The quest to bring a monster to justice

In Plain Sight star Douglas Henshall as Sergeant William Muncie. (C) ITV Plc.
In Plain Sight star Douglas Henshall as Sergeant William Muncie. (C) ITV Plc.

The true story of the quest to bring Birkenshaw serial killer Peter Manuel to justice starts on STV tomorrow (Wednesday).

The three-part mini-series In Plain Sight stars Martin Compston as Manuel, with Douglas Henshall as Sergeant William Muncie, the man who would finally capture the ‘Beast of Birkenshaw’.

In 1956 American-born Manuel embarked on a killing spree, claiming an estimated nine lives, seven of which he was convicted for, before being apprehended in January 1958 and hanged that July.

Mr Henshall wasn’t born until years after Manuel was already dead, but was familiar with the case before taking on the role.

He said: “I mainly knew about it through my mum because she was about 17, 18, when Peter Manuel was notorious. My mum died a good while ago, but I remember her talking about how nervous and frightened people were.

“We’re from Barrhead which is not that far from Birkenshaw and Uddingston, but it’s far enough to be able to realise that my mum and her friends probably weren’t in any danger at all. But it proves the way fear reaches out.

“I read William Muncie’s book The Crime Pond and I’ve dipped into that every now and again. He was quite progressive in so far as he looked towards America for new ways of working. He was always looking for new ways to be able to do things and catch people. I think the notion of a serial killer first came from America and Peter Manuel was the first person to have that label attached to him in Scotland. The job seems to have been a vocation for Muncie.

“It’s really shocking what Manuel did. I do wonder if there wasn’t a side of him that actually wanted to get caught. Or that he always knew he was going to be caught, but he wanted to see how much he could get away with.”