Detectives could be just a phone call away from cracking one of Aberdeen’s most notorious murder cases, a senior officer said today.
Dr Brenda Page, 32, was found brutally battered to death in her flat in Allan Street 40 years ago this week.
Police launched an extensive inquiry into the events surrounding the death of the Aberdeen University geneticist – who had a second job as an escort – but were unable to catch her killer.
Brenda’s family were given renewed hope in 2015 when the murder probe was reopened in the belief that advances in crime-solving techniques could help to find answers.
Since then officers covering the case have received 800 separate pieces of information from people connected to the case. They have combined these with previous witness statements and evidence gathered after Brenda’s death in 1978 – and now say the next phone call they get might provide the breakthrough.
Detective Inspector Gary Winter, of Police Scotland’s major investigation team, told the Evening Express: “I am 100% certain there will be people who have information on this investigation that haven’t come forward yet to give us that breakthrough we need.
“It is probably the most infamous unsolved murder in the area and lots of people have lots of stories about it – some which they think police already know, but we may not know.
“My appeal today to new witnesses – specifically people who lived on or near Allan Street and her ex-colleagues from university – is to pick up the phone. That call could crack the case. Her sister Rita is crying out for justice.”
To mark the anniversary, Rita said: “Not a day goes by when we don’t think about Brenda and the horrendous ordeal she must have suffered that night.
“Brenda was an extremely intelligent woman with her whole life ahead of her. It pains us to think of the great things she would undoubtedly have achieved.
“It is important the police and Crown Office have all potential information available to them to bring the person responsible for her death to court. Please come forward if you think you can help.”
In the aftermath of Brenda’s death, police gathered 2,500 witness statements and, when the cold case team reopened the probe in 2015, their first job was to input that data on a computer database.
In that way it can be cross-referenced with new evidence so detectives can spot clues more easily.
Det Insp Winter said people should not assume Brenda’s death was linked to accompanying men for dinner through the Capital Escort agency.
“Most people’s accepted definition of being an escort in 2018 is very different to what it was 40 years ago. Nowadays, if we use that word, people assume the person is involved in the sex industry – that was not the case in 1978.
“It was a means for Brenda to meet people, get companionship and company and go out socialising in an era before the internet, dating websites and apps.
“Escorting was something Brenda spoke about widely with friends and colleagues – it was no secret. People connected to that part of Brenda’s life have spoken to us and what that has unearthed is that it wasn’t a seedy business.”
He added: “What I would say to people is, if you know anything, please don’t sit on it. Get in touch with us on 101.
Last known movements of tragic doctor in historic murder investigation
EARLY JULY 1978: William Austin, boss of the Capital Escort agency, has dinner with Brenda who had a second job with him working as an escort.
Mr Austin would later tell police Brenda seemed on that night to be “frightened” and “concerned about her safety”.
JULY 13: Brenda goes to the Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen to dine with two businessmen in her role as an escort.
JULY 14: Brenda is seen alive for the last time leaving the hotel at 2.30am.
Later that day she fails to show up for work and colleagues express their concern.
A neighbour discovers Brenda’s body at her house in Allan Street.
LATE JULY: Police rule out Mr Austin, the two men Brenda dined with hours before her death and Brenda’s ex-husband Dr Christopher Harrisson, stating they are not suspects.
FEBRUARY 2015: The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, instructs police to examine the murder investigation again and a cold-case review is launched.
2018: Police make renewed appeal for information, hoping the passage of time will lead to key witnesses coming forward.