Someone Knows | The Caroline Glachan Case


(Left: Caroline Glachan. Right: The crime scene where her body was found. Photo credit: heraldscotland.com

Since I started writing about true crime cases, I've always had the Caroline Glachan story in the back of my mind but I didn't want to write about it. I felt a bit strange about covering the case because it happened near to my hometown in Scotland, plus I used to work with her mother Margaret when I was younger.

Before I first moved to England, I remember seeing the posters of Caroline all around town and everyone was still in shock at what had happened to her. Even to this day, nobody has ever forgotten this senseless and horrible murder that happened in Bonhill, Dunbartonshire. 

Caroline went to high school with some of my friends and relatives and nobody could understand why something so horrible could have happened to this young, friendly and bubbly girl.

I used to know the area where she was found very well. A lot of teenagers would go there, even after what had happened to Caroline and I was one of them. I was a silly and naive 15 year old but I thought I would be safe because I was with friends. A lot of young people from where I grew up often had parents who were either alcoholics, in prison or simply didn't care where they were so you would find a lot of young people out at all hours of the night and into the early hours of the morning. Nobody knew any different back then.

I will share more of my thoughts after I've covered Caroline's case because I don't want this post to focus too much on me and my experience. I want to try and tell Carolines' story because I think it's important that people outside of Scotland know what happened to her. I also hope that it helps keep the memory of the case alive in the people who know what happened to Caroline and who was involved but are still keeping quiet.

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Let's begin...

Caroline Glachan was a typical 14 year old girl who would spend her days outside of high school experimenting with makeup, hanging around with her friends, talking about boys and listening to music. When she was born on the 8th of January 1982, she was considered a ''miracle baby''. Her mother, Margaret had been through quite a traumatic time with having had a lot of miscarriages previously. During Margaret's pregnancy, there was a lot of concern that Caroline wouldn't make it so they induced the labour early and thankfully everything turned out well. 

Caroline was born in Ireland and her dad was a soldier. When Margaret had gotten out of the hospital after the birth, she received a standing ovation from her husbands' colleagues and friends. Caroline and Margaret were very close and this would remain the case throughout Carolines' life. She was also very much a Daddys' girl and although she didn't get to see her dad that much, the time she did spend with him, she treasured. 

Unfortunately, Carolines' parents split up and she and Margaret settled in an area of Dunbartonshire, Scotland known as Bonhill. Caroline would keep in contact with her father and would see him whenever he had the free time. Despite the distance between them, Caroline and her father still remained close and had a positive relationship. 

In the Ladyton estate in Bonhill where Caroline and Margaret lived, it had seen better days. I lived in Dumbarton which was near and Dumbarton itself and the surrounding areas (including Bonhill) had suffered massively due to the closing down of the Shipyards and the rise in unemployment. Many families struggled to make ends meet and because of the hardships, a lot of people had turned to alcohol, substance misuse and there was a lot of crime. A lot of buildings around the area were also grey and dilapidated, giving a bit of a gloomy feeling to the place. 

Because of the lack of employment, direction and opportunities, young people in these areas around Dunbartonshire would often have to make their own forms of entertainment in 1996 before the days of social media. Being a teenager myself growing up in these areas, I remember well what it was like and if you had parents who had difficulties with alcohol or weren't fully present in their children's lives, it wasn't an abnormal thing to see young people hanging around the streets and parks at all hours of the night, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. 

Before I go further I just want to explain that having known Margaret for a short time and hearing from people who knew Caroline and Margaret personally, Caroline had a happy home life with her mother and there was no neglect or anything negative going on. Caroline wasn't an angel, she rebelled, would disobey Margaret at times but on the whole, everything at home was fine. 

Caroline attended the Saint Patrick's high school in Dumbarton and was well known amongst her classmates for her bubbly and friendly personality. She seemed to have a lot of female and male friends and there was never any trouble with her in or out of school. She was just a young girl who was making her way in life, growing up and working hard on her schoolwork. 

Like a lot of the young people who lived in the Bonhill area, Caroline would hang around with friends sometimes at the weekends. Another common thing was that a lot of young girls would date older boys. It wasn't unusual to hear or see a 14/15 year old girl dating someone who was 18 or in their early 20s. It's shocking to look back now as I myself dated someone older when I was a teenager growing up in Dunbartonshire, but for some reason back then, we didn't know any better and it was so common for us. When I was 15 I was ''dating'' a 23 year old and to cut a long story short, it was obviously someone who was trying to take advantage of me and my naivety. Luckily I got away from that situation but like I mentioned before, this was seen as an everyday thing. Quick note, off topic. I later read in the local newspaper years later that the older guy that I had gone out with at the age of 15, had been sent to prison for beating up his partner. 

Being a bit of a rebel and maybe wanting to fit in with the crowd, 14 year old Caroline began a relationship with an 18 year old. As you can imagine, Margaret was not happy about this when she found out and I'm sure they had a few arguments over the situation. Caroline was very naive and had a gentle nature plus she was still a child, so it wouldn't have been hard for someone older to have had some hold over her. Not much is known about this relationship with this older boy.

Caroline was very close to her best friend, Joanne and they would spend a lot of time together and have sleep overs at each others houses. On this particular night on the 24th of August 1996, Margaret had planned a night out with friends which was quite rare for her but it was her 40th birthday. Like a lot of parents in the area, they would go out and leave their teenage sons or daughters in the house with a friend to keep them company. Back then, at the age of 14, a lot of parents from the area, considered that age to be old enough to stay in the house by yourself or have a friend stay over whilst they were out. 

Margaret went out with friends that warm Saturday night for a few drinks to celebrate her 40th birthday and Caroline and Joanne stayed in the house, eating snacks and watching movies. At some point during the night, two boys came over to the house and Caroline tried to persuade Joanne to go to Renton with her (which is an area nearby but was known for crime and drug issues, not the kind of place that you would like to walk about on your own during the day, let alone at night). 

Joanne refused to go but Caroline was determined and told Joanne that she was going to pop out for a little while and go and see her boyfriend in Renton. Caroline told Joanne that she would be fine and that she had taken the shortcut there plenty of times before on her own and that it was nothing to worry about, just for Joanne to cover for her if Margaret happened to phone the house at any point. 

(Left: Caroline Glachan and her friend Joanne Menzies captured on CCTV earlier on the night of Caroline's murder. Right: Caroline's mother, Margaret. Photo credit: express.co.uk

Caroline was dressed in a black sweatshirt and jeans as she made her way along Dillichip Loan to the shortcut to Renton towards the towpath and the Black Bridge. She was spotted by a local taxi driver who knew her and Margaret well, he said that he saw her walking alone around 12:15am. He said that he did notice a man some distance behind her who was wearing a green hooded top with sharp facial features. He looked to be around 20 - 25 years of age and was around 5 foot 6 inches tall. 

As the hours passed, Joanne and the two boys were sitting in Carolines' bedroom wondering what was taking so long. Joanne was hoping that Caroline would get back safe and quickly before Margaret got home, she knew Margaret would be mad with the pair of them if she found out that Caroline had sneaked out to Renton to meet that 18 year old guy. As time went on, Joanne and the boys fell asleep and in the morning she was woken up by Margaret. 

Margaret said ''They were all lying in the bed. Nothing was going on, they had just fallen asleep. I realised that I hadn't seen my Caroline so I woke Joanne up. She said she was out but expected her back before now. Caroline was probably too afraid to come home because she would have known that I was back in the house. I fell asleep,''

Joanne tried to smooth things over with Margaret and told her that Caroline had gone to meet a friend, hoping that Margaret wouldn't be that angry but Margaret knew that she was possibly meeting that guy and figured Caroline knew she was in trouble and was taking the time to come home. 

Joanne left the house and thought that Caroline would probably turn up home later on and possibly be grounded. Some time later, there was some commotion with police cars and members of the community scattered around Bonhill. There was word that a girl had been found dead on the waters edge of the River Leven. Everyone was shocked and wondering what could have happened and who it was. Rumours began to circulate that it was Caroline and Joanne began to panic.

She ran to Margaret's house in tears and told her about the girl who had been found and that people were saying it was Caroline. 

''I didn't want to phone the police but as time went on there was no phone call. I called my sister, nothing. They hadn't seen anything. This was Sunday afternoon now and I was getting a bit worried. I called her again. My sister's always the first one to say 'don't worry', but she said to me 'yes, maybe you should call'. At this point I didn't know but a lassie had been found. I put the phone down and started to panic and began to feel a pain in my heart. I sat rocking. I phoned the police, gave a description and they said they would come out. Meanwhile, Joanne came back to the house and asked if Caroline was back yet. She blurted out that a lassie had been found and they think it's Caroline. I told her I would know if anything had happened. The two boys were down the stairs and asked me if I wanted them to go down to Renton to see if she was there. Yes, I said, and tell her to get her backside back up here.''- Margaret, Caroline's mother. 

The police soon arrived at Margaret's house and confirmed her worst fears, that the poor girl who had been found was in fact Caroline. 

Caroline had been beaten and suffered blunt force trauma to her head. There was no signs of robbery or sexual assault. She had been thrown into the water whilst she was still conscious and died from her injuries and drowning. As well as the taxi driver's report that he had seen a young man walking behind Caroline, some witnesses heard screaming coming from the area and one man said that he heard a couple having an argument with a woman shouting ''I didn't say that'' or ''I haven't done that''. 

Over the next few days after Caroline's body had been discovered, the police set out to conduct a thorough investigation and questioned everyone connected to Caroline as well as taking over 1000 statements but they seemed to have hit a brick wall.

Bonhill and the surrounding areas may have been classed as run down but there was still a sense of community which was both a positive and a negative thing. Everyone knew everyone and people would gossip about each others business and the strong feeling was, that somebody in that community had killed Caroline and that some people knew who it was but were afraid to speak up. 

I have seen this attitude myself when I lived near there. There is a tradition of ''keep your mouth shut, you never saw or heard a thing. Don't get involved''. 

As time went on and investigations continued, rumours would go around about who was responsible and fingers pointed to the 18 year old guy but police found no evidence and he had an alibi. Other people were questioned and again, no evidence was found. The police were at a loss and as time went on, rumours continued to swirl around about who was responsible. TV campaigns and posters were everywhere, appealing for information but any leads provided would come to nothing.

It had been 6 months before Caroline was able to have a funeral which caused more pain and suffering for Margaret and her family. 

As years went by, Margaret was offered the chance to move to America for a fresh start but refused to go. She gave up her life to fight for justice for her daughter. Margaret said that she wanted to keep fighting and stay where she was so that the murderer or the people protecting the murderer would have to see her face everyday and see what she was going through. 

Margaret had a lot of support from local people and elsewhere in the UK but there would be times when people would come up to her in the street and tell her that they'd heard that a certain person may have been involved and this would annoy Margaret, her attitude to this was that it was no good them telling her, they needed to pass this information onto the police. 

(A recent photo of Margaret and Caroline's best friend, Joanne. Photo credit: dailyrecord.co.uk

It's been 23 years since Caroline was found murdered and 23 years that Margaret and Carolines' father have had to suffer. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to be disrespectful and I want to honour Margaret's privacy but as she has spoken publicly of her struggles I will mention that Margaret is an amazing woman who went to work everyday and worked her fingers to the bone when I knew her. She didn't talk much about Caroline because it was hard and she had to take so many medications to get through the day. Losing her only daughter took an overwhelming toll on her health. What made things even worse for her over the years was the lack of closure, there's nobody to be held accountable and no justice has been done. Margaret is very suspicious of people that she doesn't know and she has said that there are times when she walks down the street and she will look at someone and think ''Was it you who did it or do you know who did it.'' It is a constant torment. 

During the polices' investigations it was later revealed that Caroline had taken drugs on and off in the lead up to her death and there was an incident several months earlier where she had ran away from home for two days but had returned home after staying at her friends' house. Because of Carolines' rebellious nature at times, her previous attempt at running away and the fact that she would often stay out late at night, meant that the alarm wasn't raised immediately when she failed to return that night. 

The police have continued over the years to appeal for information and offered financial rewards to anyone who has valuable information. They have also stated that anything revealed to them will be kept in the strictest of confidence. During a fresh appeal in 2017, Dept Supt Jim Kerr said ''A large number of the 300 pieces of evidence continue to be carefully examined for traces of DNA, and the painstaking work that the scientists have been carrying out continues. Following our reappeal, we've had calls from as far away as Australia with information, from people who lived in the area of Bonhill and Renton at the time of the murder. Our work over the last year has continued to review the initial investigation and visiting those who were witnesses at the time to take reference samples of DNA. We remain in contact with Caroline's mother Margaret and the support we receive from her and her family during our investigation remains crucial.''

My thoughts...

As I mentioned before, this case is quite close to the bone for me. I still have relatives and friends who live in Dunbartonshire and I often visit there when I can. What happened to Caroline Glachan has never gone away, it's like it just happened yesterday and the fact that nobody has been brought to justice just adds to the pain and the never ending feeling of no closure.

It's been a long time since I saw Margaret as I now live in England but I have seen her on TV during the appeals and documentaries that she has participated in. Margaret remarried and continues to live in the area and has not given up fighting for justice but I know that it has taken such a huge toll on her and it's heartbreaking. 23 years have passed and we seem to be no closer to finding out who did this horrible crime but we mustn't give up hope. Thanks to the amazing techniques that investigators can carry out using DNA, we have had cases that are 30/40 years old and longer, that are finally being solved. 

I wish someone could come forward to give Margaret and her family some healing and closure. To think that the murderer is still out there and people are keeping quiet is horrendous and I don't know how they can live with themselves, how they can look at what Margaret is going through and keep their mouths shut. 


If you are reading this and you happened to be from Bonhill or surrounding areas and you know something or have heard something, no matter how small the piece of information is, please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or email officers through: operationfairing@scotland.pnn.police.uk  

(Margaret at Caroline's graveside. Photo credit; express.co.uk


RIP Caroline. 

What are your thoughts on this case? Let me know in the comments below or come and chat to me elsewhere on social media 

 Thank you for taking the time to read my latest case and for the support as always. See you in my next case x


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5 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about this case. I really feel for Caroline's family. I cant imagine what it must be like to not know who took their daughters life. Hopefully one day the killer will be brought to justice x

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    1. Thanks for reading hun. I really hope so too x

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  2. Curious about the funeral bit...was it a wait because it's so expensive?

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    1. Usually in a murder case like this, investigators take some time to release the victims body to the family if they are still carrying out tests and investigations. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment x

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  3. Did they ever find out who the boyfriend was? I have to wonder if there was some correlation between Caroline's murder and that. It's a shame that her killer has been never been bought to justice.

    Love is Zero

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