How Glasgow’s culture let Bible John get away

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The Hunt for bible John shown this week again on BBC 2 and the BBC iPlayer has sparked interest in the decades old case amongst viewers and on social media.

For a lot of people it was about finding the identity of the killer, but to others it meant looking back on the horrific murders and how we can prevent anything similar happening again.

But to many it was about the living conditions Glaswegians faced during the 60’s with some viewers going back down memory lane.

However, others found it horrific.

We learned from the programme that it was common during the 60’s for police to break up street fights and to be attacked by people when trying to break up those fights, usually ending with them being injured.

Shown in the documentary was a police officer who was stabbed in the shoulder after being out on patrol; the relationship between the public and the police was strained.

The Glasgow police where seriously under maned with the force recruiting larger and taller men from the highlands, but it still wasn’t enough and in some areas two officers were expected to control an area with the population size of Perth.

The poverty some faced by today’s standard would be shocking with sewage overflowing in the streets and rubble left from buildings that were torn down.

A clip from the documentary shows an old news reel which focussed on the living conditions that some faced such as  houses with “no bathroom, no hot water supply. On one side of the court, babbling like some putrid mountain spring there is a drain” – the drain was overflowing with sewage.

Jack Mclean a columnist interviewed for the documentary said: “We were still living with the residue of bombsites. The whole thing was absolutely shambolic”

“Dear God, Scotland was a very dreary and Glasgow was.”

With these conditions, people turned to the drink – it was an image that was sadly most associated with the city to add to the violence, poverty and squalor.

One news report covering the drinking issue in Glasgow said: “It’s easier to buy a drink in the middle of Glasgow than any other city in Britain. There are more than a thousand pubs here, and most of them are concentrated around the centre of the city.”

A study carried out in 2017 by the University of Glasgow showed a clear link between poverty and binge drinking.  

Dr Vittal Katikireddi from the uni, said: “Experiencing poverty may impact on health, not only through leading an unhealthy lifestyle but also as a direct consequence of poor material circumstances and psychosocial stresses. Poverty may therefore reduce resilience to disease, predisposing people to greater health harms of alcohol.”

Dr Elise Whitley, co-author of the study said: “Heavier drinking is associated with greater alcohol-related harm in all individuals. However, our study suggests that the harm is greater in those living in poorer areas or who have a lower income, fewer qualifications, or a manual occupation.”

Many turned to drink but some turned to the dancehalls like the Barrowland which was incredibly popular with the working class and where the first victim of Bible John went.

The first victim attended a 25’s and over event which was full of married men and women where she met Bible John.

With all these conditions combined it’s not surprising that when the first victim, a young woman named Patricia Docker was discovered, due to these circumstances police found it difficult to get witnesses.

Criminologist professor Judith Rowbotham said “There was not a huge amount of trust between the local communities in the poorer working class areas of Glasgow and the official police,”

Andrew O’Hagan “They were frightened that their own wives and families would find out that they’d been consorting with other women and having drinks in a dance hall when they should have been somewhere else.”

“For somebody like Pat Docker, enjoying herself in a way that was not seen as seemly or proper …what happened to her, it would have been seen at the time as being partially her fault.”

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2 thoughts on “How Glasgow’s culture let Bible John get away

  1. This piece brought back many memories of growing up in Glasgow in 60’s, most good you didn’t realise how deprived the city was.

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