Dinah McNicol

I saw a music video when I was about 16 and it made a huge impact on me. It was interspersed with images of children who were missing at the time and Dave Pirner (lead vocals) appealed at the end for information about these or other missing children. One of the girls in particular I couldn’t get out of my head. Her face has stayed with me since then. Her name was Dinah McNicol.


I was struck by her beauty, and later, by her innocence. To this day I have no idea why I remembered her and no others, but she’s often crossed my mind, and I wondered what happened to her. It was only today I actually got around to trying to find out.

This was brought on today by hearing Runaway Train by Soul Asylum on my iPod earlier. It’s one of those tracks that’s been on there since I got it but it hardly ever gets played when on random. I guess my iPod doesn’t like it….

Anyway. Soul Asylum included different images according to which country the video was going to be shown in – to maximise the amount of missing children they could try to reach. Unfortunately despite searching for some time I can only find one of the US versions (there were 3 US versions made, reflecting the higher number of missing children – approximately 1,000,000 at the time), so Dinah isn’t included in the video linked above.

Her story probably isn’t unlike any others: she disappeared in 1991 while hitch-hiking home from a music festival. She was 18. She was with her boyfriend, who she had met at the festival, but was dropped off before her. How must he feel, knowing now that if he’d stayed with her she would have been fine? What an awful thing to have to live with. I can’t imagine how you could live your life with that hanging over you.

Finally in May 2007, 16 years after she disappeared, her body was found. She had been gagged and bound, wrapped in a bin bag and buried only yards from fellow missing teenager Vicky Hamilton. The killer, Peter Tobin, was already serving life for killing Vicky and Angelika Kluk when he was given another life sentence for the murder of Dinah.

His former next-door neighbour had seen the Tobin digging a hole where Dinah’s body was later found buried. He said Tobin was standing chest-deep in a trench in his back garden. The neighbour had made a joke, asking if he was digging to Australia. Tobin told him that he was digging a sandpit for his 3 year old son to play in. Two days later it was filled in. When the neighbour asked about it he was told that a social worker had said a sandpit would have been too dangerous.

How awful must the neighbour feel? He couldn’t have stopped the murders but he could have ended the years of torment and uncertainty for the parents. Sixteen years is such a long time to not know whether your daughter is alive or dead.

But what are you supposed to do? Report everyone you see doing anything that could be called suspicious? Some people would never be off the phone to the police! But maybe we should just think things through a bit more. There’s a hell of a difference between a sandpit-sized hole and a grave for two.

Apply a little bit of common sense. We all know now that people can keep things hidden. We know that monsters can walk unnoticed among people. We should stop looking the other way. Stop trying not to get involved. We should regain our sense of community. Because, God forbid, it might one day be YOUR daughter.

A message to my daughter (in case she reads this):
This is why you think I worry too much. THIS. I trust you completely, but I will never trust anyone else with you until they have earned that trust. I will fight to keep you safe, even if it sometimes means I am fighting with you. Because I love you. x


2 thoughts on “Dinah McNicol

  1. Runaway Train was one of my favourite songs many years ago. I, too, was moved by the images on the video of all the missing children. It really is too sad, but at least it made people more aware of how many children do actually go missing. As you say, we do need to be more aware of what is going on around us and not look the other way. Thank you for sharing Dinah’s story.

  2. Pingback: Thoughts behind the silence | Through the Eyes of Little Miss W

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