TRAGIC Jackie Gallagher was forced into prostitution, because like many women in her situation she had a heroin habit to feed.

The 26-year-old could be found most nights in Glasgow’s notorious red light district in the Anderston area of the city – where she had worked for the previous three years.

At that time, it was a precarious occupation with the women not knowing who they might encounter and what violence might be dished out to them by the strangers that paid them.

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Glasgow Times:

On June 24, 1996, the vulnerable young woman suddenly went missing.

Jackie, who was just over five foot and weighed only seven stone, was last seen alive at the corner of Bothwell Street and Blythswood Street.

Her fellow sex workers feared for her safety and with good cause.

A short time later her battered and partially clothed body was found dumped in a lay-by off the A814 near Bowling, Dunbartonshire.

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Glasgow Times:

Jackie, who lived in the Foxbar area of Paisley, had been wrapped by her killer in a distinctive home-made curtain and then abandoned.

The post-mortem showed she had been attacked repeatedly with a hammer and strangled. There were also bite and ligature marks on her fragile, drug-ravaged body.

In total Jackie had suffered 118 injuries, including 46 to her head and neck.

There were fractures to the skull, jaw and cheek bones and her teeth had been knocked out by the power of the blows.

Jackie also had significant hand injuries suggesting that she had tried to fight off her killer.

There were sightings of a mystery black BMW car in the lay-by where her body was found around the time of her murder.

Glasgow Times:

Had the driver killed Jackie, put her body in the boot then dumped it in the lay-by.

Jackie was the fifth sex worker to be murdered in Glasgow in the previous five years.

Since 1991, Diane McInally, Karen McGregor, Leona McGovern and Marjorie Roberts had all died violently in similar circumstances while working in the city’s red light district known as The Drag.

To date there had been no convictions, prompting theories that a serial killer was on the loose.

In reality the murders were all isolated incidents, with no connection other than the tragic lifestyles of the victims.

However with speculation of a maniac on the loose, it put added pressure on the police to solve the crime.

As is normal in such an investigation they questioned men who frequented the red light district and Jackie’s former clients.

They also quizzed the women who worked alongside the murder victim.

But as the days turned into weeks the trail ran cold.

Glasgow Times:

Much of the police investigation centred round the curtain which the body had been wrapped in.

But no-one came forward with information as to who might have owned it. There were also appeals for help in identifying the BMW driver.

Four months later Jackie was laid to rest in her hometown of Paisley.

Seventy mourners attended the moving service in the town’s Oakshaw Trinity Church, before the burial at nearby Hawkhead Cemetery.

In his sermon, Rev Ian Currie spoke of the “shock, suddenness and brutality’’ of Jackie’s death as he asked the mourners not to make “moral judgments’’ about her lifestyle.

He said: “In a way, this is a crime which makes victims of us all. It puts those who worked beside Jackie in fear, it reminds the rest of us just how uncaring our society can be when it places women in situations where this kind of hideous murder can take place.”

During the service attended by Jackie’s mother Alice Wilson and stepfather Robert Wilson, Currie also spoke of the drugs culture which had taken such a firm grip of Jackie’s life.

He added: “We seem to tolerate attitudes and habits which have no place in a decent society.”

The minister also made an emotional appeal for anyone with information about the black BMW and the curtain used to wrap Jackie’s body.

Glasgow Times:

Detective Chief Inspector Jeanette Joyce who was heading the investigation at the time also attended the funeral.

She had been left frustrated by the lack of help from the public, and was concerned that people weren’t coming forward because Jackie had been a prostitute and a drug addict.

At the time she said: “Are people really saying that she deserved to die, that it’s okay for some man to batter her to a pulp and snuff her out?

“I’m only interested in catching a killer – someone’s son, husband or boyfriend who came home late that night, probably with blood on his clothes.

“The violence was indescribable.

“So, I say to anyone shielding him, ‘who is that violence going to be turned on next?’.”

Jackie’s murder was also featured on BBC’s Crimewatch.

However, the programme failed to produce significant leads.

Mum Alice continued to appeal to the public for information over the weeks and months.

In an interview shortly after Jackie’s murder she said she had been unaware that her daughter was an addict and working as a prostitute.

Alice added: “The man who murdered Jacqueline robbed me of my daughter and he robbed me of her children, my grandchildren.

“No matter what she did, my daughter never deserved to die like that – like an animal.”

Alice also worried that her daughter’s lifestyle affected how some people viewed her murder.

She added: “They don’t see that it’s my wean who’s been killed. They just see the words ‘drug addict’ and ‘prostitute’ and switch off.”

The investigation into Jackie’s death was eventually wound down after several months and officers moved to other inquiries.

Over the years any new information was investigated but there were no significant developments.

However, in 2001 the police got an unexpected breakthrough and the name of a suspect, 43-year-old George Johnstone from Erskine, Renfrewshire.

Johnstone was arrested after a sample of his DNA matched samples found on Jackie’s battered body.

However, there was more evidence to link him with the victim.

Not only had he known Jackie but he was one of the last people to see her alive.

In 2004 Johnstone stood trial at the High Court in Glasgow for murder accused of striking her repeatedly on the head with a hammer and belt.

It was also alleged that he bound her arms, bit her and placed a ligature round her neck and tightened it.

His defence team lodged a special defence of alibi claiming he was at home at the time of the murder.

They also lodged the names of 14 other men who could have been responsible.

The accused admitted that he was with Jackie on the night before she was murdered, saying that he had been to see her about twice a week for the previous four months.

He would meet her after work and they would chat about her personal problems in his van.

The last time he saw her was in a flat in Newlands Road in Glasgow and he later dropped her off in the red light district in the early morning of June 23, 1996 – 24 hours before the discovery of her body.

Johnstone, a former kitchen fitter, insisted that he had never been violent towards prostitutes, and claimed he had only started using them after his marriage ended in 1994.

Despite his DNA being found on Jackie’s clothing, the jury cleared him of the murder – in reality any client of Jackie’s could have left the same traces. One of Johnstone’s former neighbours also said he was in her home on the night of Jackie’s disappearance.

The 15 jurors returned a majority not proven verdict after four hours of deliberation.

Alice, who was in the public gallery, wept when the nine women and six men delivered their decision.

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Police Scotland insists that the file on Jackie’s murder has never been closed and it is still committed to bringing the person responsible to justice – despite the passage of time.

It says the case and others is subject to regular reviews involving the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and continues to appeal to anyone with information to come forward. In the same 1996 interview after Jackie’s murder, Alice also said: “Someone knows something, but they are not coming forward because they think my daughter doesn’t matter.

“Well, she mattered to me and I say to them ‘who will this maniac attack next? It could be your daughter’.”