To this day it remains one of the most perplexing deaths ever investigated by police in Glasgow.

Billy Harris’s case has variously been described as murder, suspicious, unexplained and an accident.

The 29-year-old was from Dundee but living in Clydebank at the time with his girlfriend.

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Glasgow Times:

He died of severe head injuries and was found in National Bank Lane off St Vincent Street at around 5am on August 4, 1989, by a young male passer-by, who immediately alerted police.

The location was next to the popular John Smiths bookshop, which has since closed.

Subsequent enquiries revealed that a young couple had spotted Billy’s body in the lane at 11pm the previous evening but hadn’t reported their find to police.

A casualty doctor was summoned, and Billy was pronounced dead.

A senior member of the procurator fiscal’s office was summoned along with a pathologist and a forensic scientist.

Serious crime officers were also in attendance, and a detailed examination of the scene took place.

Billy’s body was then moved to the city mortuary in the Saltmarket, where a postmortem was carried out.

The pathologist concluded that injuries to the back of the head were the major factor in Billy’s death, although they were made worse by the high level of alcohol in his system.

A full investigation was launched led by Detective Chief Inspector Val Grzybek, from nearby Stewart Street Police Office, into the circumstances surrounding Billy’s death.

They questioned people who knew Billy, including those who had been in his company on the night of his death.

Members of the Harris family were also interviewed in a bid to build up a full picture of Billy’s life and the events which preceded his death.

The investigation revealed that Billy had been drinking in bars in Glasgow city centre.

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He was last seen at about 9.45pm on Thursday, August 3 in the company of another man.

The door attendant at the Maison Guy pub – a gay bar – had refused entry to Billy and a friend at 9.45pm because Billy was drunk.

He described the other man as 6ft 2in and well built.

The door attendant, an ex-soldier, was able to pick out the man out a subsequent police identification parade because of his unusual dress that night.

The possible suspect had worn a grey suit with trousers and jacket that did not match, a t-shirt and trainers.

He was seen with Billy just one hour before the first sighting of his body in nearby National Bank Lane.

The spot where he was found was known for assaults and robberies of gay men who had been lured there in the past.

The police had found no money or valuables on Billy.

At that time, he was living with his girlfriend in Clydebank and not known to the gay community.

The question over whether Billy was gay was a possibility the police explored, but there was no conclusive evidence either way.

Billy’s blood alcohol limit was four times the legal limit to drive.

Pathologists were of the view that this would have worsened the effects of the head injuries and would have been a contributory factor to his death.

One possibility was that he had attempted to climb some scaffolding surrounding nearby property and had then fallen.

However, the scaffolding had anti-climbing paint and there was no sign of that on Billy’s clothing.

After several months detectives told his parents that they believed his death was an accident and there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges.

Their conclusion was that Billy had fallen four or five times on to the same stairs, hitting his head in the same way.

They thought that it was on the fifth occasion that Billy sustained the injury that caused his death.

Billy’s family were stunned and did not think that possible.

But their request for a fatal accident inquiry was turned down given that there was still an ongoing police investigation.

The man he was seen with was interviewed under caution by police, but an alibi supported by two other people, including his wife, meant he was never charged.

The Harris family were also aggrieved that Billy’s body was kept for 42 days in the city mortuary at temperatures which allowed his body to decompose.

The authorities claimed it was stored in non-deep freeze conditions because it was thought further examination would be necessary.

To this day no one has been publicly identified as being responsible for causing the injuries from which Billy died.

Because of the uncertainty over his death the family were also refused criminal injuries compensation.

Dr Jim Thorpe of Strathclyde University later conducted an independent forensic examination of Billy’s clothes on behalf of the family.

He discovered that Billy had been injured in one location and was then helped by another possibly bigger man along the road to another spot.

Dr Thorpe found bloodstains on the inside of Billy’s jacket pocket and elsewhere on Billy’s clothes.

Marks on his clothing suggested that at some stage someone had been trying to support his “dead weight” with his arm over their shoulder and an arm round his waist.

Dr Thorpe concluded that death could have resulted from an accident if someone who was being half-carried had slumped to the ground several times.

He also said it was possible that the injuries were inflicted deliberately and that his head had been repeatedly banged off the ground by the person carrying him.

The case was raised in the House of Commons in 1993 by then MP for Dundee East John McAllion.

In an adjournment debate, Mr McAllion said: “Billy’s case has variously been described by the authorities as murder, potential murder, suspicious and an accident.

“Naturally, the family have been totally bewildered by such official inconsistency and confusion.”

Then Scottish office minister Lord James Douglas Hamilton revealed the police view had always been that it was a potential murder case.

Billy’s mother, Marie, died 11 years ago without knowing what happened to her son.

In an interview in 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary of Billy’s death, his brother Brian said: “My mother went to her grave in 2012 with this unsolved and I think it was part of the reason for my mother dying.”

In 1993 Grampian Television broadcast a TV special on Billy’s death called The Open (and Shut) Case.

The programme was produced by veteran broadcaster Michael Mulford, who, with Billy’s parents, had spent the previous three years trying to find the truth about what happened to Billy that night.

The Grampian Television investigation uncovered new information, which questioned the alibi of the only suspect, and this was passed to the police.

It was the findings of that programme, including the report by Dr Thorpe, which prompted the 1993 debate in the House of Commons.

Recalling the case Michael, now 77, told the Glasgow Times: “The impact on Billy’s family more than 30 years on is still as profound.

“Marie in particular was traumatised by the loss of her son.

“I am saddened that justice has never been done for that family.

“The police attempted in the early stages to say that it was not a murder.

“But it was clear it was an unlawful death.”

He added: “It was also a sad reflection on what can happen when people get drunk and cannot look after themselves.

“Police will often arrest people who are drunk and incapable and put them in the cells overnight.

“If that happened in this case, he would probably still be alive.

“Whoever helped him along the street that night was bigger and taller than Billy.

“But that came to nothing in the eyes of the law.

“That is the tragedy that the family still don’t get an end result or closure.”

However, in a response last week Police Scotland said Billy’s death is recorded as murder.

Inspector Stuart Grainger, Homicide Governance and Review Team, said: “The case remains unsolved but, as with all unresolved homicides, it is subject to continued review and should any new information be received, it will be thoroughly assessed to determine whether it could assist the inquiry.

“If so, it will be appropriately acted upon by dedicated officers.”