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an identity parade in the first few days of the original inquiry into Mrs Puttock's murder but her sister had failed to pick him out.

Detectives hope to dig up the body within the next two weeks to see if the DNA profile matches his remains. They are applying to the procurator-fiscal for a warrant authorising the exhumation.

Residents in Stonehouse last night were stunned by the news that a body might be exhumed in the hunt for Bible John.

One elderly man said: ``It is shocking that someone from this village is even a suspect. You would have thought the police would have got him at the time.''

Another villager, a woman in her forties, said: ``There were rumours at the time that he had been interviewed by police who were trying to find Bible John. Most people just presumed he was innocent because an awful lot of other people were interviewed. But there have been rumours over the years that have not gone away.''

Last night regulars in Stonehouse's Thistle Bar gave their recollection of Mr McInnes. One woman, who did not want to be named but said she had worked as a barmaid in the town's Ship Inn, said he was a Jekyll and Hyde character, a man who liked to gamble and often liked a drink in the pub. She said he was also a very articulate man who most people described as a gentleman.

Another regular said: ``The bloke was a fly guy who conned everyone. I think he used to work for a furniture company down in Ayrshire but he would always come home when he was in trouble. His mother always baled him out.''

The man, who was also reluctant to be named, said John McInnes had tried to commit suicide on several occasions shortly before his death.

Ms Ann McKenzie, former landlady of the Ship Inn in Stonehouse, described how Mr McInnes often drank in her pub. She said he was a quiet man who never caused any trouble.

Speaking at her home, Ms McKenzie, who retired from the Ship seven years ago, said she knew very little else about him and thought most of his relatives no longer lived in the town.

The new development in the case is believed to have started with a request from Strathclyde Police forensic scientists for samples from unsolved murders.

Yesterday, the man who led the original hunt for Bible John expressed his hope that the long quest was about to end. Retired detective superintendent Joe Beattie wished the officers well in the current inquiry.

Mr Beattie added that the detectives had visited him to inform him of the new developments. Asked if he thought the hunt was finally approaching its conclusion, he said: ``Who knows? Time will tell.''

Meanwhile, news of the latest development has prompted Edinburgh-based publishers Mainstream to ``re-assess'' its plans for an April launch of a book, Power In The Blood, which claims that Bible John is alive and leading a quiet life in Glasgow.

The author, Mr Donald Simpson, tells in the book of his four-year friendship with an elderly man and his increasing conviction that this man was Bible John. On one occasion, says Mr Simpson, the man broke down sobbing and confessed to him.

A MAN suspected of being responsible for at least one of the Bible John murders in Glasgow in the late 1960s lies buried with his parents in a village graveyard in Lanarkshire, it emerged last night.

Detectives are seeking permission to exhume the body of John Irvine McInnes, who died in 1980 at the age of 41.

They believe he may be linked with the death of at least one of the three women who were strangled more than a quarter a century ago after being picked up at the Barrowland Ballroom.

The apparent breakthrough in the case has been made possible by the latest genetic fingerprinting techniques, which are believed to have established a link between the dead man and the last of the victims, Helen Puttock, who was 29 when she was murdered in 1969.

In a prepared statement Strathclyde Police said yesterday: ``After extensive police inquiries, including the use of the latest technology, we can confirm that we are following a definite line of inquiry in relation to the death of Helen Puttock, aged 29, whose body was found at the rear of the common close at 95 Earl Street, Scotstoun, Glasgow, on 31st October, 1969.

``Police inquiries are continuing in this respect and a full report will be submitted to the procurator-fiscal.''

The police refused to say anything else about their investigation. They have not confirmed reports of the exhumation bid, far less revealed the identity of the dead man.

But the name of the suspect, who apparently committed suicide, emerged last night. Mr McInnes is buried in a cemetery just outside the village of Stonehouse. The headstone on his grave states that he died on April 30, 1980, aged 41. An inscription at the bottom of the stone reads: ``Till He come''.

Also buried at the well-kept grave are Robert Samson McInnes, who died in September 1954, aged 60, and his wife Elizabeth McInnes, nee Irvine, who died in September 1987, aged 91.

It is believed that police have taken DNA swabs from relatives of the dead man to compare with a semen stain on Mrs Puttock's clothing.

No evidence is thought to have survived to enable a link to be made with the other victims, Patricia Docker, 25, and Jemima McDonald, 32.

Mr McInnes is believed to have grown up in Stonehouse and later moved to nearby Newarthill. He apparently served briefly in the Scots Guards and also worked as a salesman, was married but later divorced, and belonged to a strict religious body.

He would have been in his early 30s at the time of the murders. It is believed he was still residing in Lanarkshire when he died.

It was reported yesterday that he had been brought in for

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