was said to be responsible for as many as nine murders between 1956 and 1958, which left people of all ages, particularly young women, in fear of their lives.

At his trial at the High Court in Glasgow in May 1958, he was convicted of seven murders – the Watt family, in Burnside near Glasgow; the Smart family, in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, and Mount Vernon teenager Isabelle Cooke.

The other charge against him, the murder of East Kilbride teenager Anne Kneilands, which he had initially confessed to, was dropped due to a lack of evidence.

So, what had driven Manuel to become Scotland’s first known serial killer?

He was born in Manhattan, New York on March 15, 1927.

His parents had emigrated from Scotland to America to seek a better life during the Depression of the 1920s.

However, dad Samuel became ill while living in Detroit.

That and a lack of money drove them back to Motherwell in 1932 and then to Coventry in 1937.

Manuel’s first encounter with the police was the following year when he broke into a local chapel in the Midlands town and stole the collection box.

At the age of 15 he committed his first act of violence when he attacked a sleeping woman with a hammer after breaking into her home and was sent to prison for the first time.

The family, and later Manuel, then moved back to Lanarkshire after their Coventry home was bombed by the Luftwaffe.

In February 1946, Manuel broke into a bungalow in the Sandyhills area of Glasgow.

A young Detective Constable, William Muncie, who would later help bring him to justice for the seven murders, then carried out a routine fingerprint examination of the scene.

After he returned to the house later that day, he spotted Manuel in the garden and arrested him.

He had earlier hidden behind wood panelling in the loft while the house was being searched by police.

While on bail for that break-in, he committed three assaults on women, including a rape on an expectant mother.

Manuel was sentenced to eight years and freed in 1953, aged 26.

Three years later in early January 1956, he began the killing spree which would lead to the hangman’s noose.

The battered body of his first victim, 17-year-old Anne, was found on a golf course in East Kilbride.

Anne, who had also been sexually assaulted, lived with her parents in the town and had gone dancing but failed to return home.

Her mum and dad, thinking she was staying at a friend’s, didn’t report her missing until two days later.

The foreman of a gas board crew, who had been working near the murder spot, told police that one of his workers, Manuel, was a convicted rapist and had scratches on his face.

However, dad Samuel provided an alibi and further attempts to find evidence to pin the murder on Manuel were


In September that same year police were called to a house in Burnside, where they found Marion Watt, her sister Margaret Brown and 16-year-old daughter Vivienne Watt shot dead in their beds with

a revolver.

Suspecting Manuel, police obtained a search warrant for his parent’s house in Uddingston but found nothing incriminating.

At the time Marion’s husband William Watt was on a fishing holiday in Lochgilphead and police began to suspect he may have been involved in the deaths.

Extensive tests were carried out to verify if Watt had in fact driven back to Glasgow overnight, murdered the three women, including his daughter, then returned to Argyll.

Though the results were inconclusive, a ferry master and another motorist identified Watt as having made the journey and both picked him out at an identification parade.

As a result, Watt was arrested, charged with the three murders and held in Barlinnie Prison.

Ironically Manuel was also held there at the same time where he was serving a sentence for housebreaking.

After 67 days in custody, the case against Watt collapsed and he was released.

On December 29, 1957, a highly alarmed William Cooke, who lived in Mount Vernon, in the East End of Glasgow, reported his 17-year-old daughter Isabelle missing.

She had gone to a dance the night before but hadn’t returned home.

A major police search of the area found one of Isabelle’s shoes and her handbag, but no body.

Muncie, now a Detective Chief Inspector, was among the senior officers investigating the girl’s disappearance.

A few days later, while searching for Isabelle, he was told that three people had been shot dead in a bungalow in Uddingston.

At this point, the Chief Constable of Lanarkshire realised he had a serial killer on his hands, and asked for help from the more experienced detectives of the City of Glasgow Police.

The bodies of Peter Smart, 45, his wife Doris and 11-year-old son Michael had been found at their home in Sheepburn Road in Uddingston, on the outskirts of


All three had been shot through the head with a pistol at point blank range while they were sleeping.

After the murders, Manuel stayed in their house, eating leftovers from their Hogmanay meal and even feeding the family cat, before stealing some brand new £5 notes that Peter had kept for a holiday, and finally taking the family car.

Manuel gave a lift in the stolen vehicle to a police officer investigating Isabelle’s disappearance, even telling him that he felt that the police weren’t looking in the right places.

DCI Muncie remembered his arrest of Manuel 12 years earlier when he had remained in the loft of a house after breaking into


As the evidence mounted against him police got the breakthrough they were looking


They discovered that Manuel had been spending new £5 notes in pubs in the East End of Glasgow – the ones he had stolen.

On January 14, 1958, Manuel was arrested and charged with the murder of the Smart family.

Police also discovered burgled items in the Manuel family home and father Samuel was charged with receiving stolen property.

At this point Manuel told police he would admit all the murders, if they let his dad go.

He would also show them where he had buried the body of Isabelle, who he had raped and strangled.

Manuel’s trial, which began at the High Court in Glasgow, on May 12, 1958, lasted 14 days, but it took the jury less than three hours to convict him.

He had earlier sacked his lawyers – 10 days into the trial – and conducted his own defence, claiming Watt had committed the


Watt was even called as a witness and appeared on a stretcher having been recently injured in a road accident.

At 8am on July 11, 1958, Manuel was hanged on the gallows at Barlinnie Prison, following a failed appeal.

His last words are reported to have been: “Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly.”

Manuel was one of the last people to be executed in Scotland before capital punishment was abolished in 1965.

He had also been the prime suspect for the murder of a Newcastle taxi driver, Sydney Dunn, in December 1957, making him, at the time, Scotland’s most prolific serial killer.

His conviction for the seven murders also meant that the still grieving Watt had finally cleared his name.

Four days after the deaths of his family he had walked into a newspaper office in Glasgow with an impassioned appeal to the public.

It was published the next day and read: “You, the foul beast who murdered my wife, my daughter and my sister-in-law, may be strutting the streets arrogantly rubbing shoulders with clean and decent people.

“But wherever you are, read this: ‘You can’t be on your guard


“Like all vile creatures of your kind, you will let up some time – just for a fraction of a second, maybe, but long enough for the ever-watchful eye of the


“I shall never rest as long as I live, until you, who took all that was dear to me, get what you so rightly deserve.”