A man goes missing in a small Scottish town. His mother, Mrs. T., is dissatisfied with the way the police have handled his disappearance and hounds her local PD until she is finally put in touch with Det. Roddy who promises to take a fresh look at the case. It turns out, Mrs. T’s maternal instincts were right and her son didn’t just pack up and leave without a trace, without saying goodbye. Another Small Town episode from overseas.
Detective Roddy retired from Tayside Police in Scotland in 2014 after 33 years of service. He spent most of his career in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and at every rank, from Detective Constable to Detective Chief Superintendent. Tayside comprises 3 counties and has about 2000 officers and staff. Roddy started in Perth and Kinross, a county with a population of 175,000, where he lives. The county is predominantly rural comprising the small city of Perth, a number of market towns, good farmland, and good people. Since retiring, he has worked for the local council in Community Safety.
Roddy [00:00:05] I’ve always been a great believer in luck. If you’re going to be a detective, you need luck, you need a break. You have to work hard and you kind of make your own luck a lot of the time. Once you get that break, you’ve really got to work it, because it’s going to run out eventually.
Yeardley [00:00:23] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:49] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:50] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:54] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:01:00] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:15] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley [00:01:34] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan!
Dan [00:01:41] Good morning.
Yeardley [00:01:42] Good morning. Good to see you.
Dan [00:01:43] Great to see you.
Yeardley [00:01:46] You sound unconvinced.
Dan [00:01:48] These are always awkward.
Yeardley [00:01:51] Still, after all this time. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave [00:01:54] I am here next to twin brother Dan.
Yeardley [00:01:57] Yes, you are, where it all began.
Dave [00:02:00] This is where it all began.
Yeardley [00:02:01] Yes. Small Town Fam, this is another incredible day here in Season 8 of this podcast because we have left the United States once again, to meet up with a new guest to the podcast. Retired Detective, Chief Superintendent Roddy, who hangs his hat in Scotland. Roddy, thank you so much for sitting down with us today.
Roddy [00:02:28] Hi, how you doing? It’s really good to be here. I couldn’t be more excited. Actually, I think your excitement, I’m going to trump it because I’m still very excited about actually being able to see people in America over my internet. That’s how old I am, I still think it’s a magic box, so yeah.
Roddy [00:02:44] Really looking forward to it.
Yeardley [00:02:46] We are to. I’m just going to give my usual pandemic disclaimer here and say that since we’re all recording from our homes, you might hear garbage trucks, lawnmowers, pets, you know, life.
Dan [00:03:00] I’m a little upset too, because I kind of wanted to go to Scotland.
Dave [00:03:00] Ditto.
Roddy [00:03:05] Well, my wife said when she saw all the kit that you sent me, goodness me, would it not have been cheaper just to take the two of us over to America?
Yeardley [00:03:14] I love your wife. That’s fantastic. Roddy, we love to get the lay of the land from our guests whenever we can. Would you tell us a little bit about your jurisdiction?
Roddy [00:03:26] Sure. There’s been a lot of changes in Scotland recently. We now have a national police force, but at the time I’m talking about, I was the DCI, which is the Detective Chief Inspector in Perth. We call it a city. It doesn’t really qualify, but it’s about 47,000 people and it sits in Perth and Kinross which is the county area around it and in total, we’ve got about 150,000 people. At that time, I would be in charge of 30, 35 detectives, something like that, and we would be responsible for all crime, reported crime, or we call public protection, so child abuse and domestic abuse. We would be expected to pretty much deal with everything that happened on our patch, but we could call in support if we needed it from Dundee, which is a city of about 150,000 people 22 miles away.
Dave [00:04:14] What’s a typical type of crime that your officers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, drugs, theft, property, crime, stuff like that?
Roddy [00:04:22] Yeah, all the same. People are the same everywhere. Perth’s a lovely city. We’re going to talk about murders that happened there, but they are relatively unusual. Sometimes, we go a year and not have a single murder in Perth and Kinross. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at, when I was the DCI there, I was dubbed with the title of DCI Death because of the number that we had in a very short space of time. You don’t want bad things to happen to people, but when they do, you want to be tested, you want to be challenged by the circumstances and by the investigation and put into practice your team enough which have learned from all your other experiences, and this investigation I’m going to talk about certainly tested us.
Yeardley [00:05:02] Great. Please tell us how this case came to you.
Roddy [00:05:06] Okay, well, it started off as a missing person case. Stuart went missing in 1999 and it’s a cold case. Stuart, when he went missing was about 31. In 1999, I was just moving from being a Detective Sergeant in Perth to be promoted to Detective Inspector in Dundee. I became aware of a missing person picture. At that time, we didn’t investigate missing people particularly well. It would get passed to a detective who would sit with it his desk and potentially not do all that much with it. This fella, Stuart’s photograph was on the wall missing. I particularly remember it because there were another two men who looked quite similar to him who were also missing at the same time, and they had become long term, and one of the things that flashed through my head as I was leaving was, I wondered if there was some kind of serial killer out there targeting bald males in their 30s. But I didn’t give Stuart much thought after that. Then, in about 2006–
Yeardley [00:06:05] Roughly seven years after Stuart goes missing.
Roddy [00:06:09] That’s right. I came back to Perth, and I was the Chief Inspector and I was called on by my chief superintendent. He said, “This woman has been on the phone and she’s been extremely rude to my personal assistant. Get onto her and sort itout.”
Yeardley [00:06:26] (laughs)
Roddy [00:06:27] I phoned this lady, who I’m going to call Mrs. T. I discovered that Mrs. T was a repeat complainer about the police. Every contact she had with the police resulted in a complaint and she was an extremely rude person. Anyway, I got to know Mrs. T, and we got to the point where I said, “You can’t speak to anybody else at Perth police station other than me, and please stop harassing my officers.” We came in agreement that all her interactions with me would last no more than 20 minutes.
Roddy [00:06:58] She was quite comfortable with that and I was comfortable with that. I got to know her. She was a really interesting person. She was a spiritualist, member of the spiritualist church. She had visions, she had dreams, she had all sorts of senses, which she was keen to share with me about a whole range of different things that had happened throughout the history of crime and policing in Scotland. Gradually, we start to develop this relationship. She started to tell me the story of why she disliked the police so intensely. Her son, Stuart, had gone missing in 1999 and the police had not done enough about it. She said he had been murdered and the police weren’t interested.
Yeardley [00:07:42] Is this the same Stuart whose photo had been on the police department wall?
Roddy [00:07:47] Yes.
Yeardley [00:07:48] Was that the main complaint? Or, were there other complaints that made her this repeat caller to your agency?
Roddy [00:07:57] Oh, lots of complaints about everything, really. I would say she was– is still alive, still going strong. If something was bothering her, if she didn’t like what she was seeing, she would complain, and Dan and Dave, I’m sure will be very familiar with the kind of person I’m talking about. One of the dangers of this is that when you get somebody who complains persistently and at times what appears to be irrationally, that then people assume that everything they say is wrong.
Yeardley [00:08:26] Of course, it’s like you cry wolf, right?
Roddy [00:08:28] Yes. Well, I think one of the key lessons of this kind of case is that just because somebody is annoying, doesn’t make them wrong. I said to her, “Look, well, Mrs. T, I will review Stuart’s case. I’ll have a proper look at it, I promise.” So, I got Stuart’s case file out, saw that it had been reviewed many times by good detectives, quality people who I respected. It was just in the runup to Christmas, right about that time. I got out the file, dumped it on my desk, and was ready to review it in the New Year. Over the Christmas period, I got a call from our Detective Sergeant who I knew well, who had been my partner one time when I’d been a detective. I completely respected his judgment. He says, “We’ve had a woman come in to the office. She says that her husband murdered Stuart.” I say, “That’s remarkable,” because the file was lying on my desk.
[00:09:26] I’ll always be a great believer in luck. If you’re going to be a detective, you need luck, you need a break. You have to work hard, and you kind of make your own luck a lot of the time. Once you get that break, you’ve really got to work out because it’s going to run out eventually. Bruce was this lady’s husband and they were having some real marital problems, and during a make-or-break holiday, he had got drunk, and she had been appealing to him and he said, “Well, why would you want to be with me anyway after what I did to Stuart?”
Yeardley [00:10:01] Wow!
Roddy [00:10:02] Bruce, who we had never heard of, but we started to look at the case file, and it turned out that Bruce was a friend of Stuart. They had been really close and probably Bruce had been the last person to see Stuart alive, according to the casefile. We started to interview Bruce’s wife. She started telling us stories about what Bruce had been involved in. He and Stuart back in the early 90s, had been involved in breaking into isolated workshops and houses and stealing fireplaces, stealing old doors, that kind of stuff, stealing tools, so they had been pretty active thieves. We went back into the files and looked for all these crimes, and there was a lot of that kind of thing going on at the time. That gave her credibility that that kind of thing was going on. We started to effectively construct a crime series investigation for crimes that happened nearly 10 years ago. Then, she told us about a car that Bruce had stolen as part of an insurance swindle. Bruce had stolen this car for an associate and had set fire to it. Then, she said he was also involved in a shooting. Some years before, there had been a big investigation because somebody on a motorcycle had pulled up outside a businessman’s house and discharge two shotgun cartridges into the roof of the house. We never got to the bottom of it. There were all sorts of theories at the time, but nothing else. She actually said, “Well, that was it, that was Bruce that did that as well.”
[00:11:38] New evidence really about Stuart’s murder, but other evidence. We developed an investigative strategy that said, “We’re going to start from the minor crimes, and use that to try and piece together what we knew about Bruce, about his activities, about his behavior over the years, and hopefully then build through into the murder of Stuart.” One of the things that we had to prove, of course, was that Stuart was dead. We had no body. We had no witnesses. He had just vanished and been missing for a long time, about seven years. Fortunately, there was some precedent. There had been one another murder in Scotland, where there was no body, just about 100 miles north of us, where a man had murdered his wife and the body had been dissolved, and they never recovered the body. We reached out to them, we find out how to do it and put a huge team of people on to try and prove the negative that Stuart had ceased to exist.
[00:12:41] One of the really interesting things about Bruce was, I live in a little village about 8 miles north of Perth, and Bruce lived in the same village as me. Perth is one of these places that people don’t move much over Perth. When people do go out, they tend to come back. The relationships, the families, the businesses, all these networks, all continue to exist, you could easily recreate where we were seven years ago. That was what we started to do, to map all these relationships. Bruce is very friendly with my next-door neighbor, and he was part of a group of tradesmen who all worked together, and he was known for his skills as a drainage contractor and was also known as the best digger in the business, which became very relevant later on.
Roddy [00:13:35] Bruce was well respected within that community. He was also a doorman, so he worked the pubs at night. He was quite well known by the police, who would be working on the pubs and the nightclubs and stuff because he was really anti-drugs, and he would report drug dealing, and he would give evidence about that, and he was seen as a real asset to the local cops. Also, fitness fanatic, very fit guy, but with a bad temper. We started to look at the car that Bruce had stolen, and we had some photographs of the recovered car, but the car had long gone. Well, we got some intelligence that Bruce rather than burn the whole car, he thought it was a bit of a waste and he taken the quite valuable wheels and tires off it before he burned it and had sold them to a local taxi driver. That was our first significant break. We went and remarkably recovered the wheels and tires and got statements from the taxi driver. We were pretty convinced that we had enough evidence to get Bruce for the theft of the car and what we would call a fraudulent scheme to defraud the insurance company. So, we started to work our way towards our main goal, the disappearance of Stuart.
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Roddy [00:17:09] We started to look at the shooting.
Yeardley [00:17:12] This shooting is the one where he fired through the roof of the building, is that it?
Roddy [00:17:16] That’s correct. For Perth, that’s pretty extreme. We don’t do that in Perth. We don’t have gun crime, really. We have maybe a couple of gun crime incidents a year, but they were usually pretty easy to sort out because it usually meant that some of our locals had got involved with some of the drug gangs from Glasgow or Edinburgh, but it’s not the kind of thing that happens in Perth.
Dan [00:17:41] We call that a Tuesday morning.
Yeardley [00:17:45] Yeah, it’s Tuesday here in LA.
Roddy [00:17:47] Yeah, really sleepy wee town. Of course, we don’t have guns. We don’t have them. Gun crime’s really unusual, so it had been a big investigation. We had a bit of intelligence that Bruce at some point had access to a shotgun where a photograph of Bruce was found in one of his associate’s house, standing holding a shotgun. The text on it was something like, “Do you want to see the twins?” It’s a double-barreled shotgun. I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but I thought that might be significant.
Yeardley [00:18:19] (laughs)
Roddy [00:18:20] What it tells you is that Bruce’s inner circle, they know or if they don’t know, there’s a tacit understanding about what he did. We managed to gather a fair bit of information about the shooting. We knew that the businessman had a business association with Bruce. Bruce, as I said before, was a drainage contractor and a really good one. We were aware that there had been an incident at the businessman’s place of work where Bruce had been there and had caused a disturbance and they had called the police because this businessman had failed to pay his bill. So, Bruce wasn’t getting paid for the job, and Bruce’s got a pretty firm line on moral issues like that and had created a (unintelligible) scene. The police were called, and it was put down as a kind of business dispute, and that was the end of the matter. So, that just had been recorded as an incident, but we knew that the relationship was there and that created a link between that victim and Bruce.
[00:19:17] Then, we have another little break, which tells us that somebody saw Bruce up in the rafters of a tractor shed, because it is the country, a tractor shed where apparently Bruce may have had something hidden. His father had vintage tractors which he kept there, and somebody had come in and found Bruce up in the attic, rooting about in there. We go and research that, and we find some seed bags, hessian bags, and that’s a little disappointing. From this, the next thing we got a little bit of evidence, we discovered that a shotgun had been stolen from a farm about two miles from my house across the field a few years before. Bruce’s father had been on the farm on a pheasant shoot, and somebody had a shotgun stolen.
Yeardley [00:20:07] Bruce’s father had been on the farm where the gun was stolen from?
Roddy [00:20:11] Yes.
Yeardley [00:20:12] Was his father also kind of in the criminal way of life or–?
Roddy [00:20:16] Not at all. He is a lorry driver. He used to have a lorry, which he kept here at this farm and he drove it. Perfectly law-abiding decent man, as far as we know.
Yeardley [00:20:26] When you say he’s a lorry driver, so in our country, he’s a truck driver?
Roddy [00:20:31] Yep, that’s right. What we were able to do was investigate that pheasant shoot and establish that Bruce had also been there that day. So, the opportunity for the theft of the shotgun was there, and not many other people would have the opportunity because it’s in the middle of a farm.
Dan [00:20:47] He is not entirely intelligent.
Roddy [00:20:49] No.
Dave [00:20:51] I might venture a few more towns away before I start committing my crimes. It’s too small of an area and people are going to start going, “Well, everyone knows it’s Bruce.”
Roddy [00:21:00] Yeah. Well, thank goodness for it. Again, when you’re working in a small town, your client base tends to be relatively limited, you know who you’re dealing with, so we had a really good knowledge of them. What we recognize that we didn’t have a good knowledge of were people who just sat below the radar, who didn’t impact on the things that we were generally interested in. They weren’t involved in drug dealing. They weren’t involved in serious organized crime. They were just involved in criminality generally. When it was one of theirs that were involved in it, they just accepted they were involved, turned a blind eye, kind of gloried in it, enjoyed the talk. It became just something that was common knowledge, but only in that group.
Yeardley [00:21:47] You mean in the group of criminals themselves, they just knew this is our crew, this is what we do, and we stay under the radar?
Roddy [00:21:54] Yeah, and they weren’t organized group in any amount. They were organized and that they all knew each other. It was just an underlying level of criminality. I’m not suggesting for a second that the rest of them were involved, like Bruce was, but he became celebrated as being one that was prepared to push the ball out just that wee bit further. If you need something done, get Bruce, he’ll do it. If you need somebody to pay a bill, well, Bruce will go up and put the frighteners on them and get them to pay their bill. That was the kind of the guy he is. Completely invisible to policing, because it tended to be within that little society. It was people we didn’t know, but then of course, it transpired that there was lots of people we knew, because we’d been in school with them, or we knew them through playing football. We didn’t know that they were a bit– or maybe we actually did know they were a bit dodgy, but they didn’t really hurt anybody, so that also loosened their tongues significantly.
Yeardley [00:22:49] Basically, given the small community and you all having history with so many people in town from school and sports and all that, it made those people more willing to talk to you?
Roddy [00:23:00] Exactly.
Yeardley [00:23:01] Got it.
Dave [00:23:02] Based on what you’ve described Bruce as, this shooting is more of a, “Hey, man, you owe me money. I mean business. I’ll bring a gun to this. I’m not fucking around with you.”
Roddy [00:23:13] Exactly that. Bruce would say he’s got a really strong code of honor. He would never talk about anybody else, he would never grass.
Yeardley [00:23:23] Is that grass like green grass?
Roddy [00:23:25] A grass, an informant. I don’t know where it comes from but to grass, or to grass up.
Yeardley [00:23:31] What a great phrase.
Roddy [00:23:34] Brucehad a persona in which many of us would find some fairly admirable traits.
Yeardley [00:23:41] It is sort of a selective code of honor, though.
Roddy [00:23:44] Oh, yeah, very much. He’s not a bad guy, I quite like him, but you don’t cross him. Other people might say, “Well, I would this. I would do that.” He does it.
Roddy [00:23:56] Bruce means what he says. If you don’t pay his bill, someone’s (unintelligible) it.
Yeardley [00:24:01] Look out.
Roddy [00:24:01] Exactly. After a long investigation, about eight months to a year, we started to make plans to arrest Bruce. We had really restricted powers around about that and we consulted with what we call our procurator fiscal, who is the prosecutor, so equivalent in America would be the DA, so it’ll be exactly the same, a district attorney. We investigate on the behalf of the procurator fiscal, but the decision to charge is entirely down to the senior investigating officer, who would be me. All Bruce’s friends suggest, “Bruce will never speak. Bruce is a hard guy, he will never speak to the police. There’s no point getting him in.” Which of course, you hear a lot, there’s no point in getting him and he never speaks, or my other favorite, “There’s no point in searching his house, he never takes anything home.” Both complete nonsense, of course, but there you go, but that’s a couple of my favorite tropes.
[00:24:58] We detained Bruce and brought him in. He was interviewed first about the car. He sat with his arms folded and said not a solitary word. While we had Bruce in custody, we also started to detain his associates. We’re a big team in this, wee had maybe upwards of 40, 50, detectives, a search team, dogs, we had a press strategy, we had a communication strategy, the whole shooting shebang. We understood exactly what we were going to do, because we had made not an unreasonable assumption that Bruce wasn’t going to speak to us, he wasn’t going to tell us that he had murdered Stuart. But our plan was that once we had to release Bruce, we would have a surveillance operation in place, we would use the press to dial up the pressure on mostly his associates rather than him.
Dave [00:25:49] Once he’s released, you’re aware that the network is now going to reach out to each other, they go, “Do you get brought in too?” “Yeah.” “You?” “Yeah.” “Hey, everybody got brought in. Well, what did you tell them?” Then they start turning on each other and not trusting each other. Some of these guys who are maybe the weaker link in these networks will say, “They’re going to find out anyway, I’m going to get my deal before anybody else does.”
Roddy [00:26:12] Exactly that. It’s the same old stuff, no matter where you are, this is about people and people cannot keep their big trap shut. We gather bits and pieces that supported some of the statements that we already heard from Bruce’s associates, including the person whose car that had been burned. We got to the point where we had enough evidence to charge Bruce and arrest him for stealing the car and the fraud. Because we got him arrested, we then had the rest of the weekend to interview, and he was interviewed on the Saturday about the shooting. By that time, Bruce had started to talk a bit about the shotgun because he knew he was done for that. We appealed again to his code of honors and we don’t want to (unintelligible), we need to get back.
Bruce, after the shooting, he’d been on a stolen motorbike. He had ridden away, come up to his home village and had gone down a particular road, because he knew there was a dip in the road to hide from the police, and it was the road to my house. I live in an old converted farm, and it’s on the end of a dirt road, and there’s a big dip where a pipe runs under the road, and that was where the shotgun was, about 200 yards from my house. It’s wrapped in a seed bag, so the same hessian bags that we recall from the attic, are wrapping the shotgun.
Dan [00:27:34] The intelligence was that he was digging around in the rafters of the shed.
Roddy [00:27:44] Yeah. We’re pretty convinced that the shotgun was there at one point, but then of course, he’d taken out with him to shooting the roof, and then brought out to my house to hide it.
Dan [00:27:53] Did he know that you live just a few hundred meters away?
Roddy [00:27:56] Possibly, yeah. I’m pretty sure he actually did some work in my house at one time, (unintelligible) around the back of our house, I’m pretty sure he did, although we never discussed it, because obviously I was relatively well known and people would say, “That’s Roddy that stays here, he’s a cop,” as people do, but I don’t think it would have occurred to him where he was hiding the gun.
Dave [00:28:15] Did you pay the bill on time?
Roddy [00:28:17] Yeah, I paid the bill on time.
Roddy [00:28:20] I always make a point that I pay my bills on time, because you never know, Bruce may be (unintelligible) someplace. We then moved on to the murder. He went back to arms crossed, silence, not a word, wouldn’t speak, nothing.
Yeardley [00:28:55] Hey, Nick Smitty.
Nick [00:28:56] Hey, Yeardley.
Yeardley [00:28:57] Listen, I want to talk about Best Fiends!
Nick [00:28:59] Wow, Best Fiends, I know you love that game.
Yeardley [00:29:02] I do. Best Fiends is like a spa day for my brain, like when I rollerblade around the block. That’s right, I said rollerblades. Here’s the premise of the game. The bugs defeat the slugs and the bugs have all kinds of outfits and gear and they dance. The slugs, they don’t really have any outfit, sometimes a hat, sometimes glasses, or they have a clear little bubble over them. The slugs didn’t get all the gear.
Nick [00:29:27] Do they eventually get gear?
Yeardley [00:29:28] They never get gear.
Nick [00:29:29] But the bugs do, and they have gotten new gear since the last time we’ve talked?
Yeardley [00:29:34] I have new bugs and I have more gear, and Best Fiends updates the game every week. So, you’re on this journey, you’re going through this land, and I’m not sure you ever get to the end of the land.
Nick [00:29:45] Wow, so you can play forever.
Yeardley [00:29:47] Forever, and without Wi-Fi. You could play in a tunnel, in a cave, in a submarine.
Nick [00:29:53] Do you have a submarine I don’t know about?
Yeardley [00:29:55] I do not, but just in case.
Nick [00:29:57] Small Town Fam, if you’re looking for casual match three puzzle game, download the five-star rated puzzle game, Best Fiends, for free today on the App Store or Google Play. That’s friends without the R. Best Fiends.
Yeardley [00:30:12] Do it!
Roddy [00:30:39] Bruce is just silent. By this time, it’s statements very late on a Sunday night. It’s quite a long interview, but you could tell within the interview that he was starting to feel something. There’s a change occurring. He was starting to listen. He was starting to hear what the investigators were saying. He was potentially starting to empathize a little with them. I’m also a great believer in confession being good for the soul. He’s been carrying this about for a long, long time and this is a burden. He asked for a break for something to eat– the two detectives who were interviewing him went and brought something to eat and they sat down, and whilst they were outside, he told them I want to talk about it. They went straight back into the interview room. He said, “Bruce, you said to us when we were outside that you wanted to tell something, do you want to talk about it?” He just broke down and admitted that he and Stuart in 1999 had been involved in crime and they had stolen some computers from a small warehouse, and Stuart had put pressure on Bruce to find a buyer for the computers. Bruce said he couldn’t do that. He had found buyers for lot of the tools had been stealing, but this was completely different. I mean, at that time, he didn’t know anybody that wanted a computer.
Yeardley [00:32:09] (laughs)
Roddy [00:32:10] Then Bruce said, that Stuart had threatened Bruce’s child. Stuart said, “You’re a father, you go be careful. You’ve got a wife, and a nice kid there.” According to Bruce, he lost it and he ended up fighting was Stuart in the back garden of the house in a village called Adel in a long fertile valley, a lot of farmland. According to Bruce, he found a metal bar and he beat Stuart to death with it in a rage. What Bruce tells us is he kills Stuart, he panics, as you might, and he gets the body, he puts it into the back of his car, and he drives down to a secluded area about a few miles from the village that he knows relatively well and he buries him in the field, near to an electricity pylon. He set fire the computers in a certain place and he set fire to Stuart’s motorcycle leathers, which are also missing. He starts to gather himself again, having broken down. We say, “Right. You’re going to take us to where Stuart’s buried.” Bruce says, “Yep.”
[00:33:25] It’s getting dark by this time. We take him down near this village of Adel, and he points out just inside a field gate beside an electricity pylon where he says, “That’s exactly where I buried him.” We say, “Well, how do you know that was where you buried him?” He says, “Because a few months ago I came along this road– I haven’t been along this road for many years, I came along, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, that’s where I buried Stuart.’” He’s absolutely positive. He’s convinced that’s where it is. We’re pretty pleased with this. The next day, there we go with the full forensic tents and (unintelligible). It’s huge. I mean, it’s huge. It’s covered in roads. It’s covered in farmland. That farmland is really heavy clay, very productive, very fertile, tough digging. We’ve got site managers, we’ve got crime managers, we’ve got forensic managers on site. We’ve got all the right things there. It’s all been done properly. We start to dig. We did and we dig and we dig. After three days, we’re saying, “Hmm. This isn’t really looking terribly good because we’ve now created something that looks about like the Somme battlefield down there.”
Roddy [00:34:37] We had dogs, we had cadaver dogs, and we had these poor fellows with the cadaver dogs because it’s right at the limit, so they’re capability– seven years is a long time after an interment to be able to recover with cadaver dogs. These guys really did everything they could, their hands were bleeding, they penetrated the ground with a spike, just hard clay ground, to let the odor out and that’s (unintelligible) the dogs. This is brutal work and they are there for days and weeks. Then, it’s not there. We started to then investigate some of the other things Bruce had said about the burning of the computers and burning Stuart’s motorcycle leathers. We start thinking, he’s not telling us the truth. He’s felt the pressure, he needed to admit, he needed to get it off his chest, but there’s some things he’s still not telling us the truth about. Then, that starts to cast a doubt on the statement about this is where the body is. Then we need to start looking at the things he said, and how to support them, because effectively what we have is pretty thin without the admission, it’s pretty thin.
Dave [00:35:46] This is why you can confess to murdering somebody, that confession means nothing if I can’t corroborate it with outside evidence.
Roddy [00:35:53] Yeah, exactly that. We had good evidence, he’s the last person to see him alive. We have the account of what’s happened. We’ve got a case, but we need the body. We dug for a year looking for this body.
Yeardley [00:36:07] [gasps] Really?
Roddy [00:36:09] Yeah. I desperately wanted to get the body back, and not the least of which, for Mrs. T, who’s stuck with us for all these years so she can bury her son, we need to get the job done right for Mrs. T and for Stuart. Whether he was a petty criminal or not, he didn’t deserve to have his brains beaten out in his back garden. The thing is just a tragedy all round. The number of lives that have been ruined by this case is huge.
Dan [00:36:39] In the meantime here, has Bruce been charged?
Roddy [00:36:41] Yep. We charged him with murder, and it’s going through the process. You know what, he feels a lot better. It’s the weight off his shoulders, and he is remanded in custody. He goes to prison, just awaiting trial, where he is a model prisoner. It’s clear from him that he’s quite happy to help us, so he comes out to help us find the body, and he takes us to exactly the same place and says, “It’s definitely there.”
Dan [00:37:05] Does he seem frustrated that you guys aren’t having any search results?
Roddy [00:37:09] Oh, yeah, he thinks we’re idiots.
Dan [00:37:11] (laughs) “I’m telling you guys, it’s right here.”
Roddy [00:37:12] “It’s right here. How can you not be finding it? You must be idiots. Give me the digger, I’ll get one, I’ll find it for you.”
Roddy [00:37:19] He’s explaining how, “It’ll be at depth. It’ll be at depth,” because he knows all about digging. Well, we couldn’t know that, Bruce.
Yeardley [00:37:26] (laughs)
Roddy: We said, “How far down could he possibly dig?” We get down six, eight feet. No, not in this, it can’t be any deeper. In the actual place he points, we go down to an extraordinary depth to satisfy ourselves that it’s definitely not there. We keep working at it and we start bringing experts because that’s what we do when we’re stuck, we bring in experts. We bring in an expert, their specialty is search. That’s all they do. The real experts, they say, “Probably where the pylon on is, that’s an anchor point. He’s probably got the wrong pylon.” And we look across this area, and there’s dozens of them.
Yeardley [00:38:06] Ah, God!
Roddy [00:38:07] Stretching up and down, and across all over the place. You can imagine, with the same as any U-shaped valley with lots of settlements in it that you would have with all these pylons. We start to profile the pylons. Of course, you’re not taking pylons in the middle of nowhere, they’ve got to be close to a field entrance. They’ve got to be close to a road, so we end up with half a dozen eight pylons and we dig some and we find some sheep bones, but no body, none. It goes on for years. An excellent guy, I’m going to give his name, his name was Alan Wilkie. He led the search team and he became known as a Digger Wilkie. He spent so much time down there but he did it without complaining and with a huge commitment and enormous compassion for Mrs. T, who was very often to be found watching. Every time we failed, we came back and we developed a new strategy. We worked out potential reasons for why things could be where they were. It suddenly struck me that this advice we got from the search people was based on finding arms dumps in Northern Ireland. A lot of their search philosophy and their processes came from there.
Yeardley [00:39:21] Like arms dumps that would have belonged to the IRA back in the 60s, 70s, 80s?
Roddy [00:39:26] Exactly. Of course, when they were burying arms, they were burying in them with a view of finding them again. They weren’t some panicky guy in the middle of the night in the washing rain as it was that night try to bury his mate who’s just murdered. Bruce never wants to come back to it. He’s just trying to conceal his crime. He doesn’t want to come back to it. So, this whole concept of the anchor point is completely irrelevant to what we are talking about. I know it’s a massive lesson as well about experts. Just because somebody is an expert, doesn’t make them right. You need to consider what’s the question you’re asking them, and we’ve been asking them the wrong question. We went back and asked them the right question, they said, “Well, I don’t know. It could be any place.”
Yeardley [00:40:09] Oh, my God! You must have been so frustrated.
Dave [00:40:13] Right. Like, “I don’t ever want to find this body again. I’m not going to put in a place where somebody else can.”
Roddy [00:40:18] Exactly. Bruce goes to court, he doesn’t retract the statement, his code of honor. He says, “Yep, I did it. I killed Stuart. I deserve to be punished.” He tells a story. He’s convicted, because the only real evidence we have because we’ve no body, is his confession, because he claims it was self-defense, he gets 10 years. He’s already serving a sentence by this time for this shooting. He gets 10 years, which is concurrent with the sentence that he’s already serving. I know in the US, if you get another sentence, it goes end and end and end, it’s consecutive but quite often those are concurrent, so they happen at the same time. We don’t incarcerate for the length of time that you guys do. I said to Alan Wilkie, “One day, Alan, I’ll be sitting whatever I’m sitting, and the phone will ring and it will come up ‘Alan Wilkie’ and you’ll say, ‘Boss, we found him.’” One day, just before Bruce gets out, Alan Wilkie’s name came up on my phone. I was lying in bed, I was so ill, Alan Wilkie comes up, “Boss, I found him. We finally find body of Stuart.” What a feeling.
Yeardley [00:41:50] Hey, Producer Nick.
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Yeardley [00:43:24] Ah, a good one! (giggles)
Nick [00:43:26] Ah, no!
Roddy [00:43:56] We find Stuart hundreds of meters away from the pinpointed spot.
Dave [00:44:02] How deep was Stuart down?
Roddy [00:44:03] Just three, four feet down, what you would expect to be able to dig. But in the interim period, there’s lots of scrub, trees had grown up, the whole topography of the area had completely changed.
Dave [00:44:17] The condition of the body, I’m guessing he’s severely decomposed. Are the injuries on the body consistent?
Roddy [00:44:24] Well, effectively we’re talking big bones. The skull injuries are consistent with the weapon as described, which we never recovered.
Dave [00:44:33] This is right at the end of Bruce’s sentence for what he’s done and now they’ve discovered the body, I’m guessing you can’t retry him if they’ve got new evidence on that body that is contrary to what he’s already pled to.
Roddy [00:44:45] No, you couldn’t, because he’s been convicted. If he’d been found not guilty, then if there’s compelling new evidence, you can retry somebody. In a double jeopardy, you can retry somebody, but it has to be really compelling new evidence of somebody who’s been found not guilty. Bruce is out relatively soon after that and is released on license.
Yeardley [00:45:08] Is that like parole?
Roddy [00:45:09] Yeah, just exactly like that. He was always going to behave himself. He goes back into his business and he continues to run a very successful one-man business doing drainage here in Perth.
Yeardley [00:45:19] Does he still do the petty crimes and things?
Roddy [00:45:22] No so far as I’m aware, I would be extraordinarily surprised if he did.
Dave [00:45:28] Does Mrs. T ever come across Bruce?
Roddy [00:45:31] No. She has a less charitable view of him than I do.
Dave [00:45:36] I imagine.
Roddy [00:45:37] I don’t know, she would maybe dispute this. I don’t get the impression that she hates him. I don’t know why that is. It’s odd. She hated the police. I don’t know whether that replaced it. I continued to see her for years after that. At one point, she was delighted that Stuart’s body had been finally recovered, and delight is not the right word. I don’t know exactly what the word is. Not exactly relieved and it’s not delighted, it’s not pleased. Some emotion, I can’t quite put my finger on. Triumphant maybe?
Dan [00:46:12] Yeah.
Roddy [00:46:12] Then that was grand. She went and put some flowers on the grave and she spoke to the press articulately about her pain and how awful it had been for her. She held a memorial service at one time. I was invited to the memorial service. We had a really, really good relationship by that time, and everything was going fine. Then, she decided that the person we’d recovered wasn’t Stuart, and nothing would or has convinced her since that it is.
Dave [00:46:49] Is that like a sense of hope that her son is still out there alive? He’s just– they don’t know where he is.
Roddy [00:46:56] I don’t know. There was no apparent changed her demeanor. Mrs. T was still mad, and she just said, “It’s not him.”
Dan [00:47:04] Earlier you mentioned that she is part of a church of spiritualism, and that she has visions. I wonder if that maybe plays into it, that maybe in one of her dreams, she saw that her son is still alive somewhere. The inner negotiation, the bargaining that you have with yourself when you’re trying to get over denial, and really accept that something horrible happened to you, maybe she’s just not through that yet.
Roddy [00:47:31] I honestly don’t know. I can’t ask her about it because that question is from my premise, not from her. I’m not sure whether it’s a sad thing or not. I don’t know. It’s just how she feels, how she reacted. What I am convinced of is that everybody reacts differently. There’s not really a wrong or a right answer to this. I spent some time trying to convince her that we were right. Science was right. This was Stuart. Then I realized why does it matter? The laws accepted that is Stuart. Why does it matter whether Mrs. T feels that way or not? Who am I to tell her how to feel about this?
Dave [00:48:28] She doesn’t believe the DNA and all that?
Roddy [00:48:31] No. She’s a remarkable woman. I’ve got an enormous affection for her, and you can’t impose your belief structures on what she thinks and what she believes. She’s got an extraordinary sense of right and wrong as well. It’s interesting there are two people in the same investigation with this really powerful sense of right and wrong. It’s just a fascinating study of human nature, and how we all are. I think probably if we looked into our own characters, all these manifestations of human nature, we all have them, just to a larger or lesser extent. When you do that, it becomes, I think, not so difficult to understand why they can become magnified by trauma, magnified by grief, magnified by experience. So, who am I? It’s frustrating for us, but well, I’ve been frustrated before.
Yeardley [00:49:34] Did Stuart have a wife and children or a family?
Roddy [00:49:38] Stuart didn’t. No. He wasn’t married, he didn’t have a family. It was just Mrs. T advocating for him, which she did, I would say went above and beyond, I suppose. We would all like to think, we would all do it. But would we for that long, with that determination? I don’t know. She’s an extraordinary woman.
Dan [00:49:59] I like Bruce’s wife who when they get in a little argument, and she’s like, “You know what? When we get back home, I’m going to let somebody know a little something about you.”
Roddy [00:50:08] Yeah. I think if she’d had her time again, she wouldn’t have said anything.
Dave [00:50:13] Probably. That’s that luck that you needed.
Roddy [00:50:15] Yeah, it’s just luck. 1% inspiration or luck, and 99% perspiration and just keep grinding away, and work and work and work until the luck runs out, which would probably be when we didn’t find the body.
Roddy [00:50:31] Then years of more perspiration, not by me, I just think about it and I set a strategy, but by excellent people that were digging up and doing that work. I suppose that’s the big thing for me is that when you look at the number of people that were involved in that investigation, the number of skills, of really skilled people, and lots of people who because we were a relatively small department who we brought in, who weren’t skilled detectives, who can you give us– I look at some of those young people who came into that investigation and worked with proper grizzled detectives of both sexes, and who brought them on and developed them under their wing and they learned their craft, their skill, whatever you call it, as detectives there, who have gone on to have a long careers as investigators themselves, makes me quite proud.
Dave [00:51:21] Those are cases where you’re like, “I’m going to watch these old guys and see how they do this, because someday, I’m going to be maybe in charge of this. I need to know.”
Roddy [00:51:29] Yeah. If you’re a young beat cop, who did that investigation, because you were the first person that passed your inspector’s door and said, “Oi, hey, you’re going to tail the CID with this nonsense that Roddy’s got going.” What an opportunity it was for them. You cannot buy that kind of experience either as a senior investigating officer or as a young cop. Within the period of that investigation, there was so much else going on as well. There are so many offshoots to that investigation, other crimes that were uncovered, and police officers that got themselves in trouble, they just went on and on and on. You couldn’t make it up. It was extraordinary.
Dan [00:52:11] What really strikes me is, all these dominoes started to fall. Roddy gets called into your supervisor’s office. He says, “Hey, this woman keeps complaining, I need you to take care of this.” You make contact with her. She tells you her grievances about the police department and that her son has been missing and that the police department hasn’t done anything. And within a couple days, this woman comes forward and says, “I think my husband killed this man.” I’m really struck by how all those things happened in such a short period of time after nothing happened previously.
Roddy [00:52:11] It’s extraordinary, isn’t it?
Yeardley and Dan: It is. It really is.
Dan [00:52:50] It makes you think that there’s something else going on out there.
Yeardley [00:52:52] Exactly, a force bigger than us at work.
Dan [00:52:54] Absolutely.
Roddy [00:52:56] Well, Mrs. T would heartily concur with your assessment. She completely believes that that is the case. She had moments of real clarity. I think what she has is extraordinarily good instinct. Once she came to me well into that investigation, and she said to me, “I know he was killed at Dunkeld just to north of where we are. He was definitely killed at Dunkeld.” She pulled a photograph out, she was very fond of taking photographs of things, this wasn’t on our phone, this was proper photograph. She pulls a photograph out of her pocket, and she says, “That’s got something to do with it.” It was a photograph of the burned-out car where she didn’t know anything about that, because we didn’t tell her anything about the investigation. That burned-out car was at Dunkeld, so that (unintelligible) a chill down my spine.
Dan [00:53:52] Absolutely.
Yeardley [00:53:53] Holy shit!
Roddy [00:53:55] She was right. I’ll have to say she was massively wrong about hundreds of other things, but every so often– so there you go. I’ve still got a big bow full of crystals she gave me. Crystals, I’ve got a big bowl in my kitchen, to keep me fat and healthy and on the job and protect me. I keep them just to hedge my bets.
Dan: Don’t blame you at all.
Yeardley [00:54:15] I think it’s smart. (laughs) Thank you so much. This is absolutely fascinating. We are beyond thrilled to have you on the podcast.
Roddy [00:54:24] It’s been a complete joy. I really (unintelligible) old detectives droning on about their old cases. It’s been an absolute delight. I’ve really enjoyed myself and it’s been so nice to meet y’all. I’ve never been a great one for this International Brotherhood of the Police malarkey, you know that folks talk about.
Roddy [00:54:42] One thing I have learned over the years is that whenever I’ve met with detectives from other jurisdictions, other countries, they tend to focus on the difference, and I had the privilege for a wee while of going to Interpol in Léon in France. I ended up going there quite often and you would end up in the company of detectives from all over the world, and people from the FBI, and later on when you are finished having the excruciatingly tedious meetings that they used to host, and you’re going for a pint, and you will sit there and have a drink and have a chat with folk, detectives are the same everywhere. The jurisdiction may be different, but I really think, the processes, how they react to criminality and investigation, there’s no difference. Guys from South Africa, from Lebanon, from China, from wherever, because it’s all about human nature. There’s a great comfort in that, I think.
Yeardley [00:55:37] I love that.
Dave [00:55:38] Absolutely.
Dan [00:55:39] Thank you, Roddy. That was a fascinating case. Thank you.
Dave [00:55:43] Appreciate your time, of course, I’m not sure what time it is out there in Scotland, but appreciate you giving us this case that had some twists and turns I didn’t anticipate.
Yeardley [00:55:53] Which is saying a lot because these guys, as you say, you all think in a sort of similar way.
Roddy [00:55:59] Well, I didn’t anticipate the twists and turns either. Might have been bad if I had.
Yeardley [00:56:11] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cown. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan [00:56:41] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com.
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Yeardley [00:57:25] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dave [00:57:31] -in search of the finest-
Dave [00:57:33] -rare true crime cases told-
Dan [00:57:35] -as always by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave [00:57:39] Thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley [00:57:41] Nobody’s better than you.