At around 7.00 pm on the 28 November 2004 Veronica Wilson answered the door bell to her home in Crescent Road in Nairn, Scotland. A stocky male she later described as aged 35 – 40 wearing a dark jacket and a baseball cap was stood on the doorstep. He asked to speak to her husband, 30-year-old Alistair Wilson, asking for him by name. Alistair Wilson came to the door having just put his two young children to bed and spoke briefly to the visitor who gave him a blue envelope. Wilson took the envelope upstairs to their apartment and showed his wife.

The envelope was empty with the name Paul written on it. Both confused as to why the stranger had given it to him. Alistair Wilson came back downstairs with the intention of simply giving the envelope back. Shortly after opening the front door again the stranger shot Alistair Wilson three times. He died later in hospital.

Described as, ‘Scotland’s most mysterious unsolved crime’, it was an attack with an unknown motive and the killer has never been caught. Alistair Wilson was a business manager for the Bank of Scotland and was actually serving his notice. He had recently resigned and was looking forward to a new job as a consultant for an environmental agency.

The police could not find anything about Alistair Wilson that would connect him with crime or leave him susceptible to threat or blackmail. The fact that he worked for a bank was of special interest of course but the trail always went cold. Mistaken identity was and still is a viable issue but the fact that the assailant asked for him by name is intriguing. Of course there could have been something going on that his wife knew nothing about and the police have never detected but his reaction to the envelope appeared to his wife Veronica to have been as confusing to him as it was to her. He gave her no hint of fear or concern.

The perpetrator had shot Alistair Wilson with a 0.25 calibre Haenel Suhl pocket pistol. A German produced semi-automatic pocket pistol produced for 10 years from 1920 it was not a common style of firearm used by criminals in the UK. It accommodated an 8 round magazine. The shooter discarded the weapon just half a mile from the murder site, but it was later found by workmen in a storm drain 10 days later.

Legal ownership of handguns in the UK had ended in 1997 after the Dunblane tragedy in 1996 and there was no previous record of the weapon being legally held. The legal hand gun ban made little difference to criminal procurement which had depended on sourcing weapons through illegal trade. It was concluded that the gun was either a long held war trophy or it had been more recently smuggled into the country.

Trophy firearms have been brought back to the UK after foreign wars since the invention of gunpowder. The number of souvenir weapons at large has never been known and never will be. Most have been brought back quite innocently and in times past not actually illegally. Hand guns from the First and Second World War were numerous and particularly popular.

I have some personal experience with this practise having sought a .45 Colt automatic handgun at the conclusion of the Falkland’s War in 1982. This was the standard Argentine side arm and there were plenty available. Even by 1982 ‘importing’ war souvenirs was a totally illegal practise and we were constantly reminded on the way home to dispose of any Argentine weapons we had. My cleaned and test fired acquisition was float tested mid Atlantic with great ceremony.

The Haenel Suhl is an odd weapon, firing a small cartridge with limited power, accuracy and range. Nevertheless, it was deadly at close range as it proved to be. It was more likely a war trophy that had found its way into the hands of criminals. The ammunition was of Czech manufacture produced by Sellier & Bellot in the 1980’s.

The media often present the notion of an old firearm being used in a crime as being a desperate measure. It is reasonable to consider that some might be in poor condition but not all of them are. This 70-year-old firearm could have been in perfect condition. Old firearms are not like vintage cars rotting in barns; a lot of them have hardly been used, if ever. A partner of mine in the 1990’s shockingly revealed to me a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and ammunition that her late father had acquired in North Africa during WWII. Lovingly kept in grease paper in a box she eventually handed it in to the police. It was in perfect condition and indeed may never have been fired. In criminal hands it would have been a deadly asset and worth a great deal of money.

The questions remain, not only the motive for the killing but why did the killer discard the weapon so close to the murder scene and risk leaving a trail to him. Despite that, the killer is still at large.

Another unsolved Scotland shooting murder took place in Guthrie Street, Maryhill Glasgow on 10 May 2000. This was the killing of a notorious gangster, Frank McPhie outside his address and in front of his 11-year-old son. McPhie had just parked his car. He had served time in prison for various offences which included drug dealing and violent assaults. He had also been acquitted of two murder charges. McPhie was hardly someone who could be compared to Alistair Wilson but he was also mysteriously shot and killed in front of his home.

The criminologist Professor David Wilson theory categorised these killers in both instances into what he refers to as the ‘master hitman’ type. McPhie was shot with a .22 Brno CZ bolt action rifle fitted with a scope. It was reported that the shooter had laid in wait in a position on the top roof floor of the eight-storey building opposite McPhie’s property. This was in Carrbridge Drive. The news reports are vague. This Carrbridge Drive building was a 55 metre shot. There are two other identical buildings also opposite but in Glenfinnan Drive. Distances from the top floors were 42 metres and 90 metres. The shooter killed McPhie with a single shot to the head. Police investigators found the firing position and the weapon which was left at the scene. A prime suspect was arrested but released because of lack of evidence. Nobody else has come into the frame.

Police discovered that the McPhie murder weapon had been fired and tested in a farmer’s field near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. The shooter had used a telegraph pole as a target. This type of .22 weapon is extremely common amongst legal owners. Bolt action or semi-automatic, usually used with a ten round magazine and a scope these rifles are popular for target shooting and culling vermin and small game. An example above.

The illegal testing and experimenting with shotguns and firearms in isolated, (normally rural), locations is something that I have rigorously investigated for 16 years.