AI-Generated Portrait Could Aid in Unmasking Serial Killer Bible John


  • Belgian animator harnesses AI to visualize Bible John, a notorious Glasgow killer, decades later.
  • AI-generated images offer fresh hope in the unsolved Bible John murders.
  • Police Scotland’s Operation Banyan rekindles the pursuit of justice with AI technology.

In a groundbreaking development, Belgian web designer and animator Gilles Vermeulen has employed cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to produce a detailed image of the elusive serial killer known as Bible John as he might appear today, more than 50 years after the heinous crimes rocked Glasgow in the late 1960s. This innovative approach also yielded a separate portrait of Bible John during his younger years, at the time of the murders.

AI and the quest for truth

Gilles Vermeulen, who regularly shares his work on his Instagram page, believes AI can play a pivotal role in solving cold cases like the Bible John murders. Patricia Docker, Jemima MacDonald, and Helen Puttock were the tragic victims of Bible John’s brutal spree in February, August 1968, and October 1969, respectively. All three women had encountered their killer at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom.

If Bible John were still alive today, he would likely be in his late 70s or early 80s, mirroring the ages of his victims. The moniker “Bible John” emerged after he reportedly quoted passages from the Old Testament during a taxi ride with Helen and her sister the night of the third murder.

A fresh perspective on an old case

Police Scotland initiated a renewed investigation last year under the code name “Operation Banyan” in response to allegations of a cover-up during the initial probe into Helen’s murder. Gilles Vermeulen’s AI-generated images of Bible John, particularly the depiction of him as an older man, could potentially rekindle memories and aid in identifying a suspect.

Vermeulen’s work is based on a recently updated color e-fit created by forensic artist Melissa Dring for a 2021 BBC documentary about Bible John. Additionally, Vermeulen utilized various police artist drawings and photofits from the time of the murders, including one by Lennox Paterson of the Glasgow School of Art, which portrays the suspect with red hair.

The AI process

The AI technique Gilles Vermeulen employed is Stable Diffusion, which allowed him to generate two distinct color portraits of Bible John. Both images depict a man with red hair dressed in a shirt and tie. The process took approximately eight hours for each image.

Vermeulen stated, “I used many different techniques to try and get as close as possible to the original sketches. I would be willing to help Police Scotland if they requested my assistance. It would be a fantastic outcome if I could assist in solving a case like this.”

A history of AI portraits

Gilles Vermeulen has previously utilized the same AI techniques to create updated photographic images of other murder suspects worldwide, using original police artist drawings and photofits. His motivation for undertaking the Bible John project was sparked by a follower on Instagram who had seen his work on AI-generated images.

Among the cases he has worked on are the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal in 2007 and the notorious Zodiac Killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s.

The controversial history of the bible John’s investigation

Operation Banyan, launched by Police Scotland, was prompted by allegations from retired detectives who reexamined Helen Puttock’s murder in 1995. They contended that police chief Joe Beattie disregarded a prime suspect named John Irvine McInnes due to McInnes being the cousin of Beattie’s close friend and fellow officer, James McInnes. Detective Supt Beattie oversaw the Bible John investigation at Partick police office in Glasgow, which also encompassed the murders of Patricia Docker and Jemima MacDonald.

Ex-Detective Chief Inspector Jim McEwan claimed in a podcast titled “Bible John: Creation of a Serial Killer” that his 1995 review had uncovered overlooked evidence. McEwan asserted that he possessed evidence proving McInnes, who took his own life in 1980, was the man in the taxi with Helen and her sister. The taxi driver and a Barrowland bouncer later identified him from a photographic lineup.

McInnes’s body was exhumed in 1996 from a cemetery in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, to compare DNA from Helen’s tights, but no conclusive match was found.

Continuing pursuit of justice

A Police Scotland spokesperson stated, “The murders of Helen Puttock, Jemima McDonald, and Patricia Docker remain unresolved. However, as with all unresolved cases, they are subject to review, and any new information about their deaths will be investigated.”

Gilles Vermeulen’s use of AI technology to create updated portraits of Bible John represents a potentially significant development in the ongoing investigation. With advancements in AI and renewed efforts by law enforcement, the hope for justice for the victims and their families remains undiminished.

As authorities continue their quest for answers, the AI-generated images may serve as a crucial tool in unmasking the identity of Bible John, providing closure to a decades-old mystery that still haunts Glasgow.

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Glory Kaburu

Glory is an extremely knowledgeable journalist proficient with AI tools and research. She is passionate about AI and has authored several articles on the subject. She keeps herself abreast of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning and writes about them regularly.

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