Love Triangles
Tangled Web

Episode Summary

TRIGGER WARNING- This episode discusses domestic abuse and themes targeting children, so listener discretion is strongly advised. 

In June 1955, 20 year old Sheila married her prince charming in a lavish ceremony. She was the envy of the town having landed the wealthy and powerful Max. Nobody, least of all Sheila, could have ever predicted the tangled web she would become part of.

Please Be Advised – This episode may contain content that some may find distressing. As always, we advise listener discretion. This episode it not suitable for anyone under the age of 13.

Listen on:

Please Be Advised – This episode may contain content that some may find distressing. As always, we advise listener discretion. This episode it not suitable for anyone under the age of 13.

Listen on:

Murder World Scotland – A Killing at Kinky Cottage

by Steve MacGregor


This is the true story of a murder which took place in Scotland in 1968. It attracted huge media attention at the time, but it has since been largely forgotten. Perhaps the reason for this is that, in the most basic terms, there is no mystery here. We know who was murdered and who pulled the trigger and we have a reasonable idea of why. What makes this case so fascinating is that the three people involved in the murder all gave very different accounts of what happened.

Depending on who you choose to believe, this could be the story of a fragile woman, traumatized by the incessant and bizarre sexual demands of her overbearing and violent husband, who sought solace in the company of a besotted young man and was then further traumatized and punished when he unexpectedly took bloody revenge on her husband. But, it could also be the story of a ruthless and manipulative woman who used her sexuality to inveigle a naïve young man to commit murder on her behalf and then discarded him when he was of no further use to her. Or, it could be none of these things.

Let’s take a look at the fascinating case of the killing at kinky cottage and see if we can make sense of the evidence.

Scottish Murders is a production of Cluarantonn

Hosted by Dawn

Researched and Written by Dawn Young

Produced and Edited by Dawn Young and Peter Bull

Introduction Voice Talent by Eleanor Morton

Production Company Name by Granny Robertson


Dawn of the Fairies by Derek & Brandon Fiechter

Gothic Wedding by Derek & Brandon Fiechter


Trigger warning. This episode discusses domestic abuse and themes targeting children, so listener discretion is strongly advised.

Before I begin, a lot of the information in this episode I got from The Storyteller Violent Delights podcast by Isla Traquair. This podcast is full of information about the case; from interviews, court records and many other avenues, a lot of which I wasn’t able to say in this episode. So, if you’d like to know even more in-depth information about this case and the main people involved, then I’d highly recommend giving The Storyteller Violent Delights podcast a listen.

Wendy Garvie was born in 1956. She was the first daughter of Maxwell and Sheila Garvie. From around four years old Wendy was made to feel like a huge disappointment. By 13 she was living in foster care. At 16 she was married to a 21 year old, and gave birth to a daughter when she was 18. Three short years later at the age of 21, Wendy was divorced and had left her daughter with her ex-husband. Wendy then began drinking alcohol to excess. For many long years Wendy’s life continued to spiral out of control. What could have taken place in Wendy’s young life to have caused such long-lasting and obvious trauma?

Wendy’s parents, Maxwell and Sheila Garvie, had met at a dance in January 1952 and had quickly fallen in love, eventually marrying on the 21st of June 1955 in a lavish ceremony when Max was 22 and Sheila was 20. The couple then moved into a lavish five-bedroom farmhouse called West Cairnbeg, which Max Garvie had just inherited after it had been in his family for many years. West Cairnbeg is located less than a mile or 1.5 kilometres outside of the town of Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire. And Laurencekirk, which is known as the Lang Toun or simply the Kirk to locals, is situated on the east coast of Scotland, approximately 30 miles or 48 kilometres south of Aberdeen. Max’s family were well known in the area, owning vast amounts of land around Laurencekirk, and the Garvie family were extremely well off. While Max was known as a farmer, you’d be mistaken if you thought he was the conventional kind where he worked the farmland traipsing around in his wellington boots. No, Max had staff and a grieve for that, and his grieve, who was also a special constable, oversaw the running of West Cairnbeg farm on a day-to-day basis, but Max still did take an interest in how the farm was being run and had a keen interest in agriculture. By the time Max met Sheila in 1952 he already had a reputation as being an extravagant man, a ladies man, having loved and left many girls. He was seen as a handsome eligible bachelor, he just hadn’t found the right girl. Then in walked Sheila Watson.

Sheila was the daughter of a stonemason who worked at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s estate, and who was known as a sombre man, of having a short temper and of being very frugal. Sheila’s mother, Edith Watson, was, according to the book A Killing at Kinky Cottage by Steve MacGregor, described as being upright, forthright and of having inflexible views. Sheila had quite a strict upbringing under the watchful eyes of her parents and had feelings of being quite stifled, a feeling which only increased when as a teenager Sheila began working at Balmoral Castle as a housemaid.  Although when Sheila was about 18 she finally would get a bit of freedom, as she and her family made the decision to leave their jobs at Balmoral Castle and move to the town of Stonehaven, which was about an hour’s drive away from Balmoral Castle. Sheila was so pleased to finally be able to make some friends her own age, to go to dances and just basically have a bit of fun in her young life.  However, she was still very much under the watchful eye of her parents, so, when she met and was swept off her feet by the wealthy and showy Maxwell Garvie, Sheila could finally see a way out.

Max and Sheila Garvie were seen as the perfect couple, Max being rich, tall, dark, well-dressed and handsome and Sheila being a slim, beautiful blonde, and so it was no surprise when the pair married. Sheila had craved the high life that Max could offer, and so it wouldn’t be long before the couple were enjoying eating in the best restaurants, attending nightclubs, splashing out on the latest fashions, hosting lavish parties at West Cairnbeg, holidaying abroad and indulging in Max’s passion for fast cars. The couple then had their second daughter, Angela, in 1957, when Wendy was a year old, and from the outside they really did appear to be the perfect couple living the perfect life. However, things are not always as they seem. While Sheila and Max initially were very happy together, by the early 1960s life in the Garvie household was anything but bliss, the main problem appearing to be Max Garvie. From a young age Max knew he could have anything he wanted, he could have it all, and sadly this fact appeared to have made him very restless, getting bored very easily with things, and he was always on the lookout for the next big thing to give him a rush. Sadly, this didn’t just include material things, like always having a new car, a better car, a faster car, this also included his family. Max began to pick on Sheila, criticising what she would wear, how she looked, how she behaved, how she parented their children, and he even began to criticise her in the bedroom. From Sheila’s perspective she could do nothing right. Max had grown bored of Sheila and their sex life, she wasn’t shiny and new anymore and he wanted to try different things, and so he began to look for ways that being with Sheila could be more interesting again, continuing to constantly criticise Sheila, before turning more and more to alcohol until he found something or someone that would satisfy him.

By this time the swinging 60s were taking London by storm, not so much however in the small villages of east Scotland, much to Max’s dismay, and so he set about bringing a bit of London to the village of Laurencekirk, firstly in the form of erotic photographs. Sheila of course was expected to be involved in this and, while she had no interest in being photographed erotically, she went along with it, as she always did, to try to please her husband and stop his constant criticism of her. Max also decided to involve his close friends in this venture, and he even started distributing the erotic photographs featuring Sheila around his friends, until that is he was told bluntly by the police that this was not acceptable and that he should stop it immediately or risk being prosecuted. Never one to be deterred though, Max then bought a cottage about 20 miles or 32 kilometres away from West Cairnbeg farmhouse and began planting trees on part of the surrounding land. Of course, none of the locals saw this as odd as maybe he was doing this to protect his farmland or animals from exposure to the cold winds. Although it did seem ever so slightly strange that the trees appeared to have been planted to enclose a small triangular piece of land. It would appear that Max’s intentions for the cottage and the triangle of trees was to start his very own nudist colony.

Now, while Sheila and Max were blessed with two healthy daughters, Wendy and Angela, Max’s need for perfection and having the perfect family was marred by his perception that his daughter, Wendy, was overweight, and sadly he was not shy about letting Wendy know on a regular basis just how much of a disappointment she was to him, with Wendy saying in an article in The Scotsman newspaper on the 1st of February 2002 that she had been left traumatised by her father’s disappointment in her for being overweight, remembering the jibes as far back as when she was four or five years old. So, with Wendy’s dad’s constant criticism about her weight ringing in her ears as a child, to then be told that she was to partake in his nudist colony was very distressing for Wendy, because, yes, of course Max expected his wife and children to be involved in his nudist camp. Wendy recalled in an article in The Scotsman newspaper “I was forced to strip off. Being fat I was terribly embarrassed. There were old men sitting watching. I remember undressing in the freezing cold.” Sheila and the girls had also been made to attend nudist colonies by Max previously while they holidayed in Corsica. There are a couple of differing stories about Sheila’s participation in the nudist colonies at Laurencekirk. One version says that Sheila was initially strongly against stripping off for the nudist colony in a triangle of trees on the rather cold and windy east coast of Scotland, where it would also be desperately embarrassing for both Sheila and the girls to be naked in front of people that they knew. However, as before, Sheila was eventually worn down by Max’s berating and criticism that Sheila was frigid and boring for not taking part. However, another version reports that while Sheila did attend the very first welcome meeting of the nudist colony, she refused to remove her clothing and did not return again. However, if Wendy had memories of having to strip naked in the cold of Scotland, then did that mean that her mother, Sheila, was not present or was she there too but just didn’t want to remember being forced to strip naked? Wendy would have been as old as eight or nine before Max moved on to other more extreme ventures.

Max wasn’t satisfied with just the nudist colony for long and, according to The Kinky Cottage book by Steve MacGregor, it wasn’t long before the nudist colony gatherings had escalated into drink fuelled orgies and wife swapping. Again, whether Sheila was involved in this or not is not clear. What is clear though is that Sheila was becoming very depressed and told friends that Max had become physically violent towards her, at one point threatening to shoot her. Sheila felt that no matter what she did to try and please Max sexually it just wasn’t ever enough, and his requests were becoming more and more demanding.  According to The Kinky Cottage book by this point Max was drinking very heavily, now four or five bottles of whisky a week, was exceeding the daily allowance of caffeine-based stimulants, as well as taking a chronic insomnia drug barbiturate, something which is advised not to be taken for more than two weeks or with alcohol, both of which Max was doing. Max’s behaviour continued to escalate and be erratic, until 1964 when Sheila gave birth to the couple’s only son, Lloyd.  At this point Max began to reduce his drug and alcohol intake and life became more tolerable for the Garvie family, well for most of them, as Max still continued to torment Wendy constantly about her weight.

During this time of stability, Max gained his pilot’s licence and bought himself a small aircraft and started a flying club, which was located about a seven minute drive away from West Cairnbeg. While this new adventure appeared to satisfy Max for a while, it wouldn’t be long before Max became restless and began drinking again. He would often take his small aircraft out after drinking heavily and was known to fly erratically and very low over Laurencekirk, being dubbed by locals as the flying farmer. Max was approached by the police on several occasions after scaring drivers as he flew so close to them while they drove along below, but Max was a charismatic and likable man and appeared able to talk his way out of situations. Sheila would also be encouraged to go flying with Max, which made her very anxious due to his erratic behaviour and drinking, but again she obliged, anything to make Max happy, but it just never did. However, soon Max would meet someone who would make him happy, very happy, for a while at least, but which would ultimately lead to his downfall.

The Garvie children; Wendy, Angela and Lloyd, did their best to live a normal life and do normal things while they were not at the farmhouse, because when they were at home there was always the threat of more nudist colony exploits, of Max and Sheila arguing and  laterally of Sheila becoming distant and cold towards the children, and of course Wendy being regularly tormented by her father about her being overweight, which had never stopped. So much so that when Wendy was 11 years old Max produced slimming tablets for Wendy and instructed her to start taking them, which she did. However, much to Wendy, and Max’s dismay, even this didn’t help Wendy lose weight, and the constant criticism by Max continued, a constant reminder for Wendy of just how much of a disappointment she continued to be to her father. However, Wendy then began to notice a difference in her father, he seemed happier, the criticism from him seemed to lessen and she noticed that her mother and father didn’t seem to be arguing as much. Wendy realised that this change seemed to have happened around the time 21 year old Brian Tevendale came on the scene and began spending more and more time at the farmhouse. Whatever the reason, Wendy was just pleased that her mother and father had stopped arguing as much, and that her father didn’t bring up her weight as often. Then one evening in late April 1968 Wendy, who was now 12 years old, walked into the living room at the farmhouse and was shocked to find her mother kissing Brian Tevendale. Wendy wasn’t the only one shocked, with Wendy saying in an article that her mother begged her not to say anything, which Wendy promised that she wouldn’t as she didn’t want to upset her mother. However, Wendy’s decision to stay silent stayed with her throughout her life, it caused Wendy no end of trauma and guilt, and led to her spending her life asking the question, what if? So, while 12 year old Wendy was thinking that things had settled down at home and that her mother and father appeared to be happier since the arrival of Brian Tevendale, she could have had no idea just what had been going on while she lay sleeping at night. In 1967, three years after Max and Sheila’s son Lloyd was born, when Max was 33 years old, Max met 21 year old bartender and mechanic Brian Tevendale.

Brian was a slim, good-looking, shy man who enjoyed drinking, however Brian did not come from a wealthy family and so could not afford to indulge as much as he would have liked. And so when Brian began to receive the attention of the extravagant Max Garvie, who clearly had a sexual interest in him, Brian was more than happy to become friends, just without the benefits. Max and Brian began to spend more and more time together, drinking together, flying together, and Brian started to become a regular overnight visitor at West Cairnbeg farmhouse after enjoying a drinking session with Max and Sheila. Max was clearly very taken with Brian and enjoyed his company, even if it had not turned sexual as Max had hoped. While Max was happy with his relationship with Brian, Max still was frustrated by his frigid and boring wife Sheila. And, so, wanting to spice up their sex life, Max came up with the perfect idea to get Sheila interested in sex again. It was reported in the Daily Record newspaper on the 19th of October 2007 that one evening in late 1967 when Brian was staying at the farmhouse and had gone to bed in the spare room, he suddenly found his door thrown open and Max pushed a naked and shivering Sheila into the room with Brian, before Max left them alone, locking the door behind him. Max had decided that in order to get frigid Sheila more interested in sex again he would make her sleep with a younger lover. Sheila had been instructed by Max in no uncertain terms that she was to sleep with Brian that evening. Brian was 21 at this time and found Sheila to be extremely attractive, and so the pair spent the night together. Max was delighted, wanting to know every single intimate detail from Sheila afterwards. And this arrangement continued for a while, before Max decided that he wanted in on the action too and suggested that the three of them should sleep together, which Brian agreed to but made it clear that he was not interested in having sex with Max, only Sheila, who Brian was fast becoming infatuated with. Max found this new setup exciting, especially as Sheila became more and more interested in having sex with Brian.  Apparently, Max and Brian would occasionally toss a coin to decide which of them would have sex with Sheila first that evening, but often if Max lost he would just insist that they all slept together. This arrangement continued for a while, but as ever it wasn’t long before Max grew tired of even this setup, although he was pleased to find that Sheila seemed happy to continue to sleep with Brian, which in his eyes meant that he was free to find himself another lover, which he did and who came in the form of Trudi Birse, who just so happen to be Brian’s sister and who was married to a local policeman, Alfred. Max and Sheila already knew Trudi as her and her husband, Alfred, had frequently attended Max’s nudist colony. So, Max and Trudi began an affair, which was made known to both Sheila and Trudi’s husband Alfred, but neither appeared to be concerned by this. Max liked Trudi as she appeared to be as keen on varied sex as he was, with the pair frequently going flying in Max’s small aircraft with Max putting the autopilot on so the pair could satisfy their sexual appetites. It got to the stage that Max and Trudi would spend the evening having sex in Sheila and Brian’s marital bed, while Brian and Sheila would spend the evening having sex in the spare room, then sometime during the night Trudi would knock on the spare room’s door signalling that it was time for Sheila to go back to the marital bed to have sex with Max. One evening even Trudi’s husband Alfred got in on the action. Max, Sheila, Trudi, Brian, Alfred and a mystery female, who had been invited to attend the gathering by Max, had spent the evening at West Cairnbeg drinking in the living room. Brian and Sheila then drifted off to have sex, followed by Trudi and Max, until it was just Alfred and the mystery female left, and they too had sex. Everybody appeared to be having a great time, everyone that is except Sheila.

Sheila was very depressed, she was on sleeping tablets, and was just worn down by Max and his physical, mental and sexual abuse. Although for Sheila there did appear to be a slight glimmer of hope as she had began to develop strong feelings for Brian, had started to look forward to their time together alone, and may even have started to see a future away from Max. Knowing that she would need support if she were to even consider the possibility of leaving Max she firstly turned to her mother, Edith, who was known to be forthright and have inflexible views. Despite Edith being aware of how Max was treating her daughter, as Max took great delight in telling her the intimate details including how he and Brian tossed a coin to decide who would have sex with Sheila first, as predicted, Sheila would be deeply disappointed as her mother would not support this decision, she should stay with her husband for the children, she needed to try and make it work, divorce was not an option. Next, Sheila turned to her local priest for support and guidance, but again received the same outcome, she should stay with her husband for the children’s sake, divorce was not an option. It was also reported in the Press and Journal newspaper on the 30th of November 2011 that Sheila also sought help and support from her doctor when Max had become so physically violent towards her she had to wear an neck brace. However, again, Sheila was to be severely let down by her doctor as her doctor had immediately telephoned Max and told him what Sheila had said, and in essence sent Sheila straight back to her increasingly intolerable life with Max. And then things became even worse.

Max had grown tired of Brian and Trudi and wanted new sexual partners to join him and Sheila in the bedroom. However, much to his shock and annoyance, he realised that Brian and Sheila had begun to have feelings for one another and that the lovers had no intention of giving each other up. This enraged Max. While he was happy to force his wife to have sex with other people, he always wanted to be in control and was very domineering, and so to have his wife not immediately cut Brian off in favour of new sexual partners, as well as to have developed feelings for another man, did not go down well with Max. He became more physically and mentally abusive towards Sheila, trying to force her to bend to his will, as he had done time and time before, and so he was furious when Sheila took the three children and left him to be with Brian. However, Sheila knew she had no support from anyone, other than her 22 year old lover she was completely alone. And, so, when Max threatened to shoot all of them if Sheila did not return to him, scared and completely beaten down Sheila returned to Max. Sheila did find some amazing courage to leave Max one more time to be with Brian, although this time she didn’t take her children. While away from Max once again she visited a solicitor to find out her rights, however, yet again, Sheila was severely let down. She was told that regardless of what Max had been doing or had been making Sheila do sexually, Sheila was still an adulteress and if she were to apply for a divorce she would lose her home and children. Distraught and completely beaten but knowing she would be unable to be without her children, Sheila returned to Max once again, only this time Sheila was desperate and out of options.

The physical and sexual abuse from Max continued and Sheila started taking a prescription drug to help with her increasing anxiety and depression, which made her appear to be detached and cold, which only angered Max further. Sheila did continue to see Brian though, much to Max’s annoyance. Sheila had begun to see Brian as her only escape from a terrible and traumatic reality, and one evening in late April 1968 when Brian and Sheila were alone together and she said to him that life would be so much better without Max in it, a seed was planted which set about a motion that would destroy so many lives and lead to murder.

On Tuesday the 14th of May 1968, a few weeks after Wendy had caught her mother and Brian kissing in the living room, a fact that 12 year old Wendy had forgotten about by this point, Wendy was again in the living room at West Cairnbeg, but this time she was watching television before heading to bed. Wendy, who was 12, and her younger sister, Angela who was 11, were allowed to stay up a bit later than their four-year-old brother Lloyd, but soon it would be Wendy and Angela’s bedtime too. Wendy remembers that her father wasn’t home at this time, with her mother telling her that he was at a meeting but would be home later. The main reason Wendy remembers this bedtime particularly is because her mother made her and her sister go to bed earlier than normal, and after her mother had kissed her and Angela good night Sheila apparently said, according to an article in The Scotsman newspaper on the 1st of February 2002, “No matter what, don’t get up.” Wendy thought this was strange but she was tired and so thought nothing more about it and went to sleep, and had no reason to get up until her mother woke her in the morning for school. Now, while Wendy was devastated at always being taunted by her father about her weight, Max was still her father and she loved him, and so when her dad wasn’t there in the morning she asked her mother where he was, to which Sheila said he had gone for a few days, which wasn’t unusual as he often was gone for meetings or to do with his flying club. However, after a few days of Wendy not having seen or heard from her dad she again asked her mother where he was. It appeared that Sheila too was becoming concerned by Max’s absence, and even though his car had been found parked at the airstrip suggesting he had gone off in his plane, on the 20th of May, five days after Max was last seen, she telephoned the police to report him missing. She told the police that Max had returned late and had been drunk on the night of the 14th of May, that they had had an argument and Sheila had gone to bed and Max had slept elsewhere, and that he was gone in the morning when she got up. She did state to the police however that he most likely was just with his flying group somewhere and that he had an arranged meeting planned for that same evening and she was sure he would return for that. But he didn’t. And so the police began to take Max’s disappearance more seriously. They firstly attended the farmhouse to have a look around for anything unusual, to double check that Max definitely wasn’t there, and to speak to Sheila, although Sheila’s mother, Edith, was there who took charge, leaving Sheila to fade into the background. Edith did not appear to be overly concerned about Max’s disappearance, offering the opinion that he was likely off with his flying group somewhere, as his car had been parked at the airstrip which suggested this. However, on closer inspection it turned out that Max’s actual aircraft was still in the hangar. Could Max perhaps have left his aircraft there and flown with another group member? It was definitely a possibility, especially after, according to the podcast The Storyteller Violent Delights by Isla Traquair, a local farmer who lived near the airstrip came forward to say that he had heard a small aircraft taking off from the airstrip about 6.30am on the morning of Wednesday the 15th of May.

Max and his erratic behaviour was well known to the police and while it appeared that he was just off somewhere of his own free will, a description of Max was placed in the Police Gazette in June 1968, not a very flattering description to say the least. According to The Storyteller Violent Delights podcast it read ‘Spends freely. Is a heavy spirit drinker and often consumes tranquilisers and Pro Plus tablets when drinking. Is fond of female company but has strong homosexual tendencies and is often in the company of young men. Is a man of considerable wealth, and until three years ago was completely rational. Of late became very impulsive, probably brought about by his addiction to drink. Has threatened suicide on at least one occasion. Deals in pornographic material. Is an active member of nudist camps, and is an enthusiastic flyer. May have gone abroad.’ Max’s younger sister, Hilda, also reported him missing at the time, but she only gave a physical description of Max to the police. While there were a few sightings of Max reported to police none ever checked out. Max hadn’t been in touch with friends or family, and even more alarmingly his bank account had not been touched. Max had vanished.

As the days became weeks and the weeks became months more and more people in the community began to believe that something had happened to Max, that he had possibly been murdered. Wendy became more and more upset and worried by her father’s disappearance as the time passed and became more and more difficult to console, so much so that Sheila was unable to cope on her own with the children, and so asked her mother, Edith, to move into West Cairnbeg to help her. While the community were speculating about what may have happened to Max, and Wendy the couple’s eldest daughter was becoming more and more upset by his absence, Sheila appeared to be at her happiest. She spent more and more time with Brian, they were seen holding hands and laughing together in public, which only further increased speculation about Max’s disappearance.  However, there was no evidence of foul play and there was no body so the police were not able to do anything. That is until Friday the 16th of August 1968 when Wendy recalls the police arriving at the farmhouse.

Wendy had been in the kitchen with her siblings and mother making the dinner when there was a knock at the door. Before Wendy knew what was happening her mother was shouting to her to watch the potatoes as they were nearly ready and that her grandmother would be along shortly to look after them, before her mother was led out of the house and into a waiting police car. Wendy was 12 years old, first her father had disappeared and now her mother was being taken away by the police. Wendy was distraught. But she would only have to wait a couple of days before being bluntly told by her grandmother, Edith, and her mother’s brother that her father was dead and that he had been murdered by her mother. Wendy’s young and traumatised life as the daughter of perfectionist Max Garvie was further being turned upside down. Wendy recalls everything happening so quickly after hearing this news, she and her siblings were whisked away by their grandmother, away from their friends and all that was familiar to them, but this was done to protect them from the media frenzy that was about to descend.

So, what had happened for the police to suddenly bring Sheila in for questioning after Max had been missing for three months, and for her to be arrested for his murder? It transpired that Max had been able to orchestrate one final blow to Sheila.

And that’s the end of part one. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the conclusion to this story.


Trigger warning – This episode discusses domestic abuse, so listener discretion is strongly advised.

This is part two of the story Tangled Web, so, if you’ve not listened to part one already or you need a reminder then stop and give it a listen now, and then come back to this episode. If you’re all up-to-date then let’s continue with part two.

Following Max’s disappearance Sheila and Brian became closer and closer, despite the growing gossip. They began to spend more and more time together, and had eventually made the decision to move to Aberdeen with Sheila’s three children to start a new life together. However, while Edith watched on quietly as her daughter spent more and more time with Brian, when she found out that Sheila planned to move to Aberdeen with her children to live with Brian, Edith could stay silent no longer.

Earlier in the day on Friday the 16th of August 1968, 59 year old Edith Watson had entered the local police station and almost collapsed she was in such distress about what she was about to say. She told police that she strongly believed that Max was dead, and that her daughter Sheila and Brian Tevendale had been involved in this. She said that the day after Max had gone missing Sheila had said to her that she would have no more worries and that Max wouldn’t be back. Edith said she had asked Sheila outright if she meant that Max was dead, to which she said Sheila had nodded. She said that Sheila had gone on to say that she had a strong man at her back, to which Edith said she asked if she meant Brian Tevendale, and Sheila again nodded. Edith said she then asked her daughter if Brian had been involved in Max’s murder, to which she said Sheila nodded again. When Edith was asked why she had come forward now she said that Max had told her that should anything happen to him she was to ensure that Brian Tevendale never had any contact with his children. And, so, while Sheila and Brian were planning on taking the children to live in Aberdeen, Edith felt she had to put a stop to it one way or another, even if that meant her daughter being charged with her husband’s murder.

Shocked by this development the police immediately made their way to West Cairnbeg to bring Sheila in for questioning. Brian was also brought to the police station for questioning on the same day, and to the detective’s surprise Brian quickly admitted his part in the murder of Max Garvie. However, upon Brian and Sheila both appearing in court on the charge of Maxwell Garvie’s murder, Sheila too decided to start talking, however, her version of events were completely different to what Brian had said.

Sheila said that late on the 14th of May to early 15th of May she had been in bed with Max when she’d been woken by a man whispering for her to get up and come into the hall. The man was Brian. She said that another man she knew only as Alan was also in the hall when she got there. She said she then noticed that Brian was carrying a rifle, which was later identified as being Max’s. Brian then told Sheila to go into the bathroom, which she did and closed and locked the door. She said she then heard awful thumping noises coming from the bedroom and then silence, before Brian knocked on the bathroom door telling her to unlock it and to instead stand guard at the children’s bedrooms in case they came out, while Brian and his friend wrapped Max’s body in a sheet. Sheila watched in shock and horror as the pair then bumped Max’s body down the stairs and outside to Brian’s friend Alan’s waiting car, and Max’s body was placed in the back of the car. Apparently the plan was for Brian to drive Max’s car to the airstrip and leave it there and then for Brian and his friend to dispose of Max’s body. However, like I said, Brian’s version of events was slightly different.

In his statement he said he had received a distressed phone call from Sheila saying that she had accidentally shot Max during a fight, after Max threatened her with a gun. Brian said he did go to the farmhouse and he did dispose of the body of Max, but only to help Sheila out, as Brian admitted being in love with her. Brian made no mention of his friend Alan being present, doing his best to protect him. But upon Sheila making a statement mentioning Alan being there, Brian told the police exactly who he was and where he lived.

On Saturday the 17th of August Brian then took detectives to Lauriston Castle where Max’s body was. And detectives later said that if they had not been led there directly to the location, Max’s body likely would never have been found.

As a youngster Brian had spent time at Lauriston Castle and its grounds and he knew the place like the back of his hand. He led the police to an unknown narrow tunnel and told them Max was about 20 yards, or 18 metres, into the tunnel under large boulders. The tunnel was so narrow and low that police officers had to crawl along it on their hands and knees, but they soon became aware of a rotting smell, before finding a pile of stones, under which was Max’s body. Following a postmortem, it was determined that Max had died three months previously from a gunshot wound to his neck and from being hit brutally on the head. Following West Cairnbeg being searched, it was discovered that the rifle that had been used to kill Max was his own. The friend of Brian’s who Sheila said was also at the farmhouse on the night Max had been murdered was 20 year old Alan Peters, who was also a mechanic and worked with Brian.

Alan Peters was arrested on Sunday the 18th of August 1968. 33 year old Sheila Garvie, 22 year old Brian Tevendale and 20 year old Alan Peters were arrested and charged with the murder of Max Garvie.

Shortly after Wendy had witnessed her mother being escorted from West Cairnbeg by the police, a family member turned up to look after the children. Wendy was distraught. Wendy’s world would further be rocked when a few days later her mother was charged with her father’s murder and was remanded in custody. From there on in Wendy and her siblings were told nothing further about what was happening with their mother, they weren’t allowed to see their mother and they were not aware of the sensational court case and shocking headlines that would dominate the newspapers. The children were well protected by moving them into a hotel about 70 miles, or 120 kilometres, away in the hope nobody would know who they were. All of the newspapers were removed so that the children would not have to endure the horrific details that were about to be exposed about their mother and father’s lives. This was particularly hard for Wendy, being the oldest sibling  

The trial for the murder of Maxwell Garvie was to take place in the High Court in Aberdeen on Friday the 18th of November 1968, and it was set to be quite the show. The streets outside the High Court in Aberdeen were lined with people, some of whom had queued from the early hours of the morning, desperate to get a peek at the main players as they arrived, as well as a seat at the trial of the century; a beautiful young rich woman, her lover and the lover’s friend on trial for the murder of her wealthy, flamboyant, ladies man of a husband, where the couple’s sexual exploits were devoured by all present and scandalised in the newspapers. And, so, the trial began with the prosecution claiming that Sheila had persuaded her lover, Brian, to murder her husband so the pair could get married and claim Max’s life insurance, worth more than £55,000, which would be just over £1 million or about $1.3 million dollars in today’s money, as well as inherit Max’s money, properties, land and cars. They also claimed that Alan Peters had been involved in both the murder and the disposal of Max’s body. All three pleaded not guilty, with Sheila council lodging a special defence that the two men had killed her husband and she had no prior knowledge of their plans, and Alan’s council lodging a special defence that Sheila and Brian had carried out the killing and that he had simply been drawn into their tangled web. Sheila and Alan would take to the stand to tell their own version of events, but Brian did not, allowing his defence advocate to speak for him. When Sheila’s mother took to the stand she became so distraught and unwell at the very first question of “Do you recognise the accused?” that she was unable to answer this question and an ambulance had to be called. She did however take the stand the following day. Throughout being questioned, Edith, Sheila’s mother, told of how she had seen a change in Max’s behaviour, how she had been shocked when he had quite openly told of how he and Brian had been flipping a coin to decide who would sleep with her daughter. She had also been aware that Max had been physically abusive to Sheila, having seen the evidence, as well as Max having admitted to her that he regularly twisted Sheila’s arm so far up her back that Sheila feared her shoulder would break. She believed that the change in Max had been due to his drink and drug habit. She also told how her daughter had confirmed to her the day after Max had gone missing that he wouldn’t be back, that he was dead, and that Brian Tevendale had been involved. When it was Sheila’s turn on the stand, she told of how her wonderful marriage to the man she loved, Max Garvie, had turned from a fairy tale to a living nightmare. She told of how Max had drunk to excess and took drugs. She told of his unrelenting pressure on her to perform more and more sexual acts, which she described as disgusting. She told of his ever-increasing violence towards her, of how she felt more and more like a possession of Max’s to be used and shared. Sheila told of the awful physical, mental and sexual abuse she had endured at the hands of Max Garvie, of how she had tried to leave but had no support.  And finally she told of how she had fallen in love with Brian Tevendale. Sheila then told her version of what had happened on the evening of the 14th of May 1968. She reiterated that she had absolutely no idea that Brian was planning to come to her house that evening, and had absolutely no idea that he had planned to murder Max. She said she was in a state of shock and disbelief, and had asked Brian if Max had suffered, to which Brian had said no. She was asked why she had continued a relationship with a man who she had known had killed her husband, the father of her children, to which she replied that she felt responsible, she had let Brian Tevendale fall in love with her, and that she had vowed to protect him. Brian’s version of events were read to the jury from his statement to the police where he said that Sheila had in fact shot Max by accident and he had merely helped dispose of the body, again, because he loved Sheila and would do anything for her. So far the jury had heard differing versions of what had happened and who knew what about what had happened that night, such as that it was thought that Brian had murdered Max and that Sheila knew Max was dead but hadn’t been aware of Brian’s plan to kill Max, or that Sheila had accidentally killed Max and Brian had only helped dispose of Max’s body to help her, so when it was Alan Peters’ turn to take the stand, things started to get even more interesting.

Alan Peters was 20 years old and had married his pregnant wife only a few weeks earlier on the 26th of July, where Brian was his best man and Sheila had provided the catering, although in Sheila’s statement to the police at the time of her arrest she said she hadn’t known Alan’s surname. Alan worked with Brian at the same garage, both being mechanics. He said that a few weeks before the murder Brian had said to him that he was wanting to get rid of Max and asked Alan if he would help him, although Alan said in court that he hadn’t realised that that had meant by murdering Max. That was until the pair arrived at West Cairnbeg on the night of the 14th of May, where Alan said Sheila let both him and Brian in by the garage. He said Brian and himself then had a drink in the living room while Sheila went to check on Max. When Sheila came back to tell them that Max was sleeping and to follow her, Brian then picked up Max’s own .22 rifle and they both followed Sheila upstairs. Alan said he was terrified at what was transpiring, but was afraid to say anything for fear of being shot himself. He said they both then went into Max’s bedroom while Sheila stayed outside, and Brian then shot Max threw a pillow in the head. The pair then wrapped Max’s body in a sheet and placed his body in the back of Alan’s car. The pair then dropped Max’s car off at the airstrip, before traveling to Lauriston Castle grounds and placing Max in the tunnel and covering him with boulders. So, now the jury had more to think about; Sheila and Alan both said that Brian had shot Max, but now Alan was saying that Sheila had known exactly what was planned and she had actually let the pair into the farmhouse.

Trudi Birse, Brian’s sister, was next to give evidence, and she told yet another version of events. Trudi said that she had spoken with Brian within hours of Max being murdered and Brian had told her that it had been Alan who had struck the first blow, apparently striking Max on the head with a steel bar. Brian told her that he was sure Max was already dead before he actually shot him. However, there was never any evidence that a steel bar had been involved, although Max was struck on the back of the neck. And this was a different story to the one Brian had told the police, saying instead that Sheila had shot Max by accident. Things were becoming more tangled, and it was only to get worse. Trudi also gave more of an insight into the horrific abuse that Sheila had been receiving from Max. She said that Max was obsessed with Brian and would ask Trudi to find out all she could about the intimate details of Sheila and Brian’s sex life, with Max taking great pleasure from every little detail. She confirmed that Max pushed Sheila and Brian together continually. Trudi said that Max would tell her that he had more pleasure from sex from one evening with Trudi than in his whole marriage to Sheila, as well as telling Trudi that he loved Brian more than he loved Sheila. Trudi confirmed that Max would say these heartbreaking things to Sheila too.

Next on the stand was Alfred, or Fred, Birse, Trudi’s husband and previously a policeman. However, a strange statement was made by the defence before Fred was questioned. They basically said that due to legal reasons Fred and Trudi would not be asked too many questions or be pressured too much. The reason why would soon become clear. As Max had been shot while he was lying in bed, there was a significant amount of blood splatter on the mattress, and so Brian had rolled up this mattress and taken it to Fred and Trudi’s home to store briefly, before Fred and Brian took it to a quarry and burnt it. Trudi then agreed that Sheila could have her and Fred’s mattress from their bed and Trudi would purchase a new one, as obviously it would be too risky for Sheila to suddenly purchase a new mattress. Trudi’s mattress was however too small to fit Sheila and Max’s bed, but Sheila did her best to hide this fact by using blankets and a valance sheet.  And, so, when the policeman came to have a look around West Cairnbeg when Max had first gone missing, they could be forgiven for missing this detail. However, upon the house being forensically examined after finding out Max had been murdered, not only was the ill-fitting mattress discovered but also traces of blood on the headboard and the wallpaper, which Sheila had tried to hide by moving the bed to cover the stains. It was also revealed at the trail that Fred had burnt Max’s clothes and I.D. So despite Fred being a policeman at the time of Max’s murder, he still was happy to help cover up the crime. Fred Birse resigned from the police force shortly after Sheila and Brian were arrested. It is speculated that initially there were five people on the charge of being involved in murdering Max Garvie; Sheila, Brian, Alan, Trudi and Alfred. However, if all of the above were charged then there would be no witnesses, and so it is believed that is why Trudi and Alfred never were charged with any crime. But can what they said in court be truly believed? 

Shockingly, Max’s skull was also presented in court, so that it could be shown to the jury just what damage had been done to Max’s brain and bone structure following being shot. The bullet had still been embedded in Max’s skull when his body was found. One jury member collapsed in distress at seeing Max’s skull and was removed from the jury, with it continuing with just 14 members.

Eventually, ten days after the trial began and after the closing statements, it was time for the jury to retire and decide on the verdict. On the 2nd of December 1968 Alan Peters received a verdict of not proven. This is unique to Scotland and, according to Wikipedia, it is typically used by a jury when it is a belief that the defendant is guilty but the Crown has not provided sufficient evidence. Brian Tevendale was unanimously found guilty of Max’s murder, and Sheila Garvie was found guilty of murdering Max by a majority verdict, with both being served a life sentence. Upon hearing the verdict Sheila and Brian briefly embraced and kissed, before the pair were led away to begin their sentences. While the pair did send each other love letters initially, three months into their life sentence Sheila sent a letter to Brian saying “I have decided to have nothing more to do with you ever again”, and she asked Brian to destroy all of their love letters. Brian was devastated, but it transpired that Sheila had been advised to cut off contact in order to be able to see her children, as it didn’t look good if she were continuing a relationship with the murderer of the children’s father. However, despite this sacrifice, Sheila never did get to see her children whilst she was in prison. Not only did Sheila not have the prospect of ever seeing her children while they were still little, but six months into her life sentence she received a word that her mother was very unwell, and sadly she died shortly afterwards. Sheila’s father had passed away by this time. Now Sheila was completely alone; no children, no lover, no mother, but also there was no Max.

During and following the trial, Sheila’s children; Wendy, Angela and Lloyd, had been living with their grandmother, Edith, but upon her death they had all been placed with a foster couple in England. However, Sheila’s oldest daughter, Wendy, began to really struggle. She had endured so much in her young life, her perceived weight issue and disappointment from her dad from such a young age, being subjected to nudist colonies while being ashamed of her body, the arguments of her parents, the change in both her father due to drink and drugs, and her mother due to prescription pills, the murder of her dad, her mother being sent to prison, her grandmother dying, being placed into foster care, and finally not being allowed to see her mother. But there was something even more damaging that Wendy was dealing with, her guilt. Wendy had convinced herself that if she had said something, anything, when she had found her mum and Brian Tevendale kissing in the living room weeks before her father had been murdered, then none of this may have happened; her dad might not be dead, her mum wouldn’t be in jail, she wouldn’t be in foster care alone without anyone. She believed it was all her fault, and the more she thought about this the more she spiraled out of control. Wendy continued to have body and weight issues, her mental health began declining, and all she really wanted was to be loved. When Wendy was 16 years old she began working in a chemists, where she met a boy and they began dating. She told him about her past and he accepted it, seeming to only care about Wendy, which was just what Wendy thought she needed, to be loved. The pair married when Wendy was 18 and the couple had a child three years later. However, Wendy just could not escape her past, it still tormented her, and when her marriage began to fail Wendy, no longer able to cope, left her husband and child, before starting on a journey that would leave her feeling even more alone. Wendy began drinking to excess, and her mental health deteriorated even further, eventually being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Wendy sadly continued to drink to excess for quite some time, desperate to try and blot out the guilt, the overwhelming guilt of what if. Then in 1978 Wendy began to see a glimmer of hope, her mother, Sheila now 43 years old, had been released from prison after serving ten years for the murder of her husband, Max Garvie, and Wendy wanted to see her, she needed to see her, needed to talk about what happened with someone who was there. Her brother, Lloyd, had been too young at the time and her sister, Angela, didn’t want to talk about it, she had moved on and was doing fine and Wendy had grown apart from them. Wendy would soon realise that Sheila, her mother, wasn’t going to be her saviour, she didn’t want to talk about it either, it was in the past and she was looking forward.

Following her release from prison, Sheila had moved to Aberdeen to run her aunt’s guest house and one of the guests staying there was David McLellan who was from Rhodesia, now modern days Zimbabwe, and within six months of being released from prison Sheila had married David. This marriage lasted only a couple of years, with Sheila saying that she’d only married David because she had been lonely following being released from prison. Not long after the divorce Sheila left the guesthouse and Aberdeen and moved to Stonehaven, about 16 miles or 26 kilometres south of Aberdeen, and about 15 miles or 24 kilometres from where she had lived with her murdered first husband, Maxwell Garvie, where she ran a bed and breakfast. Soon after moving to Stonehaven she met and married Charles Mitchell, who was a drilling engineer, and the pair remained happily married in Stonehaven until December 1992 when sadly Charles died of a heart attack. Sheila continued to stay in Stonehaven and run the bed and breakfast following Charles’ death. She never married again. In her later years, Sheila developed dementia and went to live in a nursing home. She continued to deny any knowledge of what had happened to her husband, Max, on the evening of the 14th of May 1968 until her death in December 2014 at the age of 80.

Brian Tevendale also had been released in 1978 when he was 32 years old. Whilst in prison he struck up a relationship with a female who wrote to prisoners and the pair were married. Brian and his new wife moved to Scone in Perth, about 65 miles or 104 kilometres away from where Sheila ran her bed and breakfast, where Brian was a pub landlord. According to the Free Library in an article in the Scottish Daily Record newspaper in 1999, 30 years after Max was murdered, Brian Tevendale finally broke his silence about his involvement in the murder. He said that Sheila had planted the seed saying that it would be better if Max was out of the way. He said that he was infatuated with Sheila, thought that he was in love and would have done anything for her, and so the pair started to plot Max’s downfall. He went on to say that Sheila had let him and Alan into the farmhouse that night and that Sheila had given him Max’s .22 rifle. He then admitted that he had then placed a pillow over Max’s face and had indeed shot Max once in the head while he lay on his back. He said he regretted it instantly and wished he could change that night, but he was completely under Sheila’s spell and knew that he had to see it through, he just wanted to be with Sheila and he thought that was the plan, however, he felt that Sheila had other ideas. Despite the pair living only about 65 miles or 104 kilometres away from each other, they never saw each other again. Brian continued to work as a landlord in his pub in Scone until December 2003 when, at the age of 57, he died of a heart attack, days before he planned to emigrate to Africa for a new life.

Trudi and Alfred Birse’s marriage was not able to survive the strain the murder and subsequent court case and revelations about their sex life and involvement in covering up Max’s murder had put on it, and so in 1971, three years after the trial, the couple split up, with Alfred getting custody of their three children. Alfred did remarry in 1984, however, he died a year later from cancer. Upon Trudi’s marriage failing, she began to work as a housekeeper, however, in 1988 she also died of cancer, four years after Alfred.

Wendy, Sheila’s long-suffering daughter, continued to suffer. She soon realised that her mother would not be able to help her through her torment, her grief, her guilt, leaving her feeling more lost and unloved as ever. Sadly, Wendy’s struggle, which had been inflicted upon her by people who should have been protecting and loving her, alienated her from her brother, Lloyd, and sister, Angela, as well as her own daughter, who Wendy had not had contact with since she left her ex-husband. Wendy continued to live in England and did eventually seek counselling and did manage to stabilise her drinking and mental health, eventually gaining employment in a local mental health charity shop. According to the Free Library, in 2001, when Wendy was 45, she reached out to the Daily Record newspaper to tell her side of the story. She said that “I don’t have a past and it’s difficult to look towards a future. What happened that night has ruined many people’s lives, including mine.” She went on to say that “It’s hard to hold down relationships when you come with as much baggage as I do. I just want to be able to put the past behind me now.” However, Wendy felt that the legacy of what happened that night lives on and she doesn’t think she will ever be able to escape it. Wendy went on to say that she does forgive her mother. She confirmed also that she would be starting to write a book about the murder, as she felt this was the only way she would be able to work through and deal with the baggage she perceives to carry. Sadly, the book Wendy vowed to write was never forthcoming, and Wendy died in 2015 at the age of 59, one year after her mother passed, possibly never having been able to work through the trauma she had experienced.

There are so many victims in this story; clearly Sheila was an abused wife and it was just the time she lived in that dictated that she must stay with her husband, must stay married, stay for the children, despite the torture and torment she was being subjected to by her husband. However much of a brute Max appeared to be, he did not deserve to die. It was clear he had issues with drink and drugs, and he likely had homosexual tendencies, which at that time was illegal. Again, had he been living in today’s society, he would have been able to explore those feelings without reprisal. Brian also was a victim, he loved Sheila so much, he would have done anything for her, and he couldn’t stand to see her being treated so poorly by Max. Whether it was Sheila who instigated the plan to murder Max or whether Brian did of his own accord, whether Sheila pulled the trigger or Brian did will never be known for sure, but what is known is that Brian was infatuated with Sheila and had been manipulated by Max, he too was a victim. However, Wendy was the inadvertent victim and seems the person who had the most deep rooted and long-lasting trauma. Like I said, a lot of the details for this episode came from the fantastic podcast The Storyteller Violent Delights by Isla Traquair.

It’s a ten episode podcast with additional bonus episodes, and there is so much more information about this case in that podcast that I could not possibly say in this episode. It is so informative with interviews and re-enactments of the trial by voice actors. I would highly recommend giving this podcast a listen if you would like to know even more about the life and the love triangle of Max, Sheila and Brian.

So that’s it, come back next time for another episode of Scottish Murders.

Granny Robertson:

Scottish Murders is a production of Cluarantonn.

Scottish Murders is an award short listed, fortnightly true crime podcast that focuses entirely on murders carried out in Scotland or involving Scottish people, hosted by Dawn, and occasionally her sister Cole.

Privacy Preference Center