IT was the murders of three women in the late 1970s that police now believe may have been the work of one man.

Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley and Agnes Cooney all fell victim in a three-month period after meeting their killer on nights out in Glasgow with friends.

At the time the police hit a brick wall in their efforts to find the persons responsible and inquiries were eventually wound down.

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Anna Kenny

However, almost 30 years later a prime suspect emerged with the realisation that the three women weren't his only victims.

Anna Kenny, 20, from the Gorbals, disappeared on August 5, 1977, after a night out at the Hurdy Gurdy pub in Lister Street, Townhead.

She and a friend had met two young men in the bar.

At closing time Anna left with one of the males to walk to George Square - about half a mile away - to catch her bus home.

Both went their separate ways in nearby Baird Street.

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The young man then heard what sounded like a taxi's brakes squealing to a stop and assumed Anna, above, had hailed a cab.

But when the brewery worker failed to turn up at her home or work on Monday, her family alerted police and a major hunt began.

Detectives worked round the clock on the case. They interviewed Anna's family, fellow employees at the brewery where she worked in Port Dundas Road and all her friends but drew a blank.

They visited dance halls and pubs, including the Hurdy Gurdy, but came up with nothing.

Even a holiday camp in Filey, Yorkshire, where Anna had worked for a month was checked, to no avail.

The young man who had walked Anna from the pub was traced and quickly eliminated as a suspect.

The Forth and Clyde Canal and a disused railway tunnel were combed for her body.

A woman police officer dressed to resemble Anna reconstructed her last-known steps from the Hurdy Gurdy pub in a public appeal for information.

It was 20 months before Anna's remains were finally found in a makeshift grave in a remote part of Argyllshire by two shepherds in April 1979.

Traces of material which had been used to bind her ankles and neck remained.

A post-mortem revealed she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

However, by the time her body was found, the trail had already gone cold.

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The second of the three victims Hilda McAuley, above, was battered, raped and strangled after leaving the Plaza Ballroom in Govanhill.

Saturday was the one night of the week when Hilda, then 36, had a break and went out.

She left her mum with her two sons aged 13 and nine at the family home in Summerston, on October 1, 1977.

Less than 12 hours later, Hilda's body was found in woods near a lovers' lane 20 miles away at Langbank, Renfrewshire.

Her hands were also tied behind her back and she had suffered severe head injuries.

Hilda's killer had taken away her double-breasted light fawn casual coat, her tan platform shoes and her handbag. At that stage police didn't know the identity of their victim - apart from the fact she was female.

Hours later a family member walked into Maryhill police station clutching a copy of a newspaper.

She had recognised a detailed description of the mystery murder victim printed that morning, as Hilda.

Police met a wall of silence in their bid to find her killer.

Married customers who had attended the Plaza on the night of Hilda's murder didn't want their partners to find out where they had been.

Of the 1000 people who were at the Plaza that night, between 250 and 300 failed to come forward.

Hilda was last seen in the foyer of the dance hall at 12.35am but no-one saw her leave. The driver of a black taxi spotted twice in the Langbank area never came forward.

At that time no connection was made with Anna Kenny who was still missing.

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On December 2, 1977, Agnes Cooney, who worked in a children's home, went to the Clada Social Club in Westmoreland Street, Govanhill.

Just before midnight, Agnes, who lived in Coatbridge, left the club alone and didn't tell her friend she was leaving.

She walked to the M8 sliproad, trying to hitch a lift home.

Agnes' mutilated body, bearing 26 stab wounds, was found two days later by a farmer near Caldercruix, Lanarkshire.

Her hands were bound behind her back.

She was fully clothed and although there was no evidence of rape, police were convinced her murder was sexually motivated.

Neither of the three investigations were officially linked at the time by police.

However there was plenty of speculation in the press at the time that it was the work of one man.

Detectives drew a blank in all three investigations due to a lack of eye witnesses.

It was the days before CCTV, DNA and mobile phones.

In each case the killer or killers had simply disappeared without trace.

However in 2004 a suspect emerged for the first time after a cold case review of the unsolved murders of seven women across Scotland, including Anna, Hilda and Agnes.

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He was Angus Sinclair.

Sinclair first killed when he was 16 in 1961.

He sexually assaulted and strangled neighbour Catherine Reehill, a seven-year-old girl who lived in the same tenement in St George's Cross.

Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years and released in the late 1960s.

In 1982 while working as a painter and decorator he was jailed for life for a series of sex attacks in Glasgow on young girls, aged six to 14.

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In 2001 Sinclair was given another life sentence, this time for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Mary Gallacher in Springburn in November 1978.

The 2004 cold case review involving three Scottish police forces was codenamed Operation Trinity.

Police discovered evidence Sinclair may have gone on a killing spree between August and December 1977, murdering at least five women. His suspected victims were Hilda, Agnes and Anna, and two 17-year-olds, Helen Scott and Christine Eadie from Edinburgh.

All five women were found in countryside having been bound and gagged. All had gone missing after a night out at a dance hall or a pub and all had died a violent death.

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As a result of the 2004 review Sinclair was charged with the murders of Helen and Christine, above. 

They had spent the evening at the World's End pub on Edinburgh's Royal Mile in October 1977.

Both women were lured by Sinclair and another man into a caravanette parked nearby and killed.

Their double murder had happened two weeks after Hilda's death.

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In 2007 Sinclair was cleared of killing Helen and Christine at the High Court in Edinburgh after a judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence for a jury to consider.

However, in 2014 he became the first person in Scotland to be retried for the same crime, following a change in the double jeopardy law.

This time Sinclair was convicted of the double murder and given yet another life sentence - his third.

In Edinburgh, the breakthrough came when tiny traces of DNA on Helen's coat were matched to Sinclair.

However linking him to the murders of Agnes, Hilda and Anna proved more problematic.

There were claims at the time that some key evidence had been lost, something which the police now deny.

A team of 60 detectives trawled old files, newspaper cuttings and tracked down witnesses from the time.

They even travelled to the USA, where agents at the FBI's Behavioural Sciences Institute confirmed their suspicions about Sinclair's involvement.

However, there wasn't enough evidence to take the case to trial.

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Sinclair died in 2019 in prison taking the secrets of any other murders he may have committed to his grave.

His death, in the absence of any new developments, has left the families of Agnes, Hilda and Anna in limbo.

In an interview in 2014 Agnes's sister Mary said they had given up hope of getting any justice.

However, Police Scotland has told the Glasgow Times it is still committed to finding those responsible.

Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes added: “The murders of Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley and Agnes Cooney in Glasgow in 1977 remain unresolved, however, as with all unresolved cases, they are subject to review and any new information about their deaths will be investigated.

"Police Scotland never considers cases closed and the passage of time is no barrier to the investigation of homicide cases.”