The success of true crime podcasts such as West Cork, The Last Podcast On The Left and The Teacher’s Pet has introduced eager listeners to cases of murder, extortion, fraud and kidnap from all over the world. Some involve notorious serial killers such as Jack the Ripper or cases such as the so-called Black Dahlia murder, which shook Los Angeles in the late 1940s and remains unsolved. Others are more recent and less high-profile, such as the murder of American high school student Hae Min Lee which became the basis for the award-winning Serial.

Now a new podcast series, Glasgow Crime Stories, launching today, aims to delve into the city’s criminal past and explore both celebrated cases such as the Bible John killings and less lore-soaked crimes such as those of Alan Hasson, a disgraced former Grand Master of the Orange Order who was jailed for fraud. More than that, the podcast will tell the story of the city itself: through analysis of the perpetrators, their victims, the police officers who sought justice for them and the milieu in which they lived and died.

Narrated by actor Alex Norton, better known as DCI Matt Burke from much-loved TV crime drama Taggart, the podcast is the brainchild of veteran crime reporter Norman Silvester and is based on an ongoing series of articles by him in The Herald’s sister paper, The Glasgow Times.

“We’re telling the story of the actual police investigation and the nuts and bolts of that, but we’re also telling the story of the victims and giving them a voice,” Silvester explains. “We’re obviously telling the story of the perpetrators as well. And there’s variation: we’re doing some up to date stuff about organised crime figures who have been murdered as well as some more historical stuff … There’s a lot of interest in the city’s social history and often the best way to tell that story is through crime.”

But although Glasgow is mentioned in the title, the potential audience is worldwide for the simple reason that crime and the common reasons for crime – greed, passion, revenge – are universal.

“Crime in Glasgow is absolutely fascinating, it’s not parochial in any way,” says Silvester. “Though we’re not glorifying crime or trying to exploit it, the city has a fascinating link with crime and I think a lot of the stories translate to anywhere.”

Episode one, available to listen to now, tells the story of legendary crime boss Arthur Thompson. Beginning with his days as a money lender nailing debtors’ hands and feet to the floor it progresses through the 1960s, when he was allied with infamous London gangsters the Kray twins, to his death in 1993. By then his son, Arthur Thompson Jr., was already dead, shot outside the family home in Provanmill two years earlier.

“He ticks so many boxes,” says Silvester. “Although he was powerful for a number of decades the peak of his power was the 1960s and obviously there’s a fascination with that era. A lot of people don’t know he was linked with the Great Train Robbery. People forget that train started in Glasgow and I always thought that was significant because you’d need somebody at the Glasgow end organising things. I was always told Arthur Thompson was involved in that and it’s never been denied. But it shows you the level these people could operate at. They weren’t just provincial little hoodlums operating out of the housing estates. The breadth of their influence, especially in Arthur Thompson’s case, was nationwide and went all the way down to London.”

Further episodes will deal with Bible John as well as the cases of Henry Senior, Willie McCrae, Alexander Miller, Moira Jones and Eleni Pachou. Taken together they cover nearly a century of crime in the city. Senior was murdered by two men in Queen’s Park Recreation Ground in 1920 after being lured there by a prostitute. Miller murdered young siblings John and Irene McMonigle during a burglary at a house in Govan in 1976 and has been held in a secure psychiatric unit since being jailed without limit of time. The bodies of Jones and Pachou were found 24 hours apart in May 2008, the first in Queen’s Park, the second in the kitchen of Di Maggio’s restaurant in the West End.

Both women met violent deaths, but as with the murders of Henry Senior and John and Irene McMonigle, their killers were brought to justice. The case of Willie McCrae, however, has long puzzled police and amateur detectives alike. A lawyer, anti-nuclear campaigner and SNP activist, McCrae was found conscious but gravely injured in his car in April 1985, apparently the victim of an accident – or so it was thought until a bullet was found lodged in his brain. He died the following day and the facts surrounding his death remain contentious to say the least.

Of course with many of these cases there are sensitivities to consider regarding friends, partners and family members of the victims.

“One of the things I’ve tried to do in each of the stories, where possible, is to contact family members and let them know the story is going in,” says Silvester. “In some of the cases we’ve got quotes from family members … we’re conscious of the fact that even if you take the Bible John murders of the late 1960s, there’s still quite a few members of the victims’ families who are still alive.”


Police investigating the Bible John killings erect a tent at the scene of the 1968 murder in Langside of Particia Docker. Pic: Daily Record

That said, the public at large has a natural fascination with crime and criminals, as demonstrated by the evergreen popularity of crime novels and television dramas such as Taggart itself.

“But I think if you can present what might be a fictional scenario as a real-life scenario, people find that even more fascinating. At the end of the day it’s not always a figment of somebody’s imagination. It’s real life. It happened to people and it’s still having ramifications. I think there is a genuine fascination. That doesn’t always justify writing about it, but we try to be sensitive and factual about it.”

And of course there’s always the possibility that, as has happened on several occasions, new evidence can come to light as a result of a podcast - new evidence which just might bring a criminal to justice.

“Sometimes people can hold information they’re not even aware of,” says Silvester. “It may well be that someone could listen to one of these podcasts and realise they’ve got information. We’re definitely aware of that. Fingers crossed, that would be a fantastic result if we got some kind of conviction or resolution to a particular case through the podcast.”

Glasgow Crime Stories will release a new episode every Monday morning on all popular streaming platforms. Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Amazon Music and listen to the first episode.