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Past Times

Son still hopes for justice 40 years after father-of-two’s brutal murder in Germany

Colin Adamson was killed on December 18, 1983 and his death left two children, Evan, six, and Gillian, two, bereft. reports.
Neil Drysdale
The tragedy happened in 1983 but the family have never given up hope of gaining closure.

It was a brutal crime that shocked people across the north-east.

But, 40 years after the murder of Colin Adamson in West Germany, his killer has never been caught.

Mr Adamson, who was just 33 at the time of his death in December 1983, had moved from teaching into the oil and gas sector after being educated at Gordon Schools in Huntly and graduating from Aberdeen University.

He was regarded by colleagues as a popular family man, who lived in Aberchirder with his wife, Babs, his son, Evan, six, and daughter, Gillian, two, when he was sent to Celle near Hanover by his employer, Sedco.

But, a few days before he was scheduled to return to Scotland for Christmas, the gruesome details emerged that his body had been found in the boot of a burned-out rented car in woods at Groshehlen, a few miles from Celle.

And today, his son has asked the public for assistance in finally gaining justice for his dad, nearly 40 years after the killing rocked his family’s lives just as they were about to celebrate the festive period together.

He said: “If you can help, we would love to know what happened.

“We have tried to find answers, but it’s as if nobody cares about it any more.”

How the murder was reported in the P&J back in 1983.
How the Colin Adamson murder was reported in the P&J back in 1983.

The body was so badly burned that dental records had to be flown out to Germany before forensics experts were able to make a formal identification, and they later found out he had sustained severe head injuries.

But, despite extensive investigations, the offer of a substantial reward, and police interviews with military personnel at a nearby British army base, officers had no success in tracking down the perpetrator(s) of the crime.

A well-liked family man

In the following days, the Press & Journal outlined the bemusement of his family, friends and colleagues at the news of what had happened to Colin.

It reported: “He had been supervising work being carried out by Cameron Ironworks in Celle. A spokesman for Sedco said that the work was intensive and Mr Adamson would not have had much free time.

“The hunt for his killer is being led by Chief Insp Ellen Schmandtt and she confirmed they could find no motive for the killing.

The murder of Colin Adamson, pictured at work in Aberdeen, took place in 1983.
Colin Adamson at work in Aberdeen.

“However, it is known that Mr Adamson’s watch, wallet and items of jewellery were missing. Hanover authorities have offered a reward of 5,000 Deutschmarks (around £1,275) for any information.”

They also worked with British military authorities, but to no avail.

Colin qualified as a primary teacher in 1974 and taught at Springhill Primary in Aberdeen, Inverurie Primary and subsequently became the head teacher of New Byth School in Aberdeenshire in 1978, when he was only 28.

I always think about it at this time of year…”

Evan Adamson

However, just a year later, he announced what was described as a “surprise” decision to leave teaching and join the oil industry.

The P&J added: “At the time, he said he felt that oil offered greater financial security for his family.

“He started as a roustabout, but, according to the Sedco representative, had a ‘meteoric rise’ to become a subsea supervisor.

“The trip to Germany was Mr Adamson’s first abroad on behalf of the company and the firm’s employees were stunned by the news of the murder.”

Brief glimmers of hope

As the year moved towards its end, police admitted they had hit a wall of silence, despite handing out more than 1,000 leaflets in Celle.

Their investigation discovered that Colin had visited the town’s Old Time disco on Saturday December 17, and officers added that they believed he “may have been involved in a fight” earlier that day.

Colin Adamson
North-east oil worker Colin Adamson was murdered in 1983.

The P&J said: “Mr Adamson is thought to have had contact with other British people and the murder squad is working alongside British Military Police.

“An added complication in the inquiry is that many British soldiers – hundreds of Rhine Army troops are being interviewed by the West German authorities – have gone back home (to Britain) for Christmas, so the investigation is being held up until they have returned in the New Year.”

Sombre ceremony at end of 1983

Even as they searched for answers, Colin’s body was flown back to the north-east and his funeral was held in Aberdeen on December 30.

The service took place at Woodside Church and was attended by many friends and relatives, who remained perplexed about what had happened hundreds of miles away.

But almost a fortnight after the murder, there was no sign of the police making a breakthrough in the case.

And that situation didn’t change as 1983 turned into 1984.

In 2016 Evan Adamson, who works as a community connector with the Aberdeen-based charity Instant Neighbour, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence, asking what progress, if any, had been made in tracking down his dad’s killer.

Evan Adamson, who is asking people for help to solve the murder of Colin Adamson, his father.
Evan Adamson now works with Aberdeen charity Instant Neighbour.

This read: “My father, Colin David Adamson, was murdered in Celle, Germany on December 18 1983 in Celle, Germany when I was six years old.

“Due to the murder taking place near a British Army base, the British Military Police were involved in the investigation, but the crime was never solved.

“I wondered if it might be possible to have access to any of the records of this case or any further information surrounding the case as I would like to look further into everything that happened.

“Any information or advice on where/who/what to see or do next would be greatly appreciated.”

No breakthrough in case

But although he received a reply from the MoD, parts of which were redacted, this did nothing to explain the circumstances which had led to the violent death of a civilian, and nothing has changed in the last five years.

Their response did reveal that two unnamed men “had both featured in the original investigation and were both eliminated from the original inquiry”.

It added: “No new information has come to light which would lead us to question this decision.

“We are not aware of any concerns being expressed by the German authorities about the RMP support to the investigation, which was extensive.

“There are no new lines of inquiry to be pursued.”

Colin Adamson at home in Aberchirder with his children Evan and Gillian.
Colin Adamson at home in Aberchirder with his children, Evan and Gillian.

Mr Adamson told the Press & Journal: “I’ve been looking into the death of my dad for several years and, even at this stage, it’s possible the person or people responsible for his murder could still be caught.

“It was a great shock to us when Dad didn’t come home and I’ve tried to find out more from Crimewatch and from the MoD but we still have no real idea what happened over there all those years ago.

“I always think about it at this time of year, so if anybody has any information, even at this stage, please get in touch with the police.”

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