DRAMATIC new information that may identify the notorious serial killer Bible John has been passed to a new specialist police unit set up to investigate unsolved murder cases.

The Sunday Herald has learned that a former police officer has given investigators the name and address of a man he believes could be the killer of three women in Glasgow in the late 1960s.

Retired detective chief inspector Les Brown was working in Strathclyde Police's serious crime squad during that period. He claims to have picked up a man who matched the description of the killer after he was seen arguing with a woman he had just met in the Barrowland Ballroom.

However, the suspect - who gave the false name John White to the woman and the police - was released that night by the senior officer in the inquiry because his front teeth did not cross, a trait that had been mentioned to police by a friend of one of the victims.

The new information was last week passed to detective superintendent Kenny Watters, head of the recently formed unsolved case unit.

Brown said he arrested the man in late 1969, after the murders of Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock. Each had met their killer, who gave his name as John and who quoted passages from the Bible, in the city's Barrowland Ballroom.

Brown said the man had at first given the name John White and a false address in St Andrew's Street. But after police checks, he gave his real name and a Gorbals address, where he stayed with mother.

Brown said: "We called in the officer in charge of the case. He walked around him once and said, 'That's the nearest yet, but it's not him.' We were told to let him go. What could we do? We had told the officer in charge and the next day we were hauled away to another murder.

"After we arrested him, the murders stopped. That might or might not be significant. In hindsight, maybe we should not have let him go."

Brown revealed that years later he talked to a detective who took a man to hospital after arresting him outside the ballroom at the time of the murders. Although the suspect needed stitches in his head, as soon as his handcuffs were taken off, he escaped out the back door of the hospital. He had given his details as John White, 28 St Andrew's Street.

"It wasn't just that he matched the description, or gave a false name. It was his whole demeanour, " said Brown.

"This was a guy who was just about to take a girl home to wherever and he's been interrupted in the process. You'd think he'd be annoyed, but he never batted an eye.

"A result in the Bible John case would be a great result."

At the time of the murders, in 1968 and 1969, the killer was said to be in his 20s or 30s, with red hair. That would now make him in his 50s or 60s.

Brown is set to have his claims on the case screened in a forthcoming Scottish Television documentary, Unsolved: Getting Away With Murder, fronted by Taggart actor Alex Norton.

A book on Brown's career, Glasgow Crimefighter, is due out next week.

The killer first struck on February 22, 1968, after picking up Patricia Docker in the Glasgow Barrowland. She was found strangled the next morning.

On August 17, 1969, Jemima McDonald, 32, was found in a derelict building, strangled with her stockings. She, too, had been at the Barrowland Ballroom.

Two months later, Helen Puttock, 29, and a friend met two men, both named John, at the Barrowland. Puttock's body was found the day after she met the man. Her murder would provide the killer's nickname. Puttock's friend described the man as polite and well-dressed.

Although the murders have remained unsolved, the case returned to the public eye in 1996, when police exhumed the body of a former soldier, John McInnes, buried in a graveyard in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, for DNA tests.

Last year, a number of suspects gave DNA samples to police.

It is hoped that the unsolved case unit can use new technology to solve around 35 murders.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman confirmed that information on the Bible John killings had been passed on to the unit.

She added: "Information provided in relation to any of the unsolved murders will be followed up."

liam. mcdougall@sundayherald. com