Gordon Dunbar, 1992

Law, December 1992

A young woman was walking her father’s police dog on the morning of December 30th, 1992 by the Law when she made a horrifying discovery. Lying in the underbrush was a severed arm. Alarmed, she rushed home to notify her father, who reported the grim find. A further search of the area uncovered numerous plastic bags, each containing body parts. A public appeal led to information relating to a man’s disappearance, noted due to his absence from his family’s Christmas dinner. That man was Gordon Dunbar, 52. Identification of Dunbar was restrictive due to the fact that, despite his body parts being scattered all over the Law, his head was never recovered. Forensic analysis and tell-tale scarring were the only means of identifying Dunbar as the tragic victim.

As the search for Dunbar’s killer intensified, it became clear that Dunbar was last seen on Christmas Eve. With the knowledge that he was to attend the family dinner the following day, but never made it, it is assumed he was murdered either on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, with the former being the preferred assumption. With no evidence forthcoming about the murder, Police were given a breakthrough when a tip-off led them to investigate a man called Alastair Thompson. Whilst searching Mr Thompson’s belongings, they came across a key to a flat on the 9th floor of Butterburn Court, a multi-storey apartment block within a moderate walk from the crime scene. Evidence in the flat linked Dunbar’s murder to this property, such as the plastic bags used to wrap the body parts and the remnants of stickers that were on the bags found on the Law. In addition to this was the startling and grim discovery of a blood-drenched saw and human tissue matter which DNA analysis matched to Dunbar.

Thompson’s violent and disturbing history included the murder of his own grandmother, for which he had been sentenced to life for in 1968 – later to be released in 1984, having served 16 years. He moved around the country before settling in Dundee shortly before he murdered Dunbar. It is believed that Thompson lured Dunbar to the flat in Butterburn Court under the pretence of sexual dalliance before he attacked him. What is evident, however, is that Dunbar suffered a horrific death before his body was cut into pieces in the bathroom with a hacksaw before being placed into plastic bags and strewn over the law. It is not noted anywhere whether or not this murder was a homophobic attack or whether it was motivated by the need to kill, a need for money, or just a quarrel that got out of hand. Thompson was not an openly gay man, although Dunbar was, however, news of Thompson’s apparent bisexuality spread as his story exploded in the media. Indeed, it later transpired that Thompson gifted a gold chain to his girlfriend – the same chain worn by Dunbar at the time of his murder.

Edinburgh’s High Court head the case against Thompson in the year preceding the murder. His defence was that he did not actually perform the murder/robbery of Dunbar, but had merely disposed of the bodies for who he described were “Glasgow heavies”. These so-called “heavies” were never identified, and, as the only suspect in one of the most brutal and callous murders in Dundee, a jury sentenced him to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment at Perth Prison, where he died in December 2010. Dunbar’s head was never recovered, and Butterburn Court has since been demolished, eradicating forever the scene of the crime.

Read Alexander McGregor’s book “The Law Killers” for the full story, or do a bit of digging for yourself…

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.


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