Prior to his first murder conviction, Tobin served ten years in prison for a double rape committed in 1993, following which he was released in 2004. In 2007, he was sentenced to life with a minimum of 21 years for the rape and murder of Angelika Kluk in Glasgow in 2006. Skeletal remains of a further two young women who went missing in 1991 were subsequently found at his former home in Margate, Kent. Tobin was convicted of the murder of Vicky Hamilton in December 2008, resulting in his minimum sentence being increased to 30 years, and of the murder of Dinah McNicol in December 2009, resulting in a whole life order. Tobin has been labelled a psychopath by a senior psychologist, and by professor of criminology David Wilson, who also wrote a book on the killer connecting him with the Bible John murders of the late 1960s.
Tobin was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, one of eight siblings born to an Irish Catholic family. He had four older sisters and three older brothers. He reportedly joined the French Foreign Legion, but later deserted. He was a difficult child and in 1953, aged seven, he was sent to an approved school. He later served time in a young offender institution, and in 1970 was convicted and imprisoned in England for burglary and forgery.
After a fairly successful spell at Thorn Athletic, Tobin moved to Brighton, Sussex, with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Margaret Louise Robertson Mountney, a clerk and typist, whom he married on 6 August that year. They separated after a year and she divorced him in 1971. In 1973 in Brighton, he married a local nurse, 30-year-old Sylvia Jefferies. The couple had a son and daughter, the latter of whom died soon after birth. This second violent marriage lasted until 1976, when she left with their son. Tobin then had a relationship with Cathy Wilson, who gave birth to a son in December 1987. Tobin married her in Brighton in 1989, when she was 17. In 1990, they moved to Bathgate, West Lothian. Wilson left Tobin in 1990 and moved back to Portsmouth, Hampshire, where she had grown up.
All three wives later gave similar accounts of falling for a charming, well-dressed psychopath who turned violent and displayed a sadistic streak during their marriages. In May 1991, Tobin moved to Margate, Kent, and in 1993, to Havant, Hampshire, to be near his younger son.
On 4 August 1993, Tobin attacked two 14-year-old girls at his flat in Leigh Park, Havant, after they called to visit a neighbour, who was not at home. They called at Tobin's flat and asked if they could wait there.
After holding them at knifepoint and forcing them to drink strong cider and vodka, Tobin sexually assaulted and raped the girls and stabbed one of them whilst his younger son was present. He then turned on the gas taps and left them for dead but both of them survived the attack. To avoid arrest, Tobin went on the run and hid, under a false name, with the Jesus Fellowship, a religious sect, in Coventry. He was later captured in Brighton, after his blue Austin Metro car was found there.
On 18 May 1994, at Winchester Crown Court, Tobin entered a plea of guilty and received a 14-year prison sentence. In 2004, the 58-year-old Tobin was released from prison and returned to Paisley.
In September 2006, Tobin was working as a church handyman at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Anderston, Glasgow. He had assumed the name "Pat McLaughlin" to avoid detection, as he was still on the Violent and Sex Offender Register following his 1994 convictions for rape and assault. An arrest warrant had been issued for him in November 2005 after he moved from Paisley without notifying the police, but he was not discovered until he became a suspect in a murder case at the church. In May 2007, he received a further 30-month sentence for breaching the terms of the register.
Angelika Kluk was a 23-year-old student from Skoczow, near Krakow in Poland. She was staying at the presbytery of St Patrick's Church, where she worked as a cleaner to help finance her Scandinavian Studies course at University of Gdańsk. She was last seen alive in the company of Tobin on 24 September 2006, and is thought to have been attacked by him in the garage attached to St Patrick's presbytery. She was beaten, raped and stabbed and her body was concealed in an underground chamber beneath the floor near the confessional in the church. Forensic evidence suggested that she was still alive when she was placed under the floorboards. Police found her body on 29 September, and Tobin was arrested in London shortly afterwards. He had been admitted to hospital under a false name, and with a fictitious complaint.
A six-week trial resulted from the evidence gathered under the supervision of Detective Superintendent David Swindle of Strathclyde Police and took place at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, between 23 March and 4 May 2007.
The trial judge was Lord Menzies, the prosecution was led by Advocate Depute Dorothy Bain, and the defence by Donald Findlay QC. Tobin denied raping and murdering Kluk and claimed she had consented to have sex with him.
Tobin was found guilty of raping and murdering Kluk and was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 21 years. In sentencing Tobin, Judge Lord Menzies described him as "an evil man".
In June 2007, Tobin's old house in Bathgate, West Lothian was searched in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton, who was last seen on 10 February 1991 as she waited for a bus home to Redding, near Falkirk. Tobin is believed to have left Bathgate for Margate, Kent, England, a few weeks after her disappearance.
On 21 July 2007, Lothian and Borders Police released a statement that they had "arrested, cautioned and charged a male in connection with the matter and a report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal", but did not immediately confirm the identity of the man arrested. The investigation later led to a forensic search of a house in Southsea, Hampshire in early October 2007, where Tobin is believed to have lived shortly after leaving Bathgate.
On 14 November 2007, Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that human remains found in the back garden of 50 Irvine Drive, a house in Margate occupied by Tobin in 1991, were those of Vicky Hamilton.
After a month-long trial, Tobin was convicted of Hamilton's murder on 2 December 2008 at the High Court in Dundee.
Tobin was again defended by Donald Findlay QC and the prosecution was led by the Solicitor General for Scotland, Frank Mulholland QC. The prosecution case went beyond the circumstance of Tobin having lived at the two houses in Bathgate and Margate in 1991, and consisted of eyewitness testimony of suspicious behaviour by Tobin at the Bathgate house, evidence to destroy his alibi, and forensic evidence of DNA and fingerprints left on a dagger found in the Bathgate house, on Hamilton's purse and on the sheeting in which her body was wrapped.
When sentencing Tobin to life imprisonment, the judge said:
You stand convicted of the truly evil abduction and murder of a vulnerable young girl in 1991 and thereafter of attempting to defeat the ends of justice in various ways over an extended period... Yet again you have shown yourself to be unfit to live in a decent society. It is hard for me to convey the loathing and revulsion that ordinary people will feel for what you have done... I fix the minimum period which you must spend in custody at 30 years. Had it been open to me I would have made that period run consecutive to the 21 year custodial period that you are already serving.
On 11 December 2008, Tobin gave formal notice to court officials that he intended to challenge the guilty verdict and overturn the prison sentence imposed on him. Tobin's defence team was not required to describe the grounds for this appeal until a later date in the appeals process. Tobin did not proceed with his appeal, and it was dropped in March 2009.
Dinah McNicol, an 18-year-old sixth former from Tillingham, Essex, was last seen alive on 5 August 1991, hitchhiking home with a male companion from a music festival at Liphook, Hampshire. He was dropped off at Junction 8 of the M25, near Reigate, and she stayed in the car with the driver. She was never seen again.
After her disappearance, regular withdrawals of £250 were made from her building society account at cash machines in the English south coast counties of Hampshire and Sussex, out of character for McNicol, who had told friends and family she intended to use the money in her building society account to travel, or further her education.
In late 2007, Essex Police reopened the investigation into her disappearance, following new leads. On 16 November 2007, a second body was found at 50 Irvine Drive in Margate, later confirmed by police to be that of McNicol.
On 1 September 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service served a summons on Tobin's solicitors, formally accusing him of McNicol's murder, and this trial began in June 2009. The trial was postponed and the jury discharged in July 2009, the judge ruling that Tobin was not fit to stand trial pending surgery.
The case resumed on 14 December 2009 at Chelmsford Crown Court. On 16 December 2009, after the defence had offered no evidence, a jury found Tobin guilty of McNicol's murder after deliberating for less than fifteen minutes and Tobin subsequently received his third life sentence, with a recommendation by the judge that his life sentence should mean life.
Police are now reopening Operation Anagram to trace Tobin's past movements and his possible involvement in a further 13 unsolved murders which includes the three Bible John victims. Tobin is reported to have claimed 48 victims in boasts made in prison.
The conviction of Tobin has led to speculation that he is Bible John. There are similarities between photographs of Tobin from that era and the photofit artist's impression of Bible John, and Tobin had moved from Glasgow in 1969, the same year as the killings officially ended.
It had been alleged that Tobin reacted violently to his victims' menstrual cycle, something which has long been suspected as the motive behind the Bible John murders. Another similarity is that eyewitnesses told police that the suspect had one tooth missing in his upper-right area of the mouth; dental records proved that Peter Tobin had a tooth removed around the late 1960s.
Police have not commented upon any similarities, but said that any surviving forensic evidence will be rechecked. Although DNA had been used to rule out a previous suspect, detectives believe a DNA link to Tobin is unlikely due to a deterioration of the samples through poor storage.
Operation Anagram is a British police investigation into the movements and life of Tobin, convicted of three murders of young women since 2006. The investigation was started in 2006, after Tobin's first murder conviction, by Detective Superintendent (DSI) David Swindle of Strathclyde Police, and increased in intensity in December 2009 after Tobin's third conviction for murder.
Through the HOLMES 2 database, police forces across the United Kingdom are involved in the operation, investigating the possibility of Tobin's connection to dozens of murders and disappearances of teenage girls and young women.
DSI Swindle, speaking after Tobin's 2006 conviction for the murder of Angelika Kluk, said that Tobin's age and the method of the murder sparked the suggestion that he may be a serial killer, as did interviews with Tobin. Anagram led to the discovery of the bodies of Hamilton and McNicol. It is believed that as of December 2009, detectives across the UK were following up on up to 1,400 lines of inquiry. As part of their renewed enquiries, police are especially interested in tracing the owners of jewellery items found at his homes.
In July 2010 it was reported that officers working on Operation Anagram had narrowed their review down to 9 unsolved cases of murder and disappearance. The operation was wound down in June 2011 having failed to identify any more victims, but its email address remains active.
On 9 August 2012, Tobin was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after suffering chest pains and a suspected heart attack at the city's Saughton Prison. In February 2016, Tobin was hospitalised following a suspected stroke.