Recent media interest has centred on the convicted murderer, Peter
Manuel, who was executed in July 1958. Manuel was hanged in Barlinnie
prison in Glasgow almost 50 years ago, following trial and conviction
for the murder of seven people in the West of Scotland.
The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) holds many records about
the Manuel case, in particular the investigation by the police and
his prosecution by the Crown Office, his trial at the High Court
of Justiciary in Glasgow in May 1958 (during which he dismissed
his counsel and conducted his own defence) and Manuel's prison
files. The case serves as a good illustration of how the NAS works
under Freedom of Information legislation to allow public access
to government and court records of serious crimes and criminals,
while protecting the interests of victims of crime under Data Protection
Most of the records relating to Manuel and his crimes have been
open to the public for many years, although a small number remain
exempt or restricted, and are therefore closed to public inspection.
One prison file contains a series of medical and psychiatric reports
into Manuel's mental condition (NAS ref: HH60/703/1). Much speculation
at the time centred on Manuel's state of mind and his fitness to
plead, amid claims that he suffered from a form of epilepsy. Allegations
have since circulated that somehow this was hushed up and that the
authorities were keen to have Manuel hanged, negating any defence
of diminished responsibility. The medical reports confirm Manuel
underwent extensive testing, was considered fit to plead, and was
consequently subject to a sentence of execution. A report dated
20 February 1958, by a Dr John Gaylor, was of the opinion that the
electroencephalogram (E.E.G.) performed on Manuel "does not indicate
any particular pathological state. Such a record as he has shown,
even with the stimulation of hyperventilation, might well be displayed
by a person without any history of epilepsy, amnesia or violent
After his trial, Manuel was held separately in Barlinnie prison
in what was known as the condemned cell. There he was closely monitored
by the prison authorities who kept a 'record of occurrences' (NAS
ref: HH16/295/2). These consisted of a detailed log of his movements
including any visits he received. It was maintained from the date
of sentencing to his final execution on 11 July 1958. The final
log entry reads '8.00 Prisoner executed'.
Records relating to Manuel
To facilitate further research on the Manuel case, we have published
details about the records held in the NAS and their current access
status under either the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
or the Data Protection Act 1998.
a list of Crown Office, High Court of Justiciary and Scottish Government
records relating to Manuel, Acrobat PDF - 80.7MB, opens in new window).
You can read a selection of medical and psychiatric reports from Scottish Government files on the Manuel case by downloading the following PDFs:
Medical report by Dr David Alexander Robertson Anderson, Medical Officer, Barlinnie Prison, 29 Jan 1958.
Psychiatric report by Prof Thomas Ferguson Rodger, 18 Feb 1958
Medical reports by Dr John Baxter Gaylor, 20 Feb 1958 and undated.
Psychiatric report by Dr Hunter Gillies, 26 Mar 1958.
(NAS ref. HH60/703/1 (part 1) Acrobat PDF - 2.16MB, opens in new window)
Medical report by Dr Angus MacNiven, 28 Mar 1958.
Report by [AB Hume] of the Manuel Case and post-trial medical report on Peter Manuel in Barlinnie prison by Dr Anderson, Dr Inch, Prisons' Medical Adviser, and Dr Boyd, Scottish Home Department's Consultant Psychiatrist, 23 Jun 1958.
(NAS ref. HH60/703/1 (part 2) Acrobat PDF - 1.93MB, opens in new window)
First report of Medical Commissioners, HB Craigie and Laura MD Hill, on Peter Manuel, undated. Provides summary of previous medical and psychiatric reports, and account of further examination on 26 Jun 1958.
(NAS ref. HH60/703/1 (part 3) Acrobat PDF - 1.91MB, opens in new window)
Second report of Medical Commissioners on Peter Manuel, undated. Account of examination on 30 Jun 1958.
Report on the mental condition of Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel by Dr Angus MacNiven, 30 Jun 1958.
Submission to the Secretary of State for Scotland, John Maclay, by William Stuart Murrie, Secretary, Scottish Home Department, 2 Jul 1958.
(NAS ref. HH60/703/1 (part 4) Acrobat PDF - 1.51MB, opens in new window)
Other Criminal Cases
NAS also holds Crown Office records, High Court trials and government
files, most of which are open, about people who were convicted of
crimes, including details about people such as Oscar Slater, who
spent 20 years in prison following wrongful conviction for murder
in 1909, the Suffragettes, who during their struggle for women's
suffrage were force-fed while in prison, and the Red Clydesider
John Maclean, who was imprisoned during the First World War for
his outspoken anti-war speeches. We also hold papers about one of
Scotland's most famous safe-crackers and gaolbreakers, John Ramensky,
or 'Gentle Johnny'. Ramensky was an expert at blowing open safes
who won military honours for his services as a commando during the
Second World War.
Read about Gentle
Read the NAS guide to the records of crime and criminals.