Questions remain over woman’s death
IT was a murder 30 years ago that sent shockwaves through Glasgow and prompted fears that a serial killer was on the loose. A 26- year- old woman’s battered body had been dumped in the bushes of the giant car park outside the city’s Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Karen McGregor had also been strangled and her remains weren’t discovered until several days later.
There were few clues at the scene, only yards from the River Clyde, to identify a possible suspect.
When discovered at Car Park Seven, Karen had been wearing the remains of a choker round her neck and tights that had £ 73 in the left sole.
Another part of her choker was located about 50 yards away from where her naked body was found.
Who could have done such a thing and why?
In the early days of the police investigation it emerged that Karen was a mother of two from a respectable law- abiding family.
However she had developed a heroin habit and worked as a prostitute at night in Glasgow city centre in a notorious area, known as The Drag, to pay for her habit and that of her husband.
Had a client picked Karen up, driven to the car park, and then murdered her?
It was a popular spot at the time for sex workers to take their male customers at night.
No one had seen the killer arrive or leave the car park or spotted any suspicious behaviour.
To make matters worse it was the second murder of a sex worker in 18 months in very similar circumstances. A 23- year- old woman, Diane McInally from the Gorbals, had been found dead in Pollok Park next to the Burrell Collection building in October 1991. She had also been savagely beaten and her battered body dumped in undergrowth.
Like Karen she was a young mother who worked in the city’s red light district to feed her heroin habit.
Two Glasgow men – both criminals – were later charged with her murder but never stood trial. The motive remained unclear as neither man, now both dead, was a customer.
At the time police did not officially link the two deaths but they would have been aware of the similarities. Could it be that the same person was responsible or did the murderer want the police to think that?
For six months police drew a blank in their hunt for Karen’s killer.
Numerous appeals for information failed to elicit a response from the public.
None of Karen’s fellow sex workers were able to offer any useful information.
Such murders at that time were notoriously difficult to solve.
Their drug habits made them poor and unreliable witnesses and there was a natural reluctance to help the police anyway.
Their clients, many of them married men, would be even more reluctant to come forward as it would expose their double life.
At the time there wasn’t the widespread CCTV systems that are currently in operation in the city centre.
Karen’s mother – who was in hospital with a spinal injury – even made an emotional appeal for help in catching her daughter’s killer.
Then suddenly the investigation got the breakthrough it badly needed.
A witness suggested that Karen’s killer was not a customer but someone closer to the victim.
A 21- year- old drug addict Joseph McGinty had been arrested on another unrelated matter and had offered up a suspect, Karen’s 29- year- old husband Charles.
At the time the couple lived together in a flat in Maukinfauld Road, Tollcross.
Detectives were told that Charles had killed Karen – after asking her to get him some heroin – and had then made it look like she had been murdered by a client.
It meant he must have put her body in a car then driven into the city centre without being spotted.
Could a drug addict have managed that?
McGinty said that he was in their flat after she had been murdered and saw her lying dead on a couch with facial injuries. McGregor was out at the time.
In the days after the murder he had given an interview to the Glasgow Times in which he appealed for help in catching Karen’s killer.
It hadn’t occurred to detectives that he might be the person responsible.
McGregor was charged with his wife’s murder and stood trial the following February at the High Court in Glasgow.
He was accused of strangling her at their home on April 18, 1993 then concealing her body in the car park at Glasgow’s SECC.
Prosecutor Bill Totten said there had been a disagreement between McGregor and his wife on Saturday, April 17, and she had then gone out to work that night, as a prostitute, to get money for drugs.
He added that Karen met her death after returning home early on the Sunday morning.
Mr Totten then said that after killing his wife, McGregor tried to make it look as if she had been murdered by a client by dumping her body in bushes similar to that of the Pollok Park murder.
Totten also referred to McGregor being seen by witnesses at his wife’s graveside following her
funeral saying: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”
He said the jury could take it that he meant “I didn’t mean to kill you”.
The jury were told that McGinty, from Parkhead, had been picked up by police on an outstanding warrant.
He then made five different statements involving McGregor over the murder of his wife and would later be described by the trial Judge Lord McCluskey as “a master of fiction”.
Two other witnesses, Samuel Main and Derek McNaught, both 21, said in recorded police interviews that the loving husband had killed his wife.
But in court they retracted their statements, saying they had been pressured by police into telling lies.
Main had originally told detectives he went to the McGregor house about 11.30pm and Charles, Karen and Derek were there.
He said McGregor had said to Karen: “You had better go back out and get me a hit.”
He also claimed when she didn’t reply her husband started hitting her with a hammer.
Main then said McGregor wrapped his wife’s body in a sheet and put it in the back seat of their car, before he then drove to the St Enoch Centre and then to the exhibition centre car park.
He claimed the sheet was taken off Karen and her body abandoned in the shrubbery.
However during his evidence at the High Court trial he claimed he had made the story up and would rather serve five years for perjury than send McGregor to jail for life for a murder he didn’t do.
The late Ian Hamilton QC, who was defending McGregor, told jurors that the prosecution case depended on McGinty, who was a proven liar. He said it was a “quantum leap” to say that a drug addict could dream up a plot to make everyone think his wife had been killed by a client. Hamilton also pointed out that if drug addict McGregor did kill his wife why would he have left £ 73 in her tights?
He then asked the jury to disregard McGinty’s evidence and said without it there was no proof that McGregor was the killer.
Hamilton accused him of making up lies in order to do a deal with the police to avoid a prison sentence on other charges.
He also referred to what McGregor was heard saying at Karen’s graveside and told the jury the accused had said a lot at his wife’s grave and it could have meant anything when he said “I did not mean it”.
During the trial Karen’s invalid mother sat in court in her wheelchair for the entire proceedings.
The jury took three hours to find McGregor unanimously not proven of murdering his wife.
Another charge that he hid her body in shrubbery in the SECC car park and attempted to defeat the ends of justice was also found not proven unanimously.
Angry female relatives of Karen hurled abuse at him as he left the court with friends shouting “you murdering b***** d” and “you’re going to get it”.
Since Karen’s death in 1993 six other sex workers have been murdered, the last in 2005.
But none of the six were linked to her killing.
One positive outcome was that the deaths eventually led to the red light area being closed down.
To this day no one else has been charged with or convicted of Karen’s murder.
Thirty years on Police Scotland say the murder of Karen remains unresolved, and any new information about her death will be assessed and investigated.
McGregor died a few years after his wife’s murder.
He went to his grave still protesting his innocence, leaving one unanswered question. If McGregor didn’t kill his wife, then who did?