Peter Manuel – 1956-1958

By | January 3, 2017

“Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly”


Serial killer Peter Manuel


Born in Manhattan, USA on 1 March 1927, Peter Manuel was a petty criminal who evolved into a serial killer before ending his life at the end of a rope at the age of 31. The family moved to Coventry, England in 1932 and then to Birkenshaw in Lanarkshire. Peter, the middle child, was soon in trouble. By the age of ten, he was known to police as a petty thief. The following year, he was put on probation for burgling a shop. He soon began to specialize in burglary and ended up in borstal.

Freed, he took to roaming the fields where he stabbed any animal unfortunate enough to cross his path. After puberty, he began assaulting girls but was not arrested. He broke into a house and pulled down a woman’s knickers before attacking her with a hammer. He committed the same outrage on a pregnant woman but did not rape her, either. Caught, he was sentenced to nine years in Peterhead Prison.

On 1 January 1956 he killed 17-year-old Anne Kneilands and left her half-naked body on a golf course in East Kilbride, Scotland. Eight months later on 17 September Manuel broke into the Watt household at 5 Fennsbank Avenue, Burnside, Rutherglen. He shot in the head disabled Marion Watt, 45, her 16-year-old daughter Vivienne and her aunt Margaret Brown, 41, and then helped himself to some food before leaving.

Marion’s husband, William, was charged with the murders and remanded at Barlinnie jail. Meantime, Manuel was imprisoned in the same jail for robbing a colliery and he wrote to Mr Watt’s lawyer telling him that another prisoner had confessed to the murders. When he revealed that each woman had been shot twice — information not released to the public — William Watt was released. Manuel gained his freedom in November 1957.

On 28 December he murdered 17-year-old Isabelle Cooke on her way home to Carrick Drive, Mount Vernon, Glasgow. Just over a week later, on 6 January 1958, he broke into the home of Peter Smart at 38 Sheepburn Road, Uddingston. He shot Mr Smart, his wife, Doris, and their 11-year old son, Michael. Mrs Smart’s clothes had been disturbed but she had not been sexually assaulted. Downstairs, Manuel helped himself to some food and fed the family cat. It was the local villains and landlords who turned Manuel in, disgusted by his actions.


Glasgow, Scotland




When the police arrested Manuel on 13 January 1958 he blamed another villain but confessed when his parents were brought to see him. On 12 May 1958 Manuel appeared at the North Court in Glasgow. The trial lasted 12 days and Manuel conducted his own defence. When the judge Lord Cameron summed up, he instructed the jury to find Manuel not guilty of the murder of Anne Kneilands and then praised Manuel’s defence as “quite remarkable”.

The jury returned with seven guilty verdicts and Manuel was sentenced to death. As he awaited his execution, Manuel confessed to another nine murders and then swallowed disinfectant in a failed suicide bid. On 11 July he was hanged. His last words were: “Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly.”


Manuel told police that he had thrown his guns — a Webley revolver and a Beretta automatic — into the River Clyde. The police used divers for the first time to retrieve the weapons.

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