Following a rough childhood marked by an absent father and a drug-using mother who eventually died from an overdose, Cathy Wilson was on her own at age 16.
Jobless and rudderless, she careened into the arms of a man she met in a biker bar in 1986 in Brighton, about 80 miles south of London. He was 30 years older than her. His name: Peter Tobin. He told her he could get her work at a hotel, a plan that didn’t pan out.
“I was confused,” Wilson told “Living With a Serial Killer,” a new series on Oxygen. She had no other options. They became a couple and a pattern of mental abuse and intimidation soon began, a dynamic a criminologist would describe as coercive control. The relationship became a test of how much Wilson would put up with and how far Tobin would go.
The couple had a son, Daniel, in December 1987. Wilson’s joy of motherhood was tempered, though, by Tobin’s escalating abuse, which soon turned physical. In 1989, he uprooted her and moved her to Scotland, a calculated decision to control and isolate her.
A decade and a half later, Wilson’s marriage to Tobin had been over for years. But her former husband and his terrifying abuse came hurtling back in September 2006 following the disappearance of a young woman in Glasgow, Scotland.
Angelika Kluk, a Polish student who was new to the area and worked in a church, had gone missing. Police spoke with a church handyman who called himself Patrick McLaughlin who worked with her. He had little information to aid the case.
But when police tried to interview McLaughlin again, they found that he had up and left his job and his home. The odd behavior transformed him from a witness to a suspect. They released a photo of McLaughlin to the media in hopes that people would recognize him.
Hundreds of miles away, Wilson immediately did. She informed investigators that the man they were seeking was her ex-husband and that his name was Peter Tobin. The fact that he was going by an alias raised more red flags for detectives.
Investigators returned to the church where Kluk worked. After a more thorough search, they found her body under the church. She had been raped, beaten, and stabbed.
Detective Superintendent David Swindle was struck, he said, by the crime’s “ferocity,” so much so he suspected that Tobin had killed before.
Tobin’s background check revealed that he was a convicted sex offender who violently raped two teenaged girls. He had been released 10 years into a 14-year sentence for that heinous crime.
A special initiative, Operation Anagram, was formed. It turned the investigative procedure upside down — detectives looked for victims, not the killer.
For Operation Anagram to yield results, detectives needed to dive deep into Tobin’s past and discern a detailed timeline of his past comings and goings. They spoke with Margaret Tobin, his first wife, who revealed that she’d been kept prisoner during her marriage. Wilson also talked to investigators and revealed like his first wife, she and Daniel were under lockdown in their own home.
When Wilson told Tobin she wanted a divorce, he threatened to kill the boy if she ever left. Fearing for her and her son’s life if they stayed, Wilson seized an opportunity to flee one day when a door was mistakenly left unlocked. These reports from the past informed detectives as they worked the Kluk case.
On October 1, 2006, police got a tip that Tobin was in a London hospital. Using the name John Kelly, he’d checked in complaining chest pains. Scottish detectives were still awaiting DNA tests to see if Tobin’s genetic material was a match to semen found on Kluk’s body, though. Luckily, they were still able to arrest him for leaving Scotland, which was not in compliance with his terms as a convicted sex offender.
As he was being held, lab tests showed that Tobin’s DNA did indeed match evidence on Kluk’s body. He was charged with her murder and in 2007 sentenced to life in prison. Meanwhile, investigators kept pushing forward on Operation Anagram.
Wilson’s revelations about Tobin helped advance the initiative. She explained that after she’d escaped the home, she allowed Tobin back into her life. In early 1991, she let him have time alone with Daniel. Tobin ended up taking the boy back to Scotland and informed Wilson she wouldn’t see the child again. Desperate to keep her son safe, she returned in 1991 to Bathgate, Scotland, where Tobin punished her by forcing her to have degrading sex while their child watched.
Wilson told detectives the address in Bathgate where this occurred. Following up on her report, they found that not from that address, a 15-year-old girl, Vicky Hamilton, had gone missing around the same time he was there. A search of Tobin’s Bathgate address turned up a knife with skin and blood particles that were found to be a match with Hamilton’s DNA.
Wilson also told investigators about an address in Margate where Tobin lived in 1991. In November 2017, a search of the garden area turned up two bodies: Vicky Hamilton as well as Dinah McNicol, 18, who had also gone missing in 1991.
Although the bodies were on a property where Tobin lived, that fact alone didn’t link him to the women’s remains. So, detectives compared Tobin’s DNA with genetic material on a key piece of evidence in the Hamilton case: her purse which had been found after her disappearance. The results revealed a near DNA match with Tobin, but not a perfect one. It was so close that they tested Daniel’s DNA, which was a match.
“I’ve now accepted that this is the person he is,” Wilson told “Living With a Serial Killer” about her ex-husband. “But revelations keep coming. There’s no end to it.”
Reflecting on Tobin’s slaying of the young murder victims, Wilson described him as “capable of obscene, disgusting, gruesome kinds of acts. He has no remorse in his body at all, not a single bit.”
Wilson is convinced that Tobin doesn’t think about his victims, just himself. “He’s merciless, with no compassion at all,” she said.
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