In May 2014, Blantyre reader Maureen Moran told me interesting story about how their family had a close shave with a well known serial killer, Peter Manuel. A real scare story!
Maureen told me “My dad was a foreman with the Gas Board in the 1950’s and early 60’s. I’m not sure how long Peter Manuel worked on his crew, but they laid the gas lines in the Coatshill Scheme. David Livingstone School was being built at that time, circa 1957. We lived in Morven Avenue, directly opposite the main entrance to the school. When they worked on the weekend, dad would send the labourer, Peter Manuel to our house for boiling water for tea, and sometimes he would bring him home for lunch! They would also sometimes go to the pub after work. He told everyone he had been “on the boats” when he had been actually in jail. After his arrest, my dad was devastated that he had brought this guy into the midst of our family.”
Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel (13 March 1927 – 11 July 1958) was an American-born Scottish serial killer who was convicted of murdering seven people across Lanarkshire and southern Scotland between 1956 and his arrest in January 1958, and is believed to have murdered two more. Prior to his arrest, the media nicknamed the unidentified killer “the Beast of Birkenshaw”. Manuel was hanged at Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison; he was one of the last prisoners to die on the Barlinnie gallows. Amongst his victims was a woman murdered at the top of Stoneymeadow Road on East Kilbride golf course. Other victims included the Smart family. The Smarts were shot dead in their Uddingston home on 1 January 1958. After the murders, Manuel stayed in their household for nearly a week, eating leftovers from a Hogmanay meal and even feeding the family cat, before stealing some brand new banknotes that Peter Smart had been keeping for a holiday, and taking the family car and dumping it nearby. Manuel gave a lift in this car to a police officer investigating the disappearance of Isabelle Cooke, even telling him that he felt that the police were not looking in the right places.
Maureen also told us a few things more of particular interest:
– a young boy named John Ducey, who was around 7 at the time, fell down a manhole under construction. Apparently he would have died if it wasn’t for Peter Manuel jumping in and saving him from drowning.
– Also in those days, Peter Manuel could go from Birkenshaw to East Kilbride without using main roads. He followed the routes of the Rivers Calder and Clyde and would head up the Generals Bridge and up Nerston into East Kilbride.
I recall my own mother telling me of a scare she had as a child, where she swore Manuel interrupted her playing at the Generals Bridge. It clearly was a frightening incident for mum, so I didn’t press her for any information. I can only imagine how frightening later it must have been for Maureen’s family to think of Manuel being in their home.