Who was detective William Muncie?

DOUGLAS Henshall brings him back to life in the ITV true crime drama In Plain Sight this Monday, 7 June at 9pm.

Best known for bringing serial killer Peter Manuel to justice, who really was detective William Muncie? 

Who was detective William Muncie? 

Born on 11 January, 1915, in Carluke, William is branded one of the most famous officers in the history of Lanarkshire, in Scotland. 

A former grocer’s assistant and, later, a preserve worker in his hometown, he went on to apply to become a police officer for the Lanarkshire Constabulary, at the age of 21. 

Five days after sending his application letter, he was invited to a medical examination, which he passed with flying colours. 

A successful member of the force, he was promoted to Sergeant to Strathaven, where he remained for two years before moving on to Uddingston as an Inspector… where Peter Manuel lived.

Lurking in the shadows before his arrest, the criminal – sentenced to death for murdering eight people – taunted William with hand-delivered letters and birthday cards.

These were sent to the Detective Superintendent’s home, making the policeman fear that his family was in grave danger.  

He was eventually able to bring the Beast of Birkenshaw to conviction in 1958. 

What famous cases did he work on?

William has an impressive record of 54 murders solved under his leadership. 

In 1973, the Detective Chief Superintendent, contributed to the arrest of George Beattie. 

Aged 19 at the time, George was jailed for stabbing 23-year-old typist Margaret McLaughlin in Carluke, Lanarkshire. 

The murder took place on 6 July 1973, when Margaret was on her way to Carluke train station.

She was repeatedly stabbed and George was sent behind bars for 15 years for her murder.

However, in July 2020, Professor David Wilson stated that George could not have committed the crime and issued a plea for “true” justice. 

According to The Daily Record, the 63-year-old criminologist spent two years investigating the case and strongly believes William had “tunnel vision” and was adamant on living up to his reputation. 

“Once Muncie had Beattie in his sights he wasn’t prepared to let him go”, said the academic to the Scotland-based publication. 

“Muncie believed he had psychic powers when it came to solving murders. He would decide which suspect was guilty and then search for the proof to make his case.”

William was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable shortly after George’s conviction. 

Three years later, he retired from the police force and wrote his memoir, The Crime Pond, published in Chambers in 1979. 

A book in which he never mentions Margaret McLaughlin’s murder or George Beattie’s arrest.

Was he married and did he have kids?

Aside from his exemplary behaviour within the police force, part of the source of inspiration for In Plain Sight, William was a devoted family man. 

On 11 March, 1942, he married Agnes Matheson. 

They had two daughters named Jane (1943) and Sandra (1952). 

The happy family was struck with grief when Agnes died in 1974, following a short illness. 

William followed suit in 1988 and is buried at Carstairs Cemetery, in Scotland.

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