The Malcolm Webster case in which a bluebeard-type killer was convicted of murdering his wife 17 years ago after a fresh investigation produced new evidence has provoked the setting up of Scotland’s own dedicated ‘cold case’ unit.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC this morning announced the establishment of a ‘specialist unit’ to support the police and procurator fiscal service in taking a fresh look at unsolved crimes, particularly to identify which would merit a new investigation.
It is an axiom of Scots law that there is no statute of limitations on murder and other serious crimes such as rape, and the Lord Advocate’s memories of an unsolved murder case 25 years ago have clearly influenced his decision.
The Lord Advocate said: “Justice will pursue down the years those who have so far evaded detection for their crimes. The passage of time should be no protection. We will not give up and will seek to identify the perpetrator using new forensic and other investigation techniques and prosecute them for their crimes.
“No one should escape the consequences of their criminality and the grief this brings to victims and their families.
“Our specialist unit will work with local prosecutors and the police to identify unsolved murders for renewed investigation.
“Malcolm Webster was convicted for the murder of his wife which he committed 17 years ago, a crime for which he believed he had escaped punishment. I do hope that such convictions and our determination to pursue criminals provides some reassurance and comfort to the family and friends of the victim.
“Today I am supporting Strathclyde Police in their review and continuing investigation of the murder 25 years ago of Elaine Doyle in Greenock. The police are determined to track down her killer and I fully support their efforts.
“Elaine was brutally murdered in Greenock 25 years ago today. I well remember the case and its impact on the local community and indeed across central Scotland as I was a prosecutor in the Greenock office at that time. I would appeal to anyone with any information which could lead to the conviction of her murderer to contact the police immediately.”
The creation of the new unit will build upon existing relationships with the police and forensic services in Scotland. The initiative was welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Scottish Police Services Association (SPSA).
Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, Secretary of the ACPOS Crime Business Area said:
“I welcome this significant commitment which builds upon existing local arrangements. Through scientific advancement and re-interviewing of witnesses, positive progress has been made in recent years in bringing some unresolved matters to a successful conclusion. The introduction of this national unit will further assist and support both the investigation and prosecution of unresolved matters which continue to impact significantly on those families and communities directly affected”.
The SPSA too look forward to working closely with the new unit. Tom Nelson, Director SPSA Forensic Services said:
“Rapid advances in forensic techniques have changed the parameters of forensic science dramatically. Technological advancements such as improved ballistics and fingerprint databases and DNA techniques means we are able to revisit material obtained from the original investigation providing officers with a new avenue to investigate that could be the key to unlocking a cold case.”