NOTORIOUS serial killer Peter Manuel features in the latest of our special series on Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes.

A total of 10 judicial executions by hanging took place at HMP Barlinnie between 1946 and 1960, replacing the gallows at Duke Street Prison. This was before the death penalty was abolished in the UK in 1969. All the executions took place at 8am. The public executioners during that time were Thomas Pierrepoint, Albert Pierrepoint and Harry Allen. The remains of all executed prisoners were the property of the state. They were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prison. During renovations at the prison in 1997, Barlinnie's gallows cell, which was built into D-hall, was finally demolished and the remains of all the executed prisoners were exhumed for reburial elsewhere. This is the story of Peter Manuel who was executed by Harry Allen on July 11, 1958. His hanging was the second last at Barlinnie and followed John Lyon, Patrick Carraher, John Caldwell, Paul Christopher Harris, James Robertson, James Smith, Patrick Gallagher Deveney and George Francis Shaw.


Crime Reporter

THE Beast of Birkenshaw Peter Manuel is perhaps the most notorious criminal in our series on the men who were hanged at Barlinnie. The terror which he reigned on communities of Lanarkshire is a story that has been passed from generation to generation, and ultimately his hanging at Barlinnie prevented him from continuing to inflict the level of violence that he did on his innocent victims who included a young boy of 10 years old.

Manuel was born to Scottish parents in New York City on March 13, 1927 but his family returned back to their native Scotland when he was five in 1932.

He came to the attention of the authorities at a young age in the Lanarkshire area of Birkenshaw where he grew up. He was a petty thief and at the age of 16, he committed several sex attacks which resulted in him being handed a stretch of nine years in Peterhead Prison.

Prior to the start of his killing spree, he also successfully conducted his own defence on a rape charge at Airdrie Sheriff Court in 1955.

But the early charges and prison sentences on his rap sheet were only the start of things to come.

He was responsible for killing Anne Kneillands, 17, Marion Watt, 45, Vivienne Watt, 16, Margaret Brown, 42, Isabelle Cooke, 17, Peter Smart, 45, Doris Smart, 42, and Michael Smart, 10.

Manuel, however, only went to the gallows at Barlinnie Prison convicted of seven murders. The case against him for Anne Kneillands was dropped due to insufficient evidence. It is also believed he was responsible for many more killings.

On January 2, 1956, Anne Kneilands left her home in East Kilbride to go on a date but the teenager never got there. Her body was found two days later on a golf course in East Kilbride. Her head had been split open and police established she had been running in terror from her attacker.

Nine months later, vicious Manuel struck again at the home in High Burnside, Rutherglen, of master baker William Watt.

Mr Watt had gone on a fishing holiday to Lochgilphead, but his wife Marion, 45, their daughter Vivienne, 16, and Mrs Watt's sister Margaret Brown were still at home. Manuel broke in and shot all three as they slept.

Manuel, however, was not the chief suspect for the triple killing - it was Mr Watt. The family man even spent 67 days locked up in Barlinnie while police investigated.

Manuel was also soon in Barlinnie serving a sentence for housebreaking. When he was released in November 1957 he travelled to Newcastle to look for work, and he killed taxi driver Sydney Dunn. His responsibility for this death was determined by a coroner's jury after Manuel was hanged.

When he returned to Glasgow just before Christmas, the pace of his killings quickened.

On December 28, Isabelle Cooke left her house in Mount Vernon to meet her boyfriend in Uddingston. She was Manuel's next victim and originally the Evening Times reported on her as a missing woman until her body was discovered.

It was actually Manuel who led police to the spot near Uddingston where he had buried her, he told them: "I think she is here. I think I'm standing on her now."

He struck again on January 1, 1958 when he broke into a house in Sheepburn Road, Uddingston, occupied by Peter Smart, his wife Doris and their son Michael.

He killed all three with a Webley revolver and, in the days that followed, popped back into the house to feed the family cat and help himself to the remains of the festive turkey.

He even drove Mr Smart's car, but his downfall came when it was found the serial numbers of bank notes he had used in a pub matched those paid to Mr Smart just before New Year.

Manuel's trial was a sensation - he became the first person in Scotland to sack his legal team and defend himself in a murder trial.

But he ultimately played the price for the cruel acts he committed, and at one minute past eight on July 11, 1958 Manuel at 31 was hanged on the gallows of Barlinnie.

The Evening Times reported: "As the hands of the prison clock pointed to the execution hour, fewer than a dozen people stood silently outside the prison. There was no demonstration, no protest by opponents of capital punishment, as the final act was carried out 'under the due process of law'."

Evening Times: TIMES PAST MURDER.PETER MANUEL TRIAL 1950'S.CROWD AWAIT THE VERDICT .29/5/1958.....Newsquest Media Group.

The reported continued: "Outside the prison there was nothing to show that the execution had taken place. There was no notice posted on the gates - that practice ended with the new homicide act."

Manuel's family home in Fourth Street, Birkenshaw was empty on the day of execution. We reported that his parents had left days before with a relative.

Prior to his execution by Harry Allen, the warders who looked after Manuel were increased from two to three after he attempted suicide on June 20 by swallowing disinfectant powder while a warder was cleaning his cell.

But his attempt did not deter his path to the hangman. We reported: "At the appointed time the executioner entered the condemned cell, pinioned Manuel's arms behind his back, and led him the few paces to the scaffold in the next cell.

"A white cap was placed over Manuel's head, followed by the noose. A lever was pulled and the trap door dropped.

"Less than 66 seconds had elapsed since the hangman entered the cell.

"Two doctors pronounced life extinct. Immediately Manuel's body was taken to an unoccupied cell below the execution chamber."

His reign of terror was over, and in that moment Manuel's went down as one of Scotland's most notorious serial killers.