Peter Manuel – The Beast of Birkenshaw – Hanged!


Peter Manuel Peter Manuel was a U.S.-born British serial killer who committed his crimes in Scotland. He was the second to last person to be hanged in Barlinnie prison and the third last to be hanged in Scotland.

The Early Life of Peter Manuel

Born in New York to Scottish parents, Peter Manuel and his family moved to Coventry, England in 1932. Considered a juvenile delinquent throughout childhood, Manuel’s first jail term was at age 16 for sexual assault. He served further sentences for rape before moving to Glasgow, Scotland in 1953 to join his family, who had moved there.

The Murders

Although Peter Manuel confessed while in custody to killing eighteen people, he was tried for the murders of only eight people in 1958. One of the cases against him was thrown out of court; another, committed in England, was attributed to him following his death.

Anne Kneilands:

On January 2nd 1956, Kneilands (17) was stalked onto an East Kilbride golf course, where she was raped and bludgeoned to death with a length of iron. Although he (Peter Manuel) was questioned by police about the murder and would confess to it two years later, Peter escaped arrest when his father gave him an alibi. He was charged with this murder in 1958, but the case against him would be dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Marion Watt, Vivienne Watt, and Margaret Brown:

Peter ManuelMarion (45), her daughter Vivienne (16), and her sister Margaret (41), were shot to death in their home in Burnside, Glasgow, on September 17th 1956. Peter Manuel was out on bail for a burglary at a nearby colliery at the time of the murders, and was suspected by officers in charge of the manhunt for the Watts’ killer, but he once again evaded capture following the arrest of Marion’s husband, William. Although released two months later, he was assumed guilty of the murders until 1958, when the Smart family were gunned down in their home just a few miles away.

Sydney Dunn:

Peter Manuel shot and killed his fifth victim, taxi driver Sydney Dunn (36), on December 8th 1957 whilst looking for work in Newcastle. Dunn’s body was found on moorlands in Northumbria soon after, but by this time, Manuel had already returned to Lanarkshire. As with the case of Anne Kneilands, there remains some doubt as to whether or not Manuel did indeed kill Dunn; an inquiry into the murder, held a fortnight after the killer was hanged at Barlinnie, officially tied the crime to him after a button found in Dunn’s taxi was matched to one of his jackets.

Isabelle Cooke:

Cooke (17) disappeared after leaving her Mount Vernon home to go to a dance at Uddingston Grammar School on December 28th 1957. Peter Manuel stalked her, raped and then strangled her, and then buried her in a nearby field; he would later lead officers to the spot where he’d disposed of her body. As with Dunn’s murder twenty days earlier, Cooke’s disappearance was not initially connected to Peter Manuel.

Peter (45), Doris (42), and Michael Smart (10):

The Smarts were shot to death in their Uddingston home on January 1st 1958. Peter Manuel then 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. Ironically, Manuel gave a lift in this car to a police officer investigating the disappearance of Isabelle Cooke, and even told him that he felt the police weren’t looking in the right places. It was only following the Smarts’ murders that police realized a serial killer was on the loose, leading to the exoneration of William Watt.

The Arrest, Trial and Execution of Peter Manuel

On January 13th 1958, Peter Manuel was arrested when the new banknotes he stole from the Smarts’ home aroused the suspicion of a local bartender. The police traced the notes to Peter Smart and arrested Manuel, who was charged with seven murders. At his trial at Glasgow High Court, Peter Manuel conducted his own defense but was unable to convince the judge of his insanity plea. He was found guilty in May 1958 of seven murders, although many connected with the case believe he killed up to 15 people. He was hanged at Barlinnie prison in Glasgow on July 11, 1958.

Contrary to what is sometimes believed, Peter Manuel was not the last criminal to be executed in Scotland, but the third-last. Anthony Miller followed Manuel on to the Barlinnie gallows in December 1960, while Henry John Burnett suffered a similar fate at Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen in August 1963.

In 2009, a BBC program Inside the Mind of a Psychopath argued that the authorities colluded to ensure Peter Manuel was hanged, despite the fact that he was a known psychopath.

Scottish actor Brian Cox based his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter on Peter Manuel.

credit murderpedia / wikipedia

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