3 Convicted of Caroline Glachan’s Murder
by TIM HICKS
Introduction: The Murder of Caroline Glachan
Fourteen-year-old Caroline Glachan was found dead at the water’s edge of the River Leven near Bonhill, near Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday 25th August 1996. She had been beaten and drowned after being put into the water while she was still alive.
The Crimewatch UK re-construction that was broadcast in December 1996 can be accessed here at four minutes and twenty seconds.
In July 2018 the NYE covered Caroline’s murder. The original article by the authors can be read here. A follow-up article in 2019 can be read here. These articles asserted that serial killer Christopher Haliwell should be considered as a suspect in Caroline’s murder, on the basis that:
- Based on the circumstances of Halliwell’s two known murders (Becky Godden-Edwards and Sian O’Callaghan), Caroline’s murder is consistent with Halliwell’s modus operandi;
- Halliwell spent his childhood at Dalbeattie in Scotland, ninety miles away from Glasgow until he was fostered in 1979, aged fifteen. We do not know where he was fostered. Halliwell would have had no difficulty operating in Scotland and blending in. The authors believe that Halliwell could have been fostered in the area, or may have been fishing there, giving him local knowledge of the area and the tow-path;
- Based on the murders of Becky Godden Edwards and Sian O’Callaghan, the case is consistent with Halliwell’s known modus operandi;
- Caroline’s build fitted Halliwell’s victim preferences. She may have appeared older in the dark than she was.
- The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) on the case stated that Strathclyde Police were convinced that the murderer had local knowledge of the River Leven. She appealed for fisherman that fished the River Leven, either as licensed fisherman or as poachers, to come forward. The implication being that she suspected the murderer may have been a fisherman. Halliwell was a keen fisherman and narrow-boater. Halliwell’s hobby of narrow-boating gave him a reason to be in the area; which is 5.7 miles from the start of the Forth and Clyde Canal at Bowling Harbour. He could have been fishing on the River Leven. There are steps down from the tow-path to the water’s edge which would be suitable for a fisherman to fish from and it may be that they would conceal him from the view of anyone walking along the tow-path.
- Caroline was murdered between just after midnight at a time when a fisherman might just be packing up his kit having finished fishing at the midnight cut off.
- Halliwell had lived in Dalbeattie, Scotland before he was fostered at age 15. It is unknown where his foster parents lived, but it could have been in Glasgow. He was certainly familiar with Scotland and able to fit in there.
- The original investigation focussed prematurely on the theory that Caroline had been transporting drugs and the murderer was a local man who had attacked Caroline to seize the drugs she was carrying.
- The key factor however, was that a taxi driver who knew Caroline saw a man following her. His description of this man and the artist’s impression he provided bear a close resemblance to Halliwell.
3 Convicted of Caroline’s Murder
Andrew Kelly, 44, Robert O’Brien, 45, and Donna Marie Brand, 44, pictured above left to right were convicted of Caroline’s murder at Glasgow High Court on 14th December 2023. They will be sentenced in January.
Police Scotland statement here.
It transpired that Caroline was in an abusive relationship with O’Brien and had gone to meet him on the River Leven, but was subjected to a brutal attack by O’Brien, Kelly and Brand, which resulted in her death.
This BBC article by Paul O’Hare gives a very good account of the investigation that led to Caroline’s killers being convicted (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-67666606). In the article, Police Scotland confirms that the original investigation did not ask the right questions of all the witnesses at the time and that the artist’s impression was a red herring.
The NYE did not at any time state that Halliwell murdered Caroline – only that he should be considered as a suspect. The key element in this was the photofit, which is a good likeness for Halliwell, but transpired to be a diversion.
As a journalist, I believe it is essential for the media to challenge failures by the Police, to keep cold cases in the public eye, and that any publicity for a cold case is helpful. I take some satisfaction that the NYE publicised the case and helped prevent it from being forgotten or overlooked, and that the concerns the NYE raised about the original investigation have, to some degree, been vindicated.
The 2019 cold case investigation by Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team was very well done and detecting cuprits of this crime after all of these years is a significant achievement for Police Scotland.
I am delighted that Caroline’s murderers have been convicted. I hope this will bring some relief for Caroline’s family and friends.