The Theory That The Unidentified Bible John Killer Could Still Be Alive

The Swinging Sixties didn't miss a beat in Glasgow, Scotland. The Barrowland Ballroom, a dance and music venue in the heart of downtown, attracted young adults. But among the twenty and thirty-somethings out looking for a good time, a murderer used the club as a hunting ground for easy prey.

A young nurse named Patricia Docker became the first known victim of a serial killer who appeared to frequent the Barrowland Ballroom. Her killer sexually assaulted and strangled her on the night of February 22, 1968, and deposited her body near the home that she shared with her parents. Eighteen months later, Jemima McDonald was murdered after she left the Barrowland Ballroom with a man with reddish hair. When her body was found by her sister, she had on all of her clothing but had been severely battered.

A chance encounter earned the killer the nickname "Bible John." Helen Puttock and her sister, Jean, went to the Barrowland Ballroom on Halloween night in 1969. The sisters each met a potential suitor. Both men introduced themselves as John. The foursome spent the evening together, with one of the men leaving separately from the other three. The remaining members of the party climbed into a cab and their conversation there later prompted Jean to tell police that "John" made many biblical references and quoted scripture. The cab let Jean out at her stop and continued with Helen and the mysterious bible-quoting stranger. 

Helen's lifeless body was found the next morning — the third and final known victim of Bible John (via Historic Mysteries).

Suspects in the Bible John killings

The man considered most likely to be Bible John is convicted Scottish rapist and serial killer Peter Tobin. Tobin, who died while in prison for multiple murders in 2022, had some eerie ties to the Bible John killings. Tobin lived in Glasgow at the time and frequented the Barrowland Ballroom (via Historic Mysteries). He even met a woman at the club whom he later married. The couple soon divorced because of Tobin's violence, however.

Tobin moved from Glasgow to Brighton right after Helen Puttock died. He had extensive knowledge of the Bible as well, making him a likely candidate. The BBC reported that police suspected Tobin was responsible for more murders than the ones he was convicted of in the mid-2000s.

Historic Mysteries pointed out that some believe a police officer was behind the deaths of Puttock, McDonald, and Docker. Author and former police officer Paul Harrison revealed details in his 2013 book "Dancing with the Devil" that build a strong case (via The Daily Record). Harrison maintained that the killer who shared a taxi with Helen and her sister had shown the women a warrant card and identified himself as an officer of the law. Harrison also pointed out that the lead detective on the case, Joe Beattie, looked at his fellow officers for the murders but that higher-ups made him stop.

Another author believes that Bible John is living in another country

Just because the Bible John case is more than 50 years old doesn't mean that the killer is dead. One author believes that the serial murderer made it out of Scotland after the three slayings and moved to another country. In the fall of 2022, author Dolores Redondo was on tour promoting her latest novel, "Waiting for the Flood." The book revolves around a Glasgow detective in hot pursuit of Bible John. The investigator tracks the killer to Bilbao, Spain, where a flood soon erupts and destroys the city.

Redondo tirelessly researched the novel, combing over media stories and police reports concerning the elusive serial killer. The Mirror reported that Redondo believes that the killer "could be in Bilbao or in any of the large ports where in the eighties all kinds of materials were exported from Scotland." She said that many Scottish companies have a presence in the port city, and the large British population there could have provided Bible John with the perfect environment to blend in and not be noticed. Redondo purported that killers like Bible John are considered intelligent by experts and that he could be "a respectable old man of those who walks through Bilbao or Glasgow."