There can have seldom have been anyone less likely to match the profile of a murderer than EDWIN COSTLEY FINLAY. Those who knew him saw him as a quiet, respectable young man who lived with his parents in sedate Marlborough Gardens in Glasgow’s West End.
After leaving Glasgow High School he obtained employment as a Banking Apprentice with the Argyle Street Branch of the British Linen Bank. In his spare time he joined the Territorial Army where he gained a junior commission. Finlay’s future was bright and he seemed set for a comfortable life and a successful career. However, in the autumn of 1952 all that would be destroyed as a result of the horrendous crimes that he was to commit. Crimes no one believed him capable of.
In the course of his employment with the British Linen Bank, Finlay saw large sums of cash pass through the busy City branch where he worked. When the opportunity presented itself, Finlay stole around £1,000 from the Bank. In 1952, that was a large amount of cash. When the theft was discovered the Police were informed and Finlay decided to make himself scarce.
Detectives hunting Finlay discovered he was absent from his home and usual haunts and enquiries indicated he had left Glasgow and gone to Dublin. It appeared Finlay had put himself beyond the reach of the Scottish authorities but it was not long before information was received to the effect that Finlay had returned to Glasgow.
On 4th September, 1952, Constables John MacLeod and Thomas MacDonald, were on duty in plain clothes in Glasgow’s Marine Division when they were told Finlay was believed to be frequenting his old haunts in the West End of Glasgow. They decided to search for him and, after being provided with a detailed description of the youth, patrolled the area around his home in the Hyndland district. When they found no trace of him they visited various cafes and other places frequented by young people in Great Western Road but still found no sign of the elusive Edwin Finlay.
MacLeod and MacDonald were not deterred. They had been told Finlay had a girl friend and was in the habit of meeting her in the Hyndland Road area in the evenings. Consequently, the Officers returned to the Hyndland area and about 8pm they saw a young man who closely matched the description of their quarry walking in Hyndland Road near its junction with Great Western Road.
The youth was on the opposite side of Hyndland Road when they initially spotted him, so they crossed to the footway where he was walking and approached him. When the Officers were about 6 feet away from the him he suddenly produced 2 pistols from beneath his clothing and opened fire. He was, indeed, Edwin Costley Finlay and, unknown to the 2 Constables, he was armed and determined not to be arrested.
Several shots rang out and Constables MacLeod and MacDonald fell to the ground. At such close range it was difficult for Finlay to miss and several of his bullets found their mark. MacLeod was hit in the abdomen and MacDonald in the shoulder and side. Both Officers fell to the ground.
At this stage Constable Charles Hill, attracted by the sound of gunfire, arrived at the scene. He saw his two colleagues lying on the ground and also noticed Finlay running off along Hyndland Road. Constable Hill pursued him and eventually saw him run into Westbourne Gardens Lane. Constable Hill was aware this Lane was a cul-de-sac and realised Finlay was trapped.
Constable Hill then removed his uniform cap and, after taking cover, held it round the corner of the wall at the end of the lane. Finlay opened fire on seeing the cap and Constable Hill continued to expose his cap to Finlay’s view at regular intervals. Each time he did this, Finlay responded with a fusillade of shots. Hill’s intention was to make Finlay use up as much of his ammunition as possible. Other Police Officers arrived at the scene, including Constables Thomas Crawford and Arthur Scott who, without regard for their own safety, crept through surrounding gardens and closed in on Finlay.
Eventually, Finlay realised the hopelessness of his position and, preferring death to the disgrace which would follow his inevitable arrest, he turned his gun on himself and shot himself in the head.
When his body was searched, Finlay was found in possession of a total of 3 revolvers. One was a .38 Webley, another a .22 Spanish pistol with a long barrel and the other a .22 Beretta. A wrist bandolier and a body bandolier were also found on him together with 6 boxes of cartridges. Some of the cash he had stolen from the Bank where he was employed was also found in his pockets. All the firearms were in new condition and it was later discovered Finlay had purchased them and the ammunition illegally in Dublin and smuggled them back into Scotland.
Constables MacLeod and MacDonald were taken from the scene of the shooting to the Western Infirmary where Constable MacLeod was pronounced dead as a result of the gunshot wound he received. He left behind a wife and young son. At the time of his death he had been a member of the City of Glasgow Police for 6 years. Prior to that he had served in the Royal Navy during World War II. He was buried on his native Island of Lewis.
Constable Thomas McDonald was seriously injured as a result of being shot by Finlay but he recovered and eventually returned to duty. He was later promoted Sergeant and retired from the Police Service in that rank many years later. At the time of the shooting he had completed 4 years service and prior to that had served in the Parachute Regiment.
As a result of the shooting, Constable MacLeod was posthumously awarded the Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct and the Glasgow Corporation Medal for Bravery. Constable MacDonald and Constable Charles Hill were awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry and the Glasgow Corporation Medal for Bravery. For their part in the incident, Constables Thomas Crawford and Arthur Scott were awarded the Glasgow Corporation for Bravery.
Constable MaLeod’s medals are on display in the Glasgow Police Museum.
© Glasgow Police Heritage Society