Date: 1 May 1995
Robert Higgins was found dead and naked in Craigs Quarry just off the Forth Road Bridge in Kirkliston on 1 May 1995.
He had been battered and stabbed in the chest, with the injury cutting through a lung. A forensic medicine expert said that he estimated that Robert Higgins probably drunk about ten pints shortly before he died. He had no defensive wounds on his body.
A man was later tried for his murder in March 2017 but was acquitted after a not proven verdict was returned. The charges against him, made over a decade after the murder, were based on advances in DNA examination and alleged statements.
It was thought that Robert Higgins had been murdered in late April 1995. He was last seen around 30 April 1995 in the early hours with a mystery couple. However, the mystery couple were never traced.
His mother said that she last saw him when she went out shopping on 27 April 1995, saying that by the time that she had got back he had gone. She said that he had been working earlier at the chicken farm. She was later asked to identify his body by his tattoos.
It was found that Robert Higgins had later been to a pub in Kirkliston where he got involved in an incident and was headbutted and suffered a cut on his nose. He was last seen with friends in the Kirkland pub that night after which he called on a friend and was seen by two policemen in Main Street.
Following that, he was seen over the bank-holiday weekend, 29-30 April 1995, drinking at several places around South Queensferry, several times in the company of an unidentified couple. He was seen with the couple, described as middle-aged, at about 9pm on the Friday night in Rosebery Avenue, South Queensferry.
He was seen again at the Laurel and Hardy convention in the Moat House Motel on the Saturday and then later walking off towards the Forth Bridge Road.
He was seen the following morning, Sunday 30 April 1995, at 11am in Morison Gardens, with a couple, however, the description of the couple differed from the description of the couple that he had previously been seen with on the Friday.
Sightings of him over the weekend described him as looking relaxed and tidy.
His family reported him missing on 1 May 1995. He was found soon after, that same day at about 5pm, by a man shooting rabbits with his son around Craigs Quarry by Milrig Farm. The man said, 'There was a body, a body of a man. It had no clothes'.
His black trainers and socks were found folded neatly nearby and his jacket was hanging from a nearby branch. A green comb was found tucked inside one of his trainers. His blood-stained denim jeans were found between some rocks.
Some blood was found on his clothes that was said, after examination, could only have come from a woman, and did not come from Robert Higgins.
When the police examined his body, they said that his trousers/pants had been pulled down to his ankles and that his shirt was scrunched up about his neck. However, they said that they ruled out a sex attack and said that there had been no evidence of a struggle.
It was also noted that when he was found, he still had money on him which led the police to rule out robbery as the motive. It was also noted that access to the quarry would have required climbing over two locked gates.
A cigarette butt was found at the scene and taken as evidence from which a saliva sample was taken in the hope of finding DNA.
It was noted that the murder weapon, which was thought to have been a common kitchen knife, had been taken from the scene and then later found by a woman who had used it for chopping vegetables and thus destroying any evidence that it might have offered.
It was noted that the quarry where he was found was so secluded that it was unlikely that an outsider would have known about it.
The police initially said that they thought that Robert Higgins might have been the victim of a wife-swapping pact that had gone wrong, saying that they thought that he might have been lured to the quarry with the promise of sex and then attacked by a mystery couple. A criminal psychologist at Carstairs Hospital that later became involved said that from analysis of the evidence he thought that both a man and a woman had been involved.
The criminal psychologist said that he also thought that the wounds found on Robert Higgins's body, inflicted with a short steel knife, had been made by two people, a male and a female. Examination of the wounds also indicated that they had been made by two people as one of the stab wounds had been made with less force than the other, suggesting that it had been carried out by a woman. Further evidence that the police said indicated that a man and a woman had been involved was stated as being the fact that some of his clothes had been folded neatly away whilst other garments had been simply tossed into the bushes and trees.
The police later said that they thought that it was possible that if there had been two people involved, a man and a woman, that one of them might have been coerced by the other out of fear and had as such kept quiet. The police then added however, that over the years, the couple’s relationship might have changed, making it easier for the coerced party to come forward.
It was also noted that although Robert Higgins had not been home for several days, he was clean shaven when he was found, and it was suggested that he had been staying with someone and had been getting something where he was staying, possibly sex, that made him hang about. The police said that they thought that he had been staying with a couple somewhere in one of the villages south of the Forth. However, they said that they didn't know where he had stayed and added that finding out where he had been on the previous nights was crucial to solving the case.
The police said that Robert Higgins's behaviour was a dramatic change in his usual unchanging habits. They noted that ordinarily he would work during the week at the chicken factory, take his wages out of his bank at the weekend and go and drink in the same local pubs that he usually went to until his money ran out, after which he would return hme to his mother's home. However, it was also noted that he had only taken out £80 that weekend, which was a bank-holiday weekend, which was a fraction of what he would ordinarily take out from his bank. It was further noted that he rarely stayed away from home and when he did, he would always let his mother know. As such, it was noted that his relationship with the unknown couple was a significant change in his behaviour which psychologists put down to him as having met a woman.
The psychologists said that when considering the matter, it could be assumed that everybody's behaviour is predictable and then stated that if that behaviour changed, then it was because something had happened, and noted that, 'Sex, or the possibility of sex, can be a very powerful motivator'.
It was further noted that the landlord at one of the pubs that Robert Higgins usually went to said that Robert Higgins had told him on the Thursday before he vanished that he had a girlfriend and that he was going to bring her along to the pub the following week. However, Robert Higgins's family said that Robert Higgins was shy and said that if he had met a girl that he would not tell anyone for fear of ridicule.
Although it was initially thought that Robert Higgins had been killed elsewhere and then dumped at the quarry, the criminal psychologist said that the psychological profile of the suspects suggested that they had killed him near the hillside quarry. The police said, 'The evidence would suggest those responsible for Robert's death lived locally or were regular visitors to the area'.
DNA evidence found on a leather jacket that was found at the quarry was later identified as belonging to the man that was tried. However, DNA from several other people was also found on it.
The man tried said that he had never seen Robert Higgins before. When he was questioned in September 1995 he had said, 'I heard about the murder on the telly. I have never met or seen Robert Higgins before'.
However, a witness at the trial said that the man had told him that he did it. However, he added that the man on trial was blind drunk when he had said it and that he used to say a lot of stupid things when he was drunk.
Another witness at the trial said that he had heard the man on trial tell him that he had stabbed someone and added that he also thought the man had told him that he had thrown the knife down a drain on the road to Winchburgh.
It was said that he had repeatedly struck Robert Higgins on the head and body with a knife or a similar object.
Robert Higgins was a chicken factory worker and penned birds at Marshalls chicken factory in Newbridge.
He had lived a few miles away from where he was found in Glebe in Dalmeny, West Lothian with his ageing mother.
Robert Higgins's sister said that Robert Higgins was too trusting for his own good. He was said to be known to strike up conversations with strangers relatively easily and to have been generous, noted for often buying rounds of drinks at his favourite pubs. As such, it was thought that someone might have taken advantage of him. His sister also said, 'He was too nice, too gullible. He would speak to anyone, even total strangers. He wasn’t a fighter and if anything started, he would be the first to walk away'.
She also said, 'He was such a gentle man. He couldn't fight even if he wanted to. So I know he would have been terrified that night. He would have been curled up screaming for his life'.
Other possible identities for his murder had been suggested, including money-lenders, jealous husbands and professional hitmen. It was also noted that at the time of his murder there had been a Laurel and Hardy convention at a nearby hotel and the police said that they had looked into the possibility that some of the people attending the event might have been involved in his murder.