Gow’s Gun Shop, City Centre, February 1989

What started out as a disturbing fantasy of kidnap soon turned into bloodshed when two friends got together to put their devilish plans in motion. Ryan Monks and Paul Mill planned to kidnap the eldery mother of a local bakery owner and hold her to ransom for £200,000. Having worked in the bakery, Ryan Monks knew the company was doing well, and enlisted the help of his friend to put his plan into motion. Thankfully, for the baker and his mother, the plot was not carried out, but this was not due to the killers abandoning their plans – instead, events had taken an even more sinister turn during the course of collecting their supplies, resulting in the untimely death of Gordon Johnston.

Johnston, 54, was managing Gow’s gun shop in Union Street when Monks and Mill entered the premises, using what was described as “overwhelming force”. He was brutally murdered; the shop plundered of a variety of weapons, ammunition and cash. Monks and Mills were believed to frequent the shop, so it is likely that Johnston knew his attackers. 48 axe or iron bar wounds were counted on his hacked and lifeless body, found by a policeman after lying dead in the shop all day. The young killers had locked the front door behind them, giving themselves time to escape before the alarm was raised. It is not known if Johnston was alive when they left the crime scene, but his injuries were sufficient to believe that he died at the hands of his attackers.

Monks confessed to his uncle, Lucio Ianetta soon after the murder, asking him to help burn blood stained jeans, trainers and a jacket which Monks had brought to his home in plastic bags. Frightened and confused, Ianetta complied, and threw the clothes into his fire. Giving evidence at the trial, Ianetta told the jury he had helped his nephew buy a set of car license plates days before the murder, unaware of his nephew’s plans at that time. Seemingly unable to cope with the pressure of endless media campaigns and pictures of Gordon Johnston’s face, Monks’ uncle turned his nephew and Mill over to the police. Monks was later reported to have said that his uncle handed them over to the police in order that he could claim the reward for information leading to their apprehension.

Both youths were arrested and the trial took place at Perth Sheriff Court in November 1989, with Lord Mayfield presiding. During the trial, both men blamed each other for the murder, insisting that they were merely the getaway driver, whilst the other was, in fact, the murderer. Detective Sergeant Edward Boyle interviewed Mill after a stash of armaments were found at his home and was initially advised by Mill that he was nowhere near the shop at the time of the murder. When pressed about this, Mill reportedly changed his story and said that he had picked up his friend, Monks that morning and had driven him to the gunshop, where he was complicit, but not a part of, the robbery.

Conversely, Detective Sergeant Eric Drummond told the court that in a tape recorded interview, Monks alleged that he was the driver, and Mill was the one who had carried out the attack. According to Monks’ account, he had stayed in the car for a while before entering the shop to see what was going on. He maintained he spoke briefly to Mill before returning to the car to wait to his return. When Mill reportedly returned to the car, Monks claimed Mill changed his clothing whilst ordering Monks to drive. In reference to the burning of the clothes, Monks stated they belonged to Mill, and he was merely getting rid of them for him.

Danna Henderson, Mills’ girlfriend at the time, told the Court how, months after the incident, Mill confessed to her that Monks had entered the shop with the intention of merely subduing the shop manager in order to steal the items they needed for the kidnap, but everything had “gone wrong”. Monks was alledged to have told Mill that “his head burst open” when Monks hit Johnston during the scuffle. Monks’ wife, Anne, also confessed to knowing about the robbery one week after it happened, but kept the information to herself.

In a trial that lasted 3 weeks, the jury unanimously found both parties guilty of murder. Detailed plans relating to the kidnap attempt, as well as a Postal van robbery were found in the homes of the pair, along with various weapons and objects needed to carry out their scheme. Mill was released in 2002 on licence, whilst Monks was released in 2003.

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