Scottish Daily Mail
Did Crime watch unmask a Scottish serial killer?
It was first Scottish crime to feature on the BBC’s gripping new show. And its 1987 reconstruction helped viewers snare a sexual deviant who murdered his wife – and opened new questions over his links to two other mystery deaths...
THE strange disappearance of Lynda Hunter was as unlikely as it was disturbing. With a good job and a nice home which she shared with her husband Andrew, she had recently found out she was pregnant with her first child.
On the face of it, she had the perfect life. And yet, in August 1987, without reason, she had vanished. The 30-year-old, from Carnoustie, Angus, had been suffering from severe morning sickness and had told her husband she was taking her beloved dog Shep and was going to visit her parents in Glenrothes, Fife. Yet, her car was discovered the following day 300 miles away dumped in a Manchester street.
Police were so concerned they decided to try a new tack – they approached BBC’s Crimewatch programme and asked if it was interested in featuring its first Scottish case.
A detective inspector who appeared on the show urged Mrs Hunter to get in touch, but conceded that the chances of finding her alive were remote.
What the audience could not be told is that the police were certain she had been murdered and they already had a prime suspect – Andrew Hunter. They just couldn’t prove it.
Outwardly respectable, Hunter had served with the Salvation Army and was forging a career as a social worker at children’s homes. He was a widower when he married Lynda, after his first wife took her own life. What is more, he had a seemingly cast-iron alibi for the time his second wife went missing.
But, as the calls flooded in to Crimewatch, Hunter’s pious exterior and meticulously constructed alibi would crumble. When Lynda’s body was found in a shallow grave, having been strangled with Shep’s lead, the net closed in.
His sensational murder trial in the summer of 1988 would unmask him as a violent and controlling bully, a bisexual with a voracious sexual appetite who regularly cheated on both his wives with prostitutes. If Crimewatch’s viewers played their part in putting him in the dock, then his subsequent conviction has led to fears that such a deadly killer may well have struck before and could even be responsible for one of Scotland’s most infamous unsolved murders.
It leaves a tantalising possibility: did Crimewatch’s first Scottish case unwittingly help catch a serial killer?
AS a life, certainly, Andrew Hunter’s had little to commend it. Born into misery, he brought despair and anguish to those around him. His own mother died three weeks after his birth and, abandoned by his father, he was raised by an aunt in Paisley, Renfrewshire.
Perhaps eager to seek comfort in a wider family, he joined the Salvation Army as a youth where he met fellow Salvationist, Christine, 11 years his senior. She mothered him and encouraged his ambition to become a social worker.
They married in 1973 and had a son three years later but, by then, Hunter’s sexual frustrations led him to embark on an affair with a man whom he picked up in a sauna. His bisexuality would have been contrary to his strict Christian convictions and his ability to juggle the two displayed a deep moral ambivalence.
In 1977, the Salvation Army sent the 26-year-old to do voluntary work at their citadel in Dundee. At first Christine remained in Glasgow, but when her husband found employment as an unqualified social worker at a Dundee children’s home, she joined him.
Outwardly, their married life was respectable. Hunter continued to work in various orphanages during the day and studied for a social work degree at night. The couple remained committed Salvationists. But Hunter was seducing vulnerable young women whom he met through his work and was also a regular user of prostitutes.
On March 21, 1979, the body of 18-year-old prostitute Carol Lannen was found stripped and strangled in Dundee’s Templeton Woods. Her clothes were later discovered 80 miles away on the banks of the River Don.
A description was issued of a man – late twenties, slim, pale with sideburns and a moustache – seen picking her up in a red car. Police later released a photofit which bears a startling similarity to Hunter, who switched between a heavy moustache and a full beard.
After a second woman’s body was found dumped in the same woods the next year, the cases became known as the Templeton Woods murders, although the police never formally linked them.
Detectives were certain different men were responsible for each murder and one veteran reporter, Alexander McGregor, who has written extensively on the cases, insists Hunter killed Miss Lannen.
In a television interview, Mr McGregor said he was told by the mother of a prostitute who associated with Hunter they met while he was a social worker at a children’s home. He said: ‘[Carol Lannen] was a young prostitute and I think it’s possible that he met her in the course of his duties and in fact he bore an uncanny resemblance in the photofit to the man that the police were looking for.’
Hunter was never interviewed over Miss Lannen’s murder and in October 1984, he met fellow social worker Lynda Cairns, who lived with a doctor in the house across the road. As her relationship faded to friendship, Lynda and Hunter started a tempestuous affair.
When his wife found out, she insisted Hunter end the liaison. After cooling things briefly, the couple rekindled their affair and the following summer Hunter left Christine and moved in with Lynda. But she wanted marriage and children and it could take years to obtain a divorce from an unwilling spouse.
Within months, however, the situation took a tragic turn. Hunter arrived at one of Christine’s neighbours saying he had tried to return their son after an access visit but his wife was not answering. He added that the car was in the driveway, the lights were on and he could hear music playing inside the house. Borrowing a spare key from the neighbour, he and his nine-year-old son let themselves in and found Christine hanged. She had been dead for several hours.
The authorities easily accepted a verdict of death by suicide – though it was against Christine’s religious beliefs – reasoning she must have been in despair at the failure of her marriage. Everyone felt pity for the bereaved husband and boy.
But, in his book The Law Killers – True Crime from Dundee, Mr McGregor writes that neighbours came to reassess their views about Christine’s death once they learned of his murderous intentions towards his second wife.
‘For nearly two years, they did not doubt the account of that pre-Christmas tragedy. Then, as other dramas began to unfold, the curtain-twitchers started to whisper their doubts to each other.’
Although police insist that the circumstances of her death were fully investigated, the suggestion is that Hunter not only killed his second wife, but also his first.
Furthermore, Christine’s death conveniently cleared the way to marrying Lynda. Yet, as the wedding day approached, Hunter became prone to explosions of violence. He hit her in front of witnesses when she suggested he needn’t attend Christine’s funeral and during blazing rows, he struck her in the face with an umbrella and twisted her arm so brutally that she had to go to hospital.
In February 1986, the violence escalated and she went to police. As the relationship struggled on, Hunter indulged in a secret affair with another female social worker.
His hidden troubles were also bubbling to the surface and he sought treatment for depression. His bride’s distress left her relying on sleeping tablets. One night she
accidentally overdosed, leading to a week in hospital.
Despite all the warning signs, the wedding went ahead on November 1, 1986 – less than a year after his first wife’s death. The bride wore white, the groom in full Highland dress carried his Bible. They honeymooned in the Holy Land before returning to Carnoustie, where Hunter boasted to acquaintances about their sex life.
By early 1987, he clearly felt in need of a boost and resumed his gay affair with the man – a one-legged pensioner – he had met in the sauna ten years earlier. He also resumed his frequent sex sessions with prostitutes.
The turning point came in August 1987, when Lynda found out that she was pregnant. She was delighted at the news, but Hunter was secretly appalled. He already had a son, to whom Lynda had become stepmother, and definitely didn’t want another. Worse, Lynda suffered terrible morning sickness and no longer wanted sex.
On August 13, the couple argued again and Lynda said she wanted to go to her parents’ house, some 30 miles away, until she felt better. Hunter offered to drive her – and her 14-year-old collie cross Shep – there in her Vauxhall Cavalier.
Instead, he drove her to her death. Parking up at Melville Lower Wood, near Ladybank, Fife, he reached for Shep’s lead and strangled his pregnant wife. After carrying her body deeper into the woods, he drove on a few miles, took Shep’s collar off and let the dog out of the car. He knew that Lynda went everywhere with her dog, so he could hardly bring the animal home with him.
HEADING back to Carnoustie, he began to put into action an elaborate plan to cover his tracks. He parked the Cavalier several miles away from home then caught a bus to Dundee, where he handed in an essay which formed part of his social work course.
When Lynda’s sister, Sandra, arrived for a planned visit in the afternoon, he said that they had had a tiff and that she had gone to her parents. He seemed utterly calm, even taking Sandra – who knew about the pregnancy – for a round of crazy golf and a meal. That night, he went to a works party until 11pm, taking care to ensure nobody realised how little he was drinking. A colleague dropped him off outside his home.
By midnight, Hunter had left his house again and picked up his wife’s car. Donning a blonde wig, he drove south across the Forth Bridge, where he had to stop briefly and remove the wig to change tyres after suffering a puncture. A man stopped to help him change the wheel. After driving for 300 miles, he parked the car on a double yellow line in Manchester and made his way home by train. He imagined police would find the car and assume Lynda had left him. To complete the alibi, he bought his son a pair of trainers in Dundee at lunchtime, knowing that the receipt would give the date and time of 1.06pm. That night, he reported his wife’s disappearance.
Officers soon discovered her car and were mystified why a pregnant woman with a career would leave for England. They questioned the husband several times, noting how disinterested he seemed in his wife’s – and unborn child’s – disappearance, but the social worker merely replied that he had trained himself never to show emotion.
Without a body, detectives struggled to take their inquiries forward. Hunter, meanwhile, returned to his favourite call girls.
When Crimewatch reconstructed Lynda’s disappearance in 1987, Tayside Police had their breakthrough. Callers phoned in to say that they’d seen a distressed-looking Lynda in her car near Fernie Castle. The man driving the car matched her husband’s description. Even more tellingly, a dog matching Shep’s description had been found wandering about in woods near Ladybank and been put down as a stray.
Police mounted a major search of the area and Hunter callously joined in, safe in the knowledge his wife’s remains were several miles away. Weeks later, however, a dog walker found Lynda’s badly decomposed body with the lead used to kill her still around her neck. Detectives went to tell Hunter the news, only to find him with one of his vulnerable clients, a young heroin-addicted prostitute.
A day later, she was dead. A friend suggested she may have taken a deliberate overdose out of guilt after having suggested Hunter ‘bump off’ his wife after he complained Lynda was annoying him.
Others wondered if Hunter – who had yet to be arrested – had administered the fatal dose, afraid of what she might tell detectives. A man capable of killing his pregnant wife and unborn child, they reasoned, is capable of anything.
At Hunter’s murder trial at the High Court in Dundee in July 1988, the Crimewatch appeal had generated so much interest people jostled for seats in the public gallery.
CALLERS to Crimewatch had helped discredit Hunter’s alibi and detectives were able to show that it was possible to drive through the night to Manchester, return by train and have 20 minutes to spare before going shopping for shoes.
Ironically, the discovery of Shep’s collar casually discarded by Hunter behind his basket after returning home proved to be key.
Solicitor General Peter Fraser QC, later Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who led the prosecution case, told Hunter: ‘If the collar was found in your house subsequently, there is only one remaining conclusion to be drawn and that is that you were present with your wife in the car. And if you were present in the car, you are exclusively responsible for your wife’s death.’
For once Hunter, who had taken the stand in his own defence, had no answer. The jury took less than two hours to find the 37-year-old guilty. Sentencing him to life imprisonment, trial judge Lord Brand told him: ‘You are an evil man of exceptional depravity.’
In the end, Hunter served just five years of his sentence before dying, aged 42, of a heart attack in Perth Prison on July 19, 1993. With him died any chance of questioning him about the murder of Carol Lannen or about the prostitute’s fatal overdose. Nor can he answer to the suggestion that he had a hand in his first wife’s death.
For Lynda Hunter’s family, the tragedy of losing her and her unborn child remains too raw to discuss. Speaking at her home in Glenrothes, her sister, Sandra Cairns, said: ‘It doesn’t go away.’
This week, the Crown Office said there were no plans to re-investigate the death of Christine Hunter. A spokesman declined to say whether Andrew Hunter had ever been investigated in connection with the murder of Miss Lannen, but said its cold case unit keeps all unsolved homicides under review.
He said: ‘There is a risk of prejudicing fresh prosecutions by commenting on individual cases or providing details on how a particular case is being dealt with. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further at this time.’