The Aberdeen Law Project was delighted to welcome Mr Tom Wood, Former Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, to speak at the university on the 30th January. Mr Wood was invited to talk on the World’s End Murders investigation, which he led.
What made the lecture so engaging was that it did not purely focus on the story of the case. Instead, it was used as a frame to hang other important issues. One such was how crucial the evolution of DNA technology was in solving the case. It was the pedantic and obsessive handling of the evidence that led to the much needed breakthrough in later years. As Mr Wood said ‘new forensic science will never come to your rescue if you’ve made a mess of the crime scene at the start.’
The important subject of secondary victims was raised, something that is often overlooked when dealing with cases such as this one. Families of victims are often also victimised as they deal with the aftermath of the criminal proceedings and life after losing their loved ones. He stated ‘when you knock on the door of someone who’s daughter was killed 35 years ago, you may be talking about a historical case, but to the family it was yesterday...I don’t think we do enough in society to talk about secondary victimisation… and what murder or other serious crimes actually means for the victims and their families’.
The audience was asked to reflect on how we should deal with offenders, and when the prison system does not serve as reformation, but instead creates a cycle of crime; ‘It is an interesting question about how exactly we treat the likes of Angus Sinclair in prison’. Mr Wood argued that the sentencing of Sinclair to time in an adult prison at the age of sixteen will have played a part in cementing his future criminal career. Similarly, the role that deprivation and an unstable home life can have in shaping the prospects of the young; ‘Sinclair was brought up in a place where violence is normalised’.
The much publicised picture of the two girls, Helen and Christine, which was taken the night they were murdered was shown to the audience; ‘when you’ve looked at this picture as often as I have, what you see is waste.’
Mr Wood tailored his final remarks to the audience of students stating ‘can I tell you that this field of investigation and forensic science, there are still huge developments to undertake. I’d encourage you to consider it. It’s not for the faint hearted, but you will never be bored’.