Emily Mutch's brutal killing has rekindled memories of another unsolved crime committed more than 40 years earlier

BETTY Alexander was four-and-a-half when she left her home in Buccleuch Street in the Garnethill district of Glasgow to play outside. It was Tuesday, October 7, 1952, and several people spotted her, small and smart in her brown coat and kilt on the kerb near a local shop.

A short time later, with the light having faded, some children and her mother thought they heard her shouting ''Mummy'' from a nearby lane, and then she was gone.

Three days later a cleaner entering a little-used yard at the back of the nearby children's dispensary in Buccleuch Lane, less than 200 yards from Betty's home, found her body on a short run of steps.

She was lying on her back on her smart brown coat, and her kilt and jumper and fawn socks

had apparently been removed, washed, and pressed. There were no visible signs of injury but police said she had suffered a serious assault - a 1950s euphemism, most probably for rape - and had died of shock.

Garnethill and Glasgow were convulsed by grief and outrage and a massive murder hunt was launched.

Crowds gathered in the rain at the lane end, standing 10-deep well into the night as police officers photographed, dusted, and finger-searched the crime scene. They stood outside the police station when rumours circulated about a possible arrest, and they lined the streets in their thousands for her funeral cortege, a sea of bare heads and headscarves and the small upturned faces of curious children.

Convinced the killer was a local man, that Betty might have known him, and with a half fingerprint taken from the yard where she was found, the police launched Scotland's largest ever fingerprinting exercise, bringing in every adult male in Garnethill for testing, more than 1000 in all.

But the prints did not match and the weeks passed into years and the leads went cold, and, though the story surfaced occasionally in the press, memories lengthened, children grew up, families moved on and Betty Alexander was all but forgotten.

Until last year when someone made their way into a sheltered housing complex not far from Betty's old home in Buccleuch Street and found the small fourth-floor flat occupied by 77-year-old widow Emily Mutch. Profoundly deaf and suffering from dementia, Mrs Mutch was said sometimes to wander the corridor outside her door at night crying out for her home help: ''Have you seen Nan?'' He may have found her there or inside her flat because the door was not always locked. Her badly beaten and sexually abused body was discovered on Friday, July 5, last year.

As in the case of Betty Alexander, police think the killer is a local man. As in Betty's case, they think Emily Mutch may have known him. And, once again, the men of Garnethill have been brought in for testing. This time the test is focusing on DNA - the largest such exercise in Scotland - and this time every male over the age of 12 is being swabbed and logged. Seven months on, more than 2500 samples have been taken and the killer remains at large.

AS IN the murder of Betty Alexander, Garnethill has taken the murder of Emily Mutch personally and badly. The small self-contained community sits on top of Glasgow's highest hill, sandwiched between the lights and chaos of Sauchiehall Street and the broad thoroughfares of Cowcaddens.

It has had a chequered past. In Betty Alexander's time it was a rooming district for Glasgow's theatreland; seedy, slightly down at heel, with a shifting population of small-time actors and young families. In the years that followed there were problems with prostitution, drugs, crime, drinking, and gambling.

But in recent years it has had a new lease of life as a close-knit, multicultural area, largely thanks to the efforts of community activist Betty Brown, who won the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year award in 1995. She is one of the few who have never left the area, and, like the others who stayed on, she had not forgotten the story of Betty Alexander.

''The whole place was shattered about wee Betty. Murder was not commonplace then or anything. My mother's friend was very friendly with the Alexanders because they worked beside them in the Regal Picture House. My mum was shattered. Everyone was. It was a terrible mystery that this child went missing then her body appeared in the yard. Everyone was fingerprinted then and the amount of publicity was huge but they never got anyone for that murder.

''Mrs Mutch's murder was just another edition of it. Thankfully, we have had all these years in between. I feel so bad for the community now. Like you were then, you are suspicious of your neighbours, looking at them. Normally I'm quite a brave person but now I'm certainly not as brave as I was. I'm scared. I'm still scared.''

Betty recalls the fears for children after the 1952 murder. The house at 43 Buccleuch Street where Betty Alexander lived let out rooms and there were rumours that a lodger may have been involved. Then suspicion fell on a caretaker, then a family that lived nearby.

A woman was seen leaving the police station after questioning, her half-hidden face caught in a flashgun as she sped off in a taxi. Police said they were following a definite line of inquiry but it came to naught. They travelled to Inverness but returned empty-handed and said the inquiry was back on a routine footing.

At the time of the killing Betty's parents, Barbara and Jack Alexander, said they thought they had seen a man with a young girl over his shoulder get into a brown van or ambulance in Buccleuch Lane on the day she disappeared, but the vehicle was never traced.

Three years after the killing the parents told The Herald that they had seen a similar van back in the area and had told the police, believing it to be a significant breakthrough. ''We won't rest until whoever murdered our little girl is caught,'' said Jack Alexander. The family took flowers to her grave in Cadder cemetery every Sunday. ''She was a bright wee thing,'' her grandmother said at the time. ''She meant the world to us.''

Betty Brown remembers the family's pain and the frustration of the local police as each trail went cold. ''There was one officer in charge who said he would give 10 years of his life to be able to prove it was the people they suspected, but he had to say honestly they didn't do it.''

Detective Superintendent Bob Lauder may be equally frustrated at the lack of progress in the Emily Mutch case but he's not showing it. He doesn't remember Betty Alexander but is determined the outcome will be different this time.

''Let's be in no doubt: the person responsible for this violent assault on Emily Mutch is still out there. We are not going to give up and hopefully we will be able to produce enough evidence to identify that person and put him before the courts.

''It is very important not to lose sight of the fact that it could happen again. It was a brutal attack on a defenceless old lady.''

Others involved in the case say that scientific advancements mean they have what amounts to an anonymous profile of the killer. ''We have genetic evidence that would indicate the presence of someone at that locus,'' said one. ''We know who did it. We just don't have his name and address.''

Like those who worked the beat before them, Mr Lauder and his colleagues have had to deal with the community's transient population, this time with students coming and going from flats and moving off across the country. A team of 20 officers are working round the clock on the case and Mr Lauder insists that neither cost nor time will affect the continuing investigation.

In her more lucid days, Emily Mutch must have remembered the Alexander case. She would have been 32 when the murder took place and she knew Glasgow well.

She was born and brought up in the city, and had run away from home when she was 16. She worked in munitions factories until she met Teddy, her husband of 39 years.

They had lived together in Buccleuch Street for about eight years until his death in the 1980s. She had been ill for some time but Teddy had kept the dementia covered up and her relatives were not aware of the extent of her illness until he died.

The street and the sheltered housing complex she lived in were thought of as safe and respectable and her extended family with their young children were frequent visitors.

Her niece, Elizabeth McKay, is still trying to come to terms with her death and the manner of it.

''I have always felt that there must be someone who knows that someone did this. I just get the feeling that someone else must know. I just urge them to think about it. I know she was a great age but everyone is someone's daughter. Well, she was a daughter, an aunt, a godmother, a sister.

''When you read about things like this if it hasn't happened to someone you know you just think that's a shame. You don't realise how it changes your life when it happens to you. You just look at everything really differently. If I come into Garnethill now I look at people in the street, looking at everybody with suspicion.''

Elizabeth was in town the day her aunt's body was found. Emily had been released from hospital four days before and Elizabeth's husband and her eldest daughter, Lauren, 4, were on their way up to Emily's flat when they were stopped by police.

''It wasn't until later that we suddenly thought that Lauren would have found her because she always went running ahead and burst in looking for her.

''She still brings it up. She can be sitting reading a story and she'll go quiet and I'll say 'what's wrong' and she'll say 'I'm thinking of Ebbie'. And I have to tell her that she's OK and she's not hurting any more and she's safe.''

Elizabeth saw the flat after the killing and has wondered if just one person could have been responsible. ''The place was totally done over. The bed was overturned and was lying upside down and the mattress was at the other end of the room. The bath surround was kicked in. She had a toy dog, the kind with batteries in it and it was torn to bits, all the fur torn off and the mechanics everywhere. I just thought with one person doing all this what was she doing. Was she dead? Was she alive? On the death certificate it said she had died by multiple blows from a blunt instrument. She had lost a lot of weight and the undertaker said it would not have taken that to kill her, what they did to her. My four-year-old could have knocked her over.''

Despite the fact that it is seven months since Emily Mutch's murder, Elizabeth feels sure the police will catch her aunt's killer, and, like Jack Alexander, there will be no real peace for the family until they do.

''It may just be wishful thinking. Maybe everyone who has had someone murdered feels this way. I don't know, but I just feel sure they will get someone for this. That it will be OK.''

Betty Brown hopes for the sake of Emily Mutch and for the sake of Garnethill that Elizabeth's belief holds true.

''I really hope they get whoever did it. I feel so sorry for the community now. Anything like that that happens to an elderly person or to a child - it stamps on your soul for evermore.''