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DNA breakthrough in hunt for cheese wire killer of Aberdeen taxi driver

Detectives revealed they have a DNA profile of the mystery man they believe murdered George "Dod" Murdoch 40 years ago today.

Police hope the DNA profile will unmask George Murdoch's killer. Image: DC Thomson
Police hope the DNA profile will unmask George Murdoch's killer. Image: DC Thomson

Detectives have recovered a DNA profile of the man who murdered Aberdeen taxi driver George Murdoch, it was revealed today.

The genetic sample was identified on evidence gathered after the 58-year-old cabbie was viciously garrotted by a passenger with a cheese wire.

Advancements in forensic analysis allowed scientists to make a major breakthrough towards the end of 2018, with the DNA profile being used to eliminate dozens of people from the ongoing investigation ever since.

“If this case was ever going to be solved, it’s going to be solved by this DNA and with the help of the public,” Detective Inspector James Callander told The Press and Journal today, the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.

“It’s never been closer and I’m still confident that we can get there.”

Do you suspect your relative is a killer?

The Senior Investigating Officer, who took charge of the live inquiry more than two years ago, is urging members of the public to help him catch the killer.

Asked who he considers the “main target” of his appeal, DI Callander replied: “Any son or daughter who has any suspicions that their father may have been responsible for George’s murder.

“We could easily put their mind at rest by eliminating them and it’s probably prudent to say that if we don’t eliminate them there’s a £50,000 reward for the confirmed identification of the killer.”

People assisting the appeal would have their mouths swabbed for DNA, which would then be compared with the murderer’s DNA profile for a potential match.

Detective Inspector James Callander.
Detective Inspector James Callander. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The P&J can reveal that the so-called Cheese Wire Killer’s genetic profile has not been matched with any DNA records stored on databases that Police Scotland has searched.

Detectives have even taken their hunt abroad to other countries, including Australia and Canada, where the DNA search results have also been negative.

Detective Inspector Callander added: “If we get told a particular person may be responsible, we can get the DNA from that person and 100% eliminate that person.

“We aim to test the individual himself but, 40 years on, there’s a likelihood that this person could be deceased.

“Instead we could test their family members – ideally first generation – so his mother, father, son or daughter.

“But it’s unlikely a mother or father would still be alive, although a son or daughter would be able to assist us.”

The scene of the Cheese Wire Murder - George Murdoch's taxi parked on Pitfodels Station Road, Aberdeen in 1983.
The murder scene at Pitfodels Station Road, Aberdeen. Image: DC Thomson

No individual has ever been declared an official suspect during the entire case history of the notorious north-east murder mystery.

“Upwards of 50” persons of interest have been identified by police and in recent years the killer’s DNA has been used to successfully eliminate the “vast majority” of them.

It’s left “not far off a single digit number” of people, the Det Insp revealed.

“There’s upwards of 50 plus individuals over the years that have been named or were known to be out that night.

“Various names have come to the fore but it can only be one of them so the task we had was one of elimination in the hope that one of them proves positive.”

Image of Aberdeen taxi driver George "Dod" Murdoch alongside a picture of a replica of the cheese wire used to kill him.
Aberdeen taxi driver George “Dod” Murdoch was viciously garrotted with a cheese wire, a replica of which is shown above. Images: Police Scotland

The use of the DNA profile has “drastically reduced” the amount of work that detectives have needed to carry out in recent years.

Previously, Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team had to physically trace people, take their statements and corroborate their claims.

“Alibi was probably the only real way of eliminating people from 1983 because there was no CCTV evidence or mobile phone data,” DI Callander said.

“Placing somebody somewhere in 1983 needed to be corroborated by credible witnesses but how could we determine who was credible or not?

“DNA makes a big difference for us. Although it’s not an easy process to eliminate people using DNA, it’s far easier than the hours that traditional methods take officers.”

‘So much closer to unmasking the individual’ who killed George Murdoch

George, who was known as “Dod” by his family and friends, has been described by his surviving relatives as “a gentle, likeable and kind-hearted man”.

His loved ones, who are working very closely in partnership with Police Scotland, remain hopeful that the grim tragedy of his brutal attack will soon be met with justice.

Dod’s 66-year-old nephew Alex McKay said that the latest DNA development has renewed his hope that justice will be served.

“I was feeling close to ecstatic because it’s something we thought would never be done, because everyone knew in 1983 there was no DNA analysis,” he said.

“We never thought we’d get to this stage. The police have cleared a number of people that they thought were persons of interest.

“So the haystack among which the needle is hiding has got a lot smaller.

“They’ve eliminated persons of interest since they got this DNA profile so the group of people has got even smaller.

“Those people who they’ve eliminated are no longer taking up the police’s time so they can spend more time on others – that’s got to be very helpful.

“I think this is going to get solved within the next couple of years. The DNA profile makes me absolutely more and more convinced of that.

“This police appeal is proof that detectives are still aggressively going after the killer.”

His wife, Robina, 67, added: “I honestly believe that today, we are so much closer to unmasking the individual who took Dod’s life 40 years ago.

“I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but it feels as if real justice has suddenly become a lot more attainable.”

George Murdoch's nephew Alex McKay and his wife Robina.
Alex McKay and his wife Robina. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Two teenage boys on bicycles witnessed Dod struggling with his killer and cycled to a phone box to call the police on the night of September 29 1983.

The stricken man was discovered dying in a pool of blood on the pavement of Pitfodels Station Road, near Cults, opposite his sky-blue Ford Cortina taxi.

He’d earlier radioed his taxi firm’s dispatcher at 8.35pm, saying he was heading to Culter.

It was to be his last-ever taxi fare which ended in what police believe was a robbery.

The killer took his wallet and that evening’s takings from the taxi which amounted to anywhere between £21 and £35.

£50,000 reward for information that leads to Cheese Wire Killer

Now, £50,000 could be the key to closing the case as anyone with information leading to the confirmed identification of the killer is offered a huge cash reward.

Mr McKay and his brother were the first to pledge £10,000 towards the potential payout.

Then the sum was matched by The Press and Journal and Evening Express newspapers in 2021 and increased last year with another £5,000 from the taxi firm that Mr Murdoch worked for, which is now part of Rainbow City Taxis.

Most recently, Mr McKay and his wife Robina put forward another £25,000, doubling the reward to a total of £50,000.

Iron Maiden T-shirt appeal

In September last year, The Press and Journal exclusively reported that detectives were trying to trace a potential new witness who had “indicated that they have some new information”.

Part of the unknown man’s torso had been photographed wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt while drinking at Wilson’s Sports Bar on Aberdeen’s Market Street during an occasion in 2015.

A photo of the small, stocky man, who spoke with a local accent and is thought to be aged in his 60s or 70s now, was handed over to the investigation by a reader.

They had come forward following a previous social media appeal for information.

Potential new witness in the Cheese Wire Murder investigation wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt at Wilson’s Sports Bar on Aberdeen’s Market Street in 2015.
T-shirt from Iron’s Maiden’s The Final Frontier tour of Germany. Image: Police Scotland

Detective Inspector James Callander previously told The P&J: “If what we’re being told is what he has said, we believe he has vital information that may well help us to identify who was responsible for George’s murder.”

However, a year on from the appeal, police are “nowhere nearer identifying him” and are still looking.

Read more about the unsolved cheese wire murder of Aberdeen taxi driver George Murdoch

Anyone who has not come forward previously who believes they can assist the investigation should telephone 101 or e-mail: or private message the George Murdoch Murder Facebook page. For all the latest court cases in Aberdeen as well as crime and breaking incidents, join our Facebook group.