THE separate murders of two Glasgow prostitutes and the death of an elderly woman, all in the 1990s, are among a shortlist of almost 40 unsolved crimes to be reinvestigated by Strathclyde Police's new cold case squad.

The specialist team of detectives is to look at the murder of Tracey Wylde, a prostitute found dead in her home in Barmulloch in 1997. They will also review the murder of another prostitute, Diane McInally, 23, whose body was discovered in Pollok Park, Glasgow, in 1991.

Work has already started on some of the crimes, including the case of Annie Davies, a pensioner who died in suspicious circumstances in 1998 in her home in Erskine, Renfrewshire.

Laboratory tests have begun on a number of them, and Detective Superintendent Kenny Watters, head of the new unit, believes a combination of DNA and modern investigative methods should help solve the cases. He has asked for situational reports from all the force's divisions on 38 cases, which date back to 1968 with the infamous Bible John killings.

The squad is also re-examining some of the highest-profile cases of recent years, among them the "ice-cream war" murders. Joe Steele and Thomas "TC" Campbell served 18 years before their convictions for the Doyle family killings in Glasgow were ruled unsafe.

"We know that over a period of time allegiances change and someone who might have provided a false alibi in the past might now have fallen out with that person, " Mr Watters said

"The problem in the past was that there was no definitive list and no official system in place for reviewing these cases.

"There are 38 on the list at the moment but we expect that to increase slightly. We will not only look at undetected cases but at those that have been submitted to the courts but failed to lead to convictions because there was insufficient evidence and some which have been subject to appeal."

The unit will work with forensics experts and psychologists to decide which cases contain sufficient evidence officially to be reopened.

The list contains more recent cases such as the murder of Alexander Blue, 41, a businessman, in Glasgow's west end three and a half years ago and Martin Toner, 34, whose body was found in Langbank, Renfrewshire, last summer.

The unit may also review cases with not proven verdicts, but Mr Watters warned that the public and families should not have unrealistic expectations.

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