Jury finds two men guilty of Liam Aitchison murder

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A High Court jury in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday found two men guilty of the murder of Liam Aitchison. 22-year-old males Jonathan MacKinnon and Stefan Millar reportedly committed the murder on November 23, 2011, inside an abandoned building in the village of Steinish on the Outer Hebrides island of Lewis. Outside the court, Aitchison's father Norrie said the guilty verdicts would "finally allow Liam to rest in peace and bring his family some closure." Sentence is scheduled to be passed on the convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh on June 28.

Cquote1.svg The cowards who robbed our Liam of his life and his future should never be able to see the outside of a prison ever again Cquote2.svg

Norrie Aitchison, father of Liam Aitchison

Liam Aitchison, who originally resided in Lochboisdale on the island of South Uist, moved up to Stornoway in Lewis and began working as a fisherman alongside MacKinnon and Millar after developing a social relationship with them. MacKinnon and Millar were both charged with Aitchison's murder in December 2011. Having pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them, the court trial for the two suspects started approximately one month ago.

The court was told of how Aitchison and Millar were listening to music and drinking alongside MacKinnon in his residence on November 22, 2011. As "a joke", MacKinnon punched Aitchison during this visit. Upon receiving noise complaints from MacKinnon's mother, the three walked from the house. The court was told MacKinnon commenced fighting with Aitchison after a bottle of aftershave he had apparently stolen from MacKinnon dropped out of his pocket. Prior to the murder, MacKinnon had stolen a meat cleaver from a boat he was working on and had been keeping it in his bedroom, the court was also told. The exact motive for the murder is unclear thus far.

Aitchison's death was caused by him being stabbed twenty times, as well as being hit with a bottle and stomped on his head. After he was killed, some items of clothing he was wearing, that he had borrowed from MacKinnon, were removed from his body; no trace of the items of clothing have been discovered since. Police have yet to recover any murder weapons. Due to a lack of solid physical evidence, the trial was predominantly inferential. The prosecuting side, lead by Iain McSporran, believed Aitchison would have been murdered within a 90 minute period on November 23, 2011, during a "communication silence" in which neither of the accused made use of their mobile phones.

No blood stains were discovered on the clothing of the suspects, although blood stains discovered at the scene of the murder matched MacKinnon's DNA. However, the court was also told that MacKinnon had previously cut his hand in the abandoned building several years prior and that the blood stains could not be dated.

A key piece of evidence in the trial came from Dominic Long, who recalled how Millar boasted about the murder while conversing with him in a jail. Frances McMenamin, QC for Millar, subsequently claimed Long had exaggerated in his recount and was an unreliable witness as he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

During closing speeches to the jury, prosecutor Iain McSporran said he believed the two accused were "laying a false trail" and had "linked their fates together" because of their conspiracy, while defence QC Frances McMenamin said the jury should not have been looking for "someone to blame" for Aitchison's death. As the jury gave its guilty verdict, a shout from Aitchison's family could be heard, calling the defendants a "pair of monsters".

Speaking outside the court, Norrie Aitchison said his son "fought to defend himself but he didn't stand a chance against the violence he came against that night." After calling the experience of this murder case one which "no family should have to endure", Aitchison said of the convicted: "The cowards who robbed our Liam of his life and his future should never be able to see the outside of a prison ever again."

Liam "had his whole life in front of him", said Detective Inspector Andy Logan, who was the senior investigator of his murder. He said MacKinnon and Millar had "completely betrayed this trust, and in a most brutal and callous way they killed him in a senseless and sustained attack with weapons." The Detective Inspector called the murder case "a very rare occurrence in what is normally one of the safest places in Scotland". The crime rate in the Outer Hebrides is amongst the lowest for any region in the United Kingdom; the last murder enquiry to take place on the islands was in 1968. "It was therefore, very shocking to the close-knit community," Detective Inspector Logan said.

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