A Highland village still holds its murder secrets, after laborer Jimmy Hassard was found beaten to death in February 1989.
Despite questioning around 4,000 people, as well as various local and London leads and anonymous tip-offs over the years, police have been unable to make an arrest.
His relatives remained unanswered.
Mr Hassard, 47, was on an extended holiday from London and was staying with his sister May and her family in the village of Caol where he grew up.
He was drinking at Lochaber Bar in Caol on February 17, 1989.
He left the scene around 1:15 a.m.
But he never returned home.
When last seen, he was wearing a green anorak-like jacket, gray plaid pants, and a green and white Celtic scarf.
His body was found lying in a pool of blood a few hours later by a milk boy in a car park at Caol’s housing project just 200 yards from the pub.
An autopsy in Inverness revealed he died of head injuries.
An incident room has been set up in Fort William.
Additional officers were recruited from Inverness and Aviemore.
Mr. Hassard was known to have had a black plastic rosary in his possession the night he was murdered.
When his body was found on February 18, 1989, they were missing, but police ruled out theft as the motive.
The parking lot was a shortcut between the bar and her sister’s house.
Police believe that between leaving the pub and finding his body, Mr Hassard may have been in company and had gone to a nearby house, and that he was murdered shortly after 2.15am , before being found at 3:10 a.m.
But they were faced with “a wall of silence” in Caol and his movements after leaving the bar were a mystery.
The police were distraught.
Shelter the killer
Chief Detective Inspector Lindsay Lowson has been assigned to lead the investigation.
“The harsh reality is that someone in the area has information that for some reason is not being released,” he said.
“We call on them to exercise their conscience and contact us, if necessary on the confidential telephone line, if they are harboring the killer.
“It was a vicious attack on a man who was probably quite defenseless.”
Mr Hassard’s funeral took place on 24 April 1989 at St John’s Church in Caol and he was buried in Kilmallie Cemetery in Corpach.
About 40 officers from the Gendarmerie du Nord knocked on the doors of 1,000 houses in Caol after the death of Mr. Hassard.
But nothing has changed.
The investigation was quietly reduced.
Mr Hassard’s sister, May MacKay, spoke to the press and newspaper about her continuing ordeal in July 1989 and urged her brother’s killer to turn himself in.
“It hits me harder, now that I’ve had so much time to think about it,” she said.
“It’s so hard to get along with someone who would do such a brutal thing – but surely someone is going to snap soon.
“If James’ killer just surrendered, it might be easier for me to find out who did it and why. I could rest more easily. I can’t stop thinking and wondering about it all.
“James’ bags are still upstairs and that depresses me. It’s only household chores that keep me going right now. Even when I was in Aberdeen, staying with one of my daughters, I was totally depressed.
“I keep thinking about James.
“I just hope his killer suffers – and that he will suffer a lot more.
“He certainly caused us enough pain.”
Cold case review
But things changed in 2010.
Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Greenlees has been tasked with leading a cold case review.
The police interviewed more than 100 witnesses.
He said: “I am pleased with the progress we have made.
“As a result, information came to light which created new avenues of investigation.
“In particular, significant new information has emerged regarding the movements of Jimmy Hassard after he left the Lochaber bar at around 1am.
“In this regard, I would like to appeal to an anonymous woman who contacted the police by telephone at 5.50 p.m. on Saturday April 8, 1989.
“The caller provided information that in the early hours of Saturday February 18, 1989, Jimmy Hassard was involved in a fight in a garden and on the pavement of Kilmallie Road near the junction with Glen Nevis Road.
“This altercation may have been seen by a number of people passing in a car and I believe they are in possession of information which may be crucial to the investigation.
“We are confident that a small number of individuals in the Caol community still hold vital information regarding this crime and would again call on them for their cooperation, which would bring peace to the family and enable the interests of justice to be justly served.”
Police believed advances in forensic techniques and changing “loyalties and relationships” may hold the key to catching the killer.
However, that didn’t provide any answers either.
The villagers have remained as tight-lipped as ever, but police say the investigation remains open and continues to be under periodic review.
The wait for justice for the family continues.
More like this:
Black Panther Hunter: The islander who got notorious killer Donald Neilson to confess
Who killed Buchan’s sweet postwoman in a Black Panther robbery 40 years ago?
Robbie McIntosh: Chilling warning before teenager murdered dog walker Anne Nicoll on Dundee Law in 2001
Already subscribed? Login
[Killer still protected by ‘wall of silence’]