The family of three of serial killer Peter Manuel’s victims have hit out at a documentary saying that key facts on the murders are inaccurate.
Stuart Reid, 77 and his brother David, 84, are furious about the Once Upon A True Crime show – fronted by crime writer Denise Mina – investigating the killing of their aunts Marion Watt, 45, and Margaret Brown, 41, and cousin Vivienne Watt , 16.
Stuart said details in the Crime+ Investigation program are false, including claims the three women – who were Manuel’s first victims – were shot dead in their beds at the house in High Burnside, Lanarkshire.
He said: “Peter Manuel killed my dad’s two sisters and his childhood in 1956. He killed my auntie Marion, my auntie Margaret and my cousin Vivienne who I played with when I was a young boy.
“It was said that my aunts and my cousin died in their beds but I remember the police coming to talk to my dad about the murders. The inspector who came to the house took my dad through it.
“Vivienne was found dead in the hallway. She had been trying to get to the front door to tell people the murders had taken place.
“When the home help arrived that is when Vivienne took her last breath.”
The family also disputes that Manuel, nicknamed “The Beast of Birkenshaw”, thought only Marion was in the house that night and Mina’s assumption that the monster was paid by Marion’s husband, businessman William Watt to kill his wife.
Stuart, from Grangemouth said: “According to Denise Mina, the daughter and my auntie Margaret shouldn’t have been there but Vivienne was staying there permanently and my auntie Margaret had been in the house a week.
“She also says Watt paid Manuel £150 but how does she know that? ”
“This program should not have been made. I’d like to ask how can it be called Once Upon A True Crime if they don’t have their facts right?”
New York-born Manuel killed at least seven people across Lanarkshire between 1956 and 1958.
Disabled Marion and her sister Margaret as well as her daughter Vivienne were shot dead in September 1956.
Manuel was found guilty of seven murders, killing victims with a Webley revolver, a Beretta pistol, an iron bar and by strangulation. He was hung in Barlinnie prison in 1958.
Stuart said his family, especially his late father Robert, had been haunted by the deaths.
He added: “I went in a police car to see the house after the murders. The house in the street where that happened is no longer there. It’s a dual carriageway now but I’ll never forget it until the day I die. What David and I learned when we were told by the police will never go out of our minds.
“There is a plaque on the wall in D Hall inside Barlinnie prison where he was hung. My dad was in the next room as the hanging took place and the person who hung him came in with a certificate to confirm Manuel’s death.”
Crime writer Mina has written a novel about Manuel called The Long Drop and penned the play Driving Manuel.
The episode, which airs on May 9, investigates whether Marion’s husband William was involved.
He was away in Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, when the murders took place. Police initially held Watt as the prime suspect before charging Manuel.
Stuart said: “I’ve got to say my dad always thought Watt had something to do with it because he took the dog away on a fishing trip the night of the murders and it was the first time he’d ever done that. The dog was a pet to help my auntie Marion with her disability.
“We didn’t go to my uncle William Watt’s funeral. None of us went. We just didn’t want to go.”
A spokesperson for program maker IWC said: “Once Upon A True Crime looks at different crimes through the eyes of the crime author who felt inspired to write a book based on that crime, providing an insight for viewers into how fiction can often be inspired by real-life events.
“Mindful the series features real crimes, we have drawn from publicly available records and first-person interviews to ensure we tell the story appropriately.”
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