Convicted paedophiles Charles O’Neill and William Lauchlan are linked a number of times by the press to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. However, despite touring Spain, there remains no evidence they were ever in Portugal and a review of their criminal record reveals their sole intent was the predatory abuse of young boys.
This page covers the period up to June 2010 when the pair were found guilty of the murder of Allison McGarrigle, in June 1997, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The following page covers the period from 2011 when it was reported they were of interest to Scotland Yard, as part of their ongoing review of the case. To go to that page: Found here
Horror of five boys lured by pervert pair, 19 June 1998
LADS PLIED WI DRUGS
By Arnot McWhinnie Jun 19, 1998
TWO evil perverts plied schoolboys with drink and drugs then played vile sex games with them.
Charles O’Neill, 35, and his cousin William Lauchlan, 21, shaved all the hair off one boy’s body and threatened to gouge his mum’s eyes out if he told of their sickening abuse.
At the High Court in Glasgow yesterday, they admitted a horrifying five year long catalogue of depravity involving five boys aged from 11 to 15.
The two men, who lived together in a cottage in Skelmorlie, Ayrshire, committed the offences between March 1993 and January this year at rented properties in Rothesay, Largs and Skelmorlie which they used as sex dens.
Advocate depute Frances McMenamin accepted pleas of not guilty to charges involving another 10 boys aged between eight and 16.
The offences came to light when one of the victims watched a news bulletin about the case of Scott Simpson – the Aberdeen boy murdered by paedophile Steven Leisk.
The boy told his aunt:
“I think it’s terrible these people don’t get sent away for very long.”
Worried, she quizzed her nephew and the sordid story of his sex ordeal began to emerge.
The boy told how he got high on cannabis and drink, went to bed and was wakened by one of the men abusing him.
He told his aunt he said nothing before because he was terrified after the men told him they would: “Take your mum’s face off and gouge her eyes out.”
On one occasion the perverts laughed as they pushed the boy into a bath and cut off his pubic hair with scissors before shaving it with a razor along with hairs on his chest and stomach.
Before details of his ordeal emerged, the boy’s mum became worried when his behaviour changed, he lost weight and started skipping school.
Earlier this year, while waiting for the case to come to court, he took an overdose of pills.
When the police investigated the boy’s claims, they uncovered a string of other victims.
After their arrest, both O’Neill and Lauchlan were interviewed six times each and told police absolutely nothing.
Advocates Edgar Prais QC and Gary Allan, appearing for them, said they were ashamed and wished to express their regret to the boys and their families.
Judge Lord Eassie called for additional social inquiry reports on the pair and deferred sentence until July 9.
The court heard missing Largs mum Alison McGarrigle, 40, was to have been a witness if the men’s case had gone to trial.
But blonde Mrs McGarrigle – said to have been in an agitated state – disappeared mysteriously just over a year ago and has not been seen since.
She didn’t make any benefit claims after she vanished, fuelling fears that she may have been murdered and buried.
Police grill evil child sex duo over missing mum, 28 August 1998
Daily Mirror (paper edition)
By Arnot McWhinnie
Aug 19, 1998
TWO evil paedophiles are to be quizzed over the disappearance of a 40-year-old mum.
Sick Charles O’Neill, 35, and his cousin William Lauchlan, 21, were jailed yesterday after admitting plying young boys with drink and drugs before carrying out sick sex attacks.
And last night it emerged cops are to question the pair over the disappearance of Allison McGarrigle from Rothesay, who went missing last June after staying with O’Neill and Lauchlan in Largs, Ayrshire.
O’Neill, a former professional boxer, was jailed for eight years and Lauchlan got six years for sexual offences against six boys aged nine to 17.
One of the evil pair’s victims said that when he went to bed one night, Mrs McGarrigle was there, and when he got up she had gone.
O’Neill and Lauchlan were brought to justice after another of their victims made a comment to his aunt as he watched a TV news broadcast about Aberdeen paedophile victim Scott Simpson.
Realising he too could have been abused, the aunt quizzed him, and learnt the truth.
Sentencing them, Lord Eassie said O’Neill and Lauchlan had taken advantage of the boys for their own gratification.
Afterwards the mother of one victim said: “The sentences are ridiculous. They should have got well into double figures. These men are evil.”
Monsters on loose, 18 May 2003
Sunday Mail (Scotland) (paper edition)
Notorious paedophile goes on run & partner in crime is free tomorrow
By Norman Silvester May 18, 2003
A NOTORIOUS paedophile has gone on the run after being ordered to return to prison.
Every force in Britain has been put on the alert for William Lauchlan, 26, who hasn’t been seen for eight weeks.
Police believe he plans to join forces with his cousin and fellow paedophile Charles O’Neill, 40, who will be set free from Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, tomorrow.
Lauchlan, of Largs, Ayrshire, was sentenced to six years in 1998 for a sadistic series of sex attacks on young boys. He was released after serving two thirds of his sentence.
But he breached parole conditions and was due to be returned to high security Glenochil Prison, Clackmannanshire, to continue his sentence.
When Lauchlan discovered he was to be sent back to jail, he went on the run.
He is understood to have told his lawyers he will not go back to prison.
O’Neill, also of Largs, was given eight years for his role in the same attacks.
Police fear he will team up with Lauchlan again this week and abuse more boys.
Both men are suspected of murdering mum-of-three Allison McGarrigle, 40, of Rothesay, in 1997 to stop her giving evidence against them.
No trace of her has been found and detectives have not ruled out foul play.
Allison’s family are convinced she is dead and that her body has been dumped by both men, possibly in the Firth of Clyde.
Police carried out extensive searches of houses in Ayrshire and the island of Bute in their hunt for Allison’s remains.
Lauchlan and O’Neill were questioned in 1998 over her disappearance but they have refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
O’Neill is said to have boasted to other prisoners at Peterhead Prison that Mrs McGarrigle had been “fed to the fishes”.
The two perverts were moved to separate cells after their relationship became too “close” while at Peterhead.
Lauchlan was released from prison last year on condition he did not approach boys under the age of 17 or go near public parks, schools or playgrounds.
He was told to report to a social worker at least once a week. Police were also given the power to regularly check his home in Largs.
In March, an order was made to recall Lauchlan to jail after he was caught breaching most of the conditions.
The same parole conditions will apply to O’Neill when he is released tomorrow.
Both men are on the sex offenders’ register.
O’Neill and Lauchlan were jailed for carrying out a five-year catalogue of depravity against six youngsters aged from 11 to 15.
Charges involving nine other children were dropped at the High Court in Glasgow.
The court heard the pair used drink and drugs to lure the boys into their sex dens in the towns of Skelmorlie, Ayrshire, Rothesay and Largs before raping and abusing them.
The two men, who shared a cottage in Skelmorlie, even shaved the hair off one boy’s body.
A prison officer who guarded both men when they were inmates at Glenochil said: “They are both very disturbed individuals who are definitely a serious danger to boys of all ages. Even hardened offenders where sickened when O’Neill used to do drawings of boys being abused.”
O’Neill had a string of convictions in Australia for armed robbery and is still wanted in connection with the attempted murder of a prison guard. His criminal history had been known to Interpol since he returned to Scotland from Australia in 1987.
O’Neill started his abuse 11 years ago at a boxing club he ran in Ferguslie Park, Paisley. He repeatedly abused one of the club’s members – an 11-year-old boy.
His brother Terry is wanted by police in Australia for involvement in an armed robbery and is also feared to have fled back to Scotland.
Last night, Strathclyde Police confirmed they were hunting William Lauchlan. A spokesman said: “We are trying to trace this man.”
Perverts face life
20 March 2005 Sunday Mail (Scotland)
Allison death suspects rapped for fleeing
By Norman Silvester
TWO prime suspects for the murder of Allison McGarrigle face life in prison for fleeing the country while on parole.
Paedophiles Charles O’Neill, 42, and William Lauchlan, 28, were released early after sex attacks on boys aged 11 to 15.
But the cousins, from Largs, fled to Spain. And last week they appeared in court and admitted failing to tell police they were leaving the country and breaking Sex Offenders Register rules.
They were sent back to prison to complete their sentences by Sheriff Iona McDonald – who then took the unusual step of referring them to the High Court for the breach of parole.
A sheriff can only sentence an offender for up to three years, while a High Court judge can order life.
The men will be sentenced in Edinburgh on April 4 for the parole offences.
Both men are suspects for the killing of mum Allison, who is believed to have been dumped at sea in a wheelie bin.
She vanished on June 20, 1997, before she was due to give evidence in court against the paedophiles.
Allison was last seen in the seaside town of Largs, where she lived with her teenage son, Robert.
O’Neill is said to have admitted he killed her and fed her remains ‘to the fishes’ Last month, police launched a fresh search for her body after being told where it had been dumped at sea off the Ayrshire coast.
O’Neill was originally jailed for eight years and Lauchlan for six years in 1998 for a five-year campaign of sexual abuse against six boys aged between 11 and 15 at a cottage in Skelmorlie, Ayrshire.
Lauchlan was freed on licence in February 2002 and O’Neill was released in May 2003. The Sunday Mail then revealed that they had gone on the run to Alfaz del Pi, near Benidorm, where they sold timeshares and worked in a bar.
But a prison officer who knew both men from Peterhead jail was on holiday in Benidorm, recognised O’Neill in the street and told the police.
O’Neill was arrested and extradited, while Lauchlan returned to Scotland of his own will. In Spain both men had been quizzed about the disappearance of a 16-year-old local boy. Last night, one senior court official said: ‘These are very serious offences and the courts want to set an example. Both men are clearly a danger to the public and could get a life sentence because they fled to Spain and because of a strong risk of re-offending. ‘The courts will also want to send out a clear message that the Sex Offenders Register must be complied with.’
Anyone on the Sex Offenders Register must immediately notify either the police or social work of any change of address.
They must also report to either their parole officer or local police station at least once a week.
Lauchlan and O’Neill, a former professional boxer, were first questioned about Mrs McGarrigle’s disappearance in 1997.
O’Neill is said to have told inmates in Peterhead jail after his conviction in 1998 that Allison had been ‘fed to the fishes’.
He has a string of convictions in Australia for armed robbery and is still wanted in connection with the attempted murder of a prison guard.
His brother, Terry, is wanted by police in Australia for involvement in an armed robbery.
He is also believed to have returned to Scotland.
A police spokesman said: ‘We believe that there is a very high percentage chance of success in finding Allison, thanks to the new technology.
‘We believe that her body was disposed of in the sea in some form of container and we are confident it will be found within the search area.’
Dirty rats, 14 October 2007
Dirty rats Sunday Mail (Scotland)
Child abusers linked to murder pose as cleaning experts at family holiday homes
By Billy Paterson
TWO prime murder suspects are posing as directors of a firm that cleans family holiday homes in the island of Gran Canaria.
Paedophiles Charles O’Neill, 44, and William Lauchlan, 30, fled Scotland when they were released from prison last year.
We can reveal they now run Rainbow Cleaning Services on the Canary Island where unsuspecting parents of young children let them into their holiday homes.
O’Neill calls himself a “forensic cleaner” and a member of the British Institute of Cleaning.
Last night a spokesman for the BIC said no one with that name was registered with them.
The former boxer was jailed for eight years and his cousin, Lauchlan sentenced to six years in 1998 for abusing six boys aged between 11 and 15.
One key witnesses was to have been mum-of-three Allison McGarrigle, who once stayed with O’Neill and Lauchlan at their home in Largs, Ayrshire.
The 40-year-old, of Rothesay, Isle of Bute disappeared 10 years ago and has not been seen since.
In April 2005 both men appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court charged with her murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice by disposing of her body.
O’Neill was alleged to have boasted to fellow inmates at Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison and Peterhead jail he had killed Allison and fed her “to the fishes”.
But the Crown never brought the case to court after “very careful consideration” of the evidence.
When they were released from prison for the child abuse offences O’Neill and Lauchlan broke their parole conditions by fleeing to the Spanish resort of Benidorm.
They were arrested in 2004 and returned to Scotland to serve the rest of their sentences. O’Neill was released in November last year, a month after Lauchlan.
Elizabeth Marshall, a Largs councillor, was a member of Victim Support at the time the paedophiles’ offences came to light and counselled one of their victims.
She said last night: “That victim said his life was ruined by these two. They spiked drinks and drugged and threatened victims saying the same fate would befall their mothers as had happened to Alison McGarrigle and that they would be fed to the fishes. It is very disturbing people like that are running a business where they have access to young children. I will alert the police here and hopefully they will pass it on to the authorities in the Canary Islands.”
An advertising feature for Rainbow Cleaning Services on the Canary Islands Round Town News site states:
“William and Charlie have invested a lot of time and money and recruited and personally trained their staff. This is a polished service (no pun intended) with a professional image to boot. Charlie is a former environmental health officer who trained in the UK and is a registered member of the British Institute of Cleaning Science. William is a forensic/industrial cleaner and the inhouse trainer of staff.”
When the Sunday Mail first contacted Rainbow Cleaning Services
we were told neither O’Neill or Lauchlan was available. When we made a second call we were told they had sold the firm three weeks ago.
Last night a senior police source said that the Allison McGarrigle case remained open.
He added: “These inquiries are never closed and are pursued if any new information comes to light.”
Scots Pair Probed Over Missing Boy
Sunday Mail By Prime Suspects Oct 28 2007
TWO paedophile murder suspects are being investigated over the disappearance of a boy on the island of Gran Canaria.
Yeremi Vargas, seven, vanished in March from Vecinardio – where child sex abusers Charles O’Neill, 44, and William Lauchlan, 30, have set up home.
After the Sunday Mail revealed the pair had moved into the town, police have focused the Yeremi inquiry on them.The fiends were once charged with murdering a woman due to give evidence against them.
O’Neill and Lauchlan, who have both served jail sentences in Scotland for prolonged abuse of young boys, run a cleaning business, Rainbow Cleaning Services, in Gran Canaria.
Our story exposed how unsuspecting parents were letting the perverts into their holiday homes. A police source on the island said yesterday:
“These men are under investigation. It’s natural that any known paedophiles would be looked at in the disappearance of a young boy.”
Former boxer O’Neill was jailed for eight years and Lauchlan for six years for subjecting six boys aged between 11 and 15 to systematic abuse over five years.
The pair, formerly of Largs, Ayrshire, were also charged with the murder of mum-of-three Alison McGarrigle, from Rothesay, Bute, who disappeared in 1997.
She was due to give evidence against them on the child sex charges.
The murder charge was made after O’Neill allegedly boasted he had killed Alison, 40, and fed her remains “to the fishes”. But the case was never brought to trial.
Expats and holidaymakers on Gran Canaria were shocked when we revealed the pair’s presence on the island.
Resident Neil Phillips said:
“When these two arrived, I knew something wasn’t right. One teenage guy left their business after a few months because he wasn’t comfortable with some of the suggestions they were making to him.”
Another resident, Stefan Marsh, said: “Many who have read the article, including people who live here as well as holidaymakers have been alarmed.”
No one was available for comment from the Yeremi Vargas inquiry team on Gran Canaria.
Strathclyde Police say the Alison McGarrigle case remains open.
- Murderers Charles O’Neill and William Lauchlan lose BBC News–28 Oct 2015
- Murderers Charles O’Neill and William Lauchlan lose compensation The Courier–28 Oct 2015
- Judge rules killer paedophiles Charles O’Neill and William Lauchlan Daily Mail–29 Oct 2015
- Paedophile killers lose discrimination case Scotsman–28 Oct 2015
- Scots paedophile murderers lose human rights bid to see each other Herald 28.10.15
- Human remains found in area where Spanish boy went missing 17 Sep 2015
- Maddie e-fits same as killers, says victim’s girl The Sun 20 Oct 2013
- Bones found in Gran Canaria are not those of missing Yéremi Vargas The Local.es–17 Sep 2015
- Maddie suspects toured Med looking for sex on ‘fun bus’ The Sun 21 Oct 2013
Today at the High Court in Glasgow Lord Pentland sentenced William Lauchlan and Charles O’Neill to life imprisonment after they were found guilty of the murder of Allison McGarrigle in June 1997 at Largs.
The punishment parts were fixed at 26 years and 30 years respectively.
“William Hugh Lauchlan and Charles Bernard O’Neill, you now stand convicted by the jury of the despicable murder of Mrs. Alison McGarrigle and of disposing of her body at sea. You have previously been convicted by a different jury of other serious charges on the same indictment, involving the sexual abuse of young men and the grooming of a 6 year old boy with the intention of sexually abusing him.
It is clear that you are both dangerous and determined predatory paedophiles and that you represent a high risk to the safety of the public, particularly young men and boys (especially those suffering from some form of vulnerability).
When you became aware that Mrs. McGarrigle intended to report you to the authorities for sexually abusing her son, you conceived a callous and depraved plan to murder her and to dispose of her body. You then put this plan into effect with chilling composure. You went to great lengths to cover your tracks. You must have thought, for some time, that you had succeeded in escaping detection since to this day Mrs. McGarrigle’s body has (tragically) not been recovered. It took determined work by the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as well as the courage of a number of witnesses, including members of Mrs. McGarrigle’s own family, to bring you both eventually to justice.
The consistent theme which permeated the evidence in both trials was your calculating and devious manipulation of vulnerable individuals in order to further your appetites for sexually abusing young men and boys.
You have each already served lengthy sentences of imprisonment imposed in this court for offences of child abuse, but this has evidently not deflected you from further predatory criminality. In the whole circumstances, I must sentence you on the footing that you are highly ruthless and unrepentant individuals with no respect for the law or the values of a civilised society.
In your case Lauchlan I sentence you to imprisonment for life on charge 2.
The law requires me to set a minimum period that you must serve in prison as the punishment part of your life sentence. In fixing this period I take account of the aggravating features of the case. I can identify no mitigating considerations. In the circumstances,
I consider that you must serve at least 26 years in prison as punishment before the possibility of release on licence may even be considered.
I emphasise that the period of 26 years is only a minimum which I am required by law to set at this stage. You will not necessarily be released after 26 years and may indeed never be released. I shall backdate that sentence to 25 March 2008, when you first appeared in court in relation to these matters.
On charge 3 I sentence you to 8 years imprisonment.
On charge 7 I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment.
On charge 10 I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment.
All these sentences will run concurrently with sentence on charge 2.
In your case O’Neill, I again impose a sentence of life imprisonment on charge 2.
You are older than your co-accused and you were the more dominant personality. In addition, you have been convicted of charge 5 (another charge involving sexual abuse of a minor, of which Lauchlan was not accused). You, like your co-accused, are a relentless and murderous paedophile. In the circumstances, the punishment part in your case must, in my view, be higher.
I consider that you must serve a minimum period of 30 years in custody, backdated to 25 March 2008.
On charge 3 I sentence you to 8 years imprisonment.
On charge 5 I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment.
On charge 7 I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment.
On charge 10 I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment.
All these sentences will run concurrently with the sentence on charge 2.
You will both continue to be registered sex offenders for an indefinite period of time.
Finally, I will recommend to the Scottish Ministers that your names be added to the list of persons considered unsuitable to work with children.
Well ladies and gentlemen; it remains only for me to express to you my thanks on behalf of the Court for the most important public service you have performed as jurors in this distressing and anxious case. If I may say so ladies and gentlemen, it has been very clear to me that throughout the trial you have fulfilled your responsibilities in this matter with conspicuous care, diligence and attention. I commend you for that. The administration of justice in this country depends, to a considerable degree, on the contribution which citizens make as jury members. In view of the nature and duration of the trial, I consider that it is appropriate for me to recognise the importance of your contribution by discharging you from further service as jurors for a period of 10 years.
Thank you and good afternoon
THE GODFATHER aka Arthur Thompson
Now aged 21, Ferris immediately returned to his work as an enforcer for Thompson, and was soon arrested again and charged with possession of offensive weapons after a pickaxe handle and knives were found in his car. While awaiting trial he was involved in a stabbing, and fled to Thompson’s holiday home in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Within a day of arriving there, he was arrested by armed police and charged with various offences including attempted murder and possession of heroin with intent to supply, and was remanded to HM Prison Barlinnie. The attempted murder charge was dropped a week later and Ferris was found not guilty of the drugs charge, but he received an 18-month sentence for possession of offensive weapons. After being released from prison Ferris stopped working for Thompson and started a company named Cottage Conservatories specialising in double glazing and conservatories, but still remained active in the criminal underworld.
- Nathanael Chalmers explorer
- Johnny Dumfries, former Formula One racing driver and current Marquess of Bute
- Thomas Bannatyne Gillies, New Zealand lawyer, judge and politician
- George Leslie Hunter, the colourist painter
- Ian Jenkins (politician)
- Ashley Lilley, actor, Ali in Mamma Mia
- Sir William Macewen, pioneer of brain surgery
- Jim McAlister, footballer (Morton FC and Dundee F.C.)
- Billy McIsaac, keyboardist in Slik, PVC2 and The Zones
- Sheina Marshall zoologist
- Troy Kennedy Martin writer of Z-Cars
- John Morrison ex footballer for Torquay United (played in Wembley cup tie 1989)
- Jane Ross, Scottish international footballer & reserve forward for Team GB‘s squad for London 2012 Olympics
- John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, First Scottish Prime Minister of Great Britain is buried in St Mary’s Chapel, Rothesay.
- John Tiffin Stewart civil engineer
- Matthew Stewart (mathematician)
- Sir Graham Watson, UK Lib Dem politician & Member of European ParliamentLena
- Zavaroni, singer and child star
THAT’S A LOT OF NOTABLE FOR A TINY WEE ISLAND WI POPULATION JUST OVER 6000