Evening times articles........
WELL-KEPT gardens sit next to shops draped with metal curtains. On one street, the words, ''Colin is a dead man'', are scrawled across an empty building. Galston may be an East Ayrshire village with typical problems of drugs and deprivation. But, until Sunday, it was not known for violent crime against its elderly residents.
The vicious attack on Margaret Irvine, a 91-year-old grandmother, on Sunday set it apart from the break-ins which have recently worried people on Barward Road.
Detective Chief Inspector Willie Prendergast said the widow, whose home had been raided within the past few months, had been subjected to a particularly violent ordeal.
He said: ''This was your typical old lady who was too trusting. At this time, we have still to establish a motive for this senseless crime committed against a well-respected senior member of the community.''
Mrs Irvine suffered from sciatica, a condition which impaired her mobility. Her body was discovered by Violet Connell, one of five home helps who visited her .
A widow who lost husband John several years ago, Mrs Irvine was understood to have two daughters, Lillian and Margaret, who both live in Ayrshire and a son, who died many years ago. She lived next door to nephew Charles Keers, who was too upset to comment.
Detectives yesterday reassured residents that the police presence will be stepped up and unmarked cars will be on patrol.
The murder has shaken Mrs Irvine's neighbours, many of whom are elderly and living on their own.
One woman, who has lived on the street for more than 60 years, said: ''It knocks you for six to be told something like that. I just would not have thought this could happen. My doors are locked all day but still, it makes you wonder. It is quite a shock.''
Another neighbour and friend, Nancy Boyes, said: ''She was a lovely chatty lady but I knew she hadn't been keeping well.
''It's very worrying. I'm concerned about my mother - she's on her own and an awful one for opening the door to strangers.''
Mrs Boyce added: ''The community has changed for the worse, with a lot of the young ones drinking heavily and taking drugs. Somebody was stabbed on Catherine Drive just a couple of months ago. I have seen ones that I know are dabbling in it hanging around down Mrs Irvine's end of the street.''
This concern was shared by Chris Wilson, whose parents have lived near Mrs Irvine for more than 20 years: ''There have always been problems here but the council have now moved a lot of drug addicts into Catherine Drive. It's getting really rough.''
Some residents claim that council housing policy has increased a significant number of people who they believe are responsible for many of Galston's problems.
However, Isobel Macrae, a resident and local councillor, warned villagers not to discriminate. ''I do realise people are concerned, but you cannot create sections within the community which would become ghettoes.''
But she added: ''This has certainly put a lot of fear into residents, especially the elderly who are most at risk. They do get frightened alone in their own home town. They should make sure they will be secure and not be afraid to approach myself, the council or the police.''
- EVENING TIMES STORY-
SCOTLAND was outraged at the murder of frail great-grandmother Margaret Irvine a month ago.
She was tied up and beaten to death in her home in Galston, Ayrshire - and her killer is still on the loose..................................
SHEILA HAMILTON visited Galston to find villagers gripped by fear, and impatient for the killer to be caught.
THE horrific murder of 91-year-old Margaret Irvine sent shockwaves far beyond her village of Galston in the Irvine Valley.
And it has struck deep into the heart of the close-knit former mining and weaving village.
There's anger, fear and disbelief that such a thing could happen to a frail, defenceless old woman living in their midst.
The villagers of Galston all say the same thing - ''It could have been your granny or mine.''
They are alarmed that nearly a month after Mrs Irvine was beaten to death in her sitting room, her brutal killer has not been caught.
The residents of this handsome little village want the murder solved - but they fear the hunt for the killer has come to a standstill.
They are becoming increasingly cynical as the investigation drags on and the police seem to have no leads.
Detectives have sought the help of a TV Cracker-style psychologist, and they have not ruled out DNA testing the whole village.
One village shopkeeper, who didn't want to be named, said rumours were flying thick and fast, with everyone saying the police didn't have a clue.
And pointing to a copy of the newly-released police poster appealing for help, a passer-by suggested it smacked of desperation.
As she stuck a poster up in the window of her hairdressing shop in the town's Cross Street, owner Lindsay Christie, 42, was inclined to agree.
She said: ''We have only just got these posters - more than three weeks after the murder. It seems as if they are locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
''If they had done more about it the first time Mrs Irvine had her house broken into, they might have prevented this.''
Mrs Christie admitted a lot of her elderly clients didn't feel quite as safe as they had.
''My own mum is 75 and lives in Galston and, like everyone else, she doesn't have the same confidence to answer her door,'' she said.
Ironically, they have probably never been safer, as there's a heavy police presence in the village.
You can't miss the murder scene in Barward Road. Floral tributes on the pavement are regularly renewed and a police incident van is parked outside.
Round every corner, it seems you come on a police van or a foot patrol.
''We have suddenly acquired a police presence,'' Mrs Christie said. ''Before, you were lucky to see a policeman if a window was smashed in.
''And before this, there were only two police officers for the whole of the valley.''
Mrs Irvine's nephew, Charles Keers, who lives next door to her home, said he had been advised by the police not to comment.
And other close neighbours were equally guarded, perhaps intimidated by a police van nearby.
All said they were more wary, more careful, and now locked their doors when they popped out.
Most of the houses are well kept and the residents are good people, but locals speak of an influx of drug users into the area.
As she made her way back from the shops to the murder scene, a building scarred with graffiti, 26-year-old mum Joanne Zaisluk said: ''In the past year, it has been
crummier around here.
''When I come home late in the evening from work, I don't feel happy just walking up the path from the car.
''It's hard to think someone could do such a thing to an old woman, and to know it happened just round the corner is so shocking.
''It makes you more aware. You think you know people - now you look at everyone differently.
''Before, when I was going to the shop, I would just shut the door behind me. Now I make sure it's locked.''
This year, she won't be taking her seven-year-old daughter Nichole round the houses guising at Hallowe'en.
''I would be quite scared to do that and we're just going to have a party at home,'' she said.
MRS Margaret Connell, 50, a near neighbour of Mrs Irvine, said: ''The person who has done this is just an animal.
''Even hardened criminals wouldn't do this.''
She suggested that one of the biggest problems was that the
murder happened on a Sunday when most people were indoors.
''Every other day of the week, people would have been out and about,'' she said.
Mrs Fiona Marshall, 39, who also lives nearby, said she was inclined to think from the number of police in the area they considered the killer was definitely a local person.
She said: ''Everyone is totally disgusted. We feel it must have been someone who knew her house wasn't secured during the day and that's the most worrying thing.''
Councillor Isabel Macrae, a near neighbour, said: ''She was one of my constituents and a friend.
''The community has gone through initial shock and fear to a feeling of empathy for the family.''
Later, she issued a statement praising the local police for their understanding and thorough approach.
She also promised that East Ayrshire Council had taken on board the community's fears and concerns and was confident the murderer would be caught.
Families all over the village are much more fearful and concerned for their elderly relatives.
Mrs Jean Crombie, 78, has lived in Galston all her life and is grateful she stays in sheltered accommodation with an alarm and buzzer.
Her family have impressed on her that she must not open her door at night and must always use the buzzer.
''It is terrible it has had to come to this,'' said Mrs Crombie. ''You couldn't imagine this happening in such a quiet area. It makes you feel insecure, even in your own house.''
Mrs Irene Paterson, 63, said: ''I just wish they would hurry up and catch someone. Why were the posters so long in going up? Someone is hiding the murderer.''
Another neighbour said: ''Everyone's so angry and just
hoping someone is caught soon. But as time goes by, you begin to wonder if they ever will be.''