Wednesday, 16 March 2011

“Consistent with a deliberate attempt to kill” says expert at Webster trial

A reconstruction expert today said a fatal smash which claimed the life of a North-east nurse was “consistent with a deliberate attempt to kill”.

Stephen Jowitt, who works for the same firm that reconstructed the crash which killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, today appeared as an expert witness during the trial of murder-accused Malcolm Webster.

Mr Jowitt told jurors at the High Court in Glasgow he used witness statements to reconstruct the crash that killed Claire Morris, on the Auchenhuive to Tarves road in May 1994.

These included accounts by the police, eye-witnesses of the aftermath of the collision and a statement given by Webster.

Webster is on trial accused of drugging his first wife Claire, crashing their car on purpose and torching the vehicle with her inside.

Mr Jowitt, who is a trained engineer with experience of investigating fatal crashes involving fire, said he had visited the scene in September to reconstruct the crash.
He was asked by the Crown to determine whether the physical characteristics of the incident were consistent with the account given by Webster, that it was a normal accident, or whether it was a staged event.

Advocate depute Derek Ogg read from the conclusions of Mr Jowitt’s report: “It is highly likely that the vehicle was steered down the slope into the wooded area from a relatively low speed.

“Accordingly the physical evidence fits entirely with the contention that this was a staged event.
“It is wholly unlikely that the vehicle caught fire as a consequence of any impact damage generated in the incident.
“If this was an impact-related fire the initiation of combustion would have been evident to an outside observer immediately after the impact. Accordingly it is my opinion that the fire was deliberately set.

“The extent to which the vehicle burned is indicative of an enormous fuel load.

“The vehicle would not have burned to this extent simply as a result of fuel loss stemming from a simple low energy accident. There must have been some external accelerant involved to have caused the nature and extent of the fire shown.

“There was nothing to physically prevent Mrs Webster from being able to get out of the vehicle if she was capable of consciousness at the start of the incident. Thus, if the person deliberately starting the fire was aware that Mrs Webster was in the vehicle at the time, the event is consistent with a deliberate attempt to kill her whilst she was somehow incapacitated within the vehicle.”

Mr Jowitt emphasised to jurors the last thing he wanted was for them to go away from the court thinking they had heard what actually happened. He said: “What I can show you is a reconstruction of what may have happened.”

Police question man over Gallowgate stabbing

Police are questioning a man in connection with the stabbing of a pensioner in Aberdeen city centre.

This follows the multiple stabbing of a 79-year-old man near Gallowgate.

Ambulance crews were called to the Aberdeen sheltered housing complex and took the injured man to hospital, where he remains.

A team of Grampian Police officers were today carrying out inquiries at Loch Court, a sheltered housing complex near the city’s George Street.

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A spokesman said: “Officers were called to an assault at Loch Street, Aberdeen.

“An ambulance attended and took the 79-year-old male victim to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he remained today in the care of medical staff in a stable condition.

Neighbour Andrew Smith noticed a commotion across from his house.

He said: “Me and my girlfriend saw a couple of police vans outside Loch Court and wondered what it was about. I’ve always wondered why they’d put an old folks home near a college – weird.”

The alarm was raised at 6.50pm last night at the complex, at the back of Aberdeen College’s Gallowgate campus.

It was understood the pensioner, bleeding heavily, went to a neighbour’s flat with serious injuries and the neighbour called an ambulance.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman today said: “We took a 79-year-old man with multiple stab wounds to the abdomen to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. He was conscious and breathing when the crews arrived.”

Staff at the complex were today unable to comment on the incident and referred calls to the city council.

No one from the local authority was available to comment.

The Police investigation continues.

Crane company ex-employee admits inexperience to inquiry

An employee did not have enough experience to oversee the safety procedures of a crane that was partially to blame for the death of a mother and her two children.

Brian Groves told a fatal accident inquiry at Stonehaven Sheriff Court into the death of Ann Copeland and her daughters Ciara and Niamh that he did not have “any previous experience” in the maintenance of the cranes.

Mrs Copeland lost control of her car on a bend on the A92 in Aberdeenshire and crashed into an oncoming Citroen Berlingo. The Scottish Environment Agency (SEPA) found that hydraulic fluid from a crane using the same road had “significantly reduced grip on the road”.

Owner of the company of the crane Lawrence White is due to appear at the inquiry tomorrow.

Green light for glow-in-the-dark Aberdeen Arena

Aberdeen Football Club has moved “a critical step forward” in their plans to build a new 21,000-seat arena.

The Scottish Government decided not to call in the planning application for the glow-in-the-dark stadium at Loirston Loch.

The new stadium will replace the century-old Pittodrie stadium if the Scottish Premier League club can raise funds and meet conditions set by the Aberdeen City Council.

The club’s Chief Executive Duncan Fraser said: “With the continuing support of our major shareholders and the bank we can now move
forward in the coming months to bring together a funding package.”

He added that the club will be working hard to finalise the complex legal agreements but he expects to have planning approval within the next couple of months. The club has been hoping for a new stadium for over a decade.

An earlier plan for a site near Kingswells received over 4,000 objections.
The new plans have also attracted objections.

There are concerns within the community about the impact the new site will have on roads and local wildlife habitats. Despite these concerns, ministers chose to support the plans.

A spokeswoman for the SNP administration at Holyrood confirmed: “Ministers have considered the application and concluded that there are no sufficient grounds to merit intervention.”

Councillors approved the development by 23 votes to 17. Nigg Community Council Chairman Alan Strachan raised his concerns about the decision.

He said: “Because of the tight vote at the council I would have thought it would be in the government’s interest to call it in.”

A 1,400-space car park is proposed as well as a 1,000-capacity supporter’s bar.

(Photo courtesy of RedWeb)

Policeman quits before internal investigation complete

A police officer has resigned before the conclusion of an internal investigation into his conduct at work.

George Hall, 49, from Cruden Bay was suspended from Grampian Police after he was accused of two separate charges of indecent assault on his beat in Ellon.

He was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2003. He faced a further charge of engaging in sexual acts with a man incapable of consent between July 2007 and July 2008.

The Procurator Fiscal dropped the charges last May. Grampian Police then launched an internal investigation.

A spokeswoman for Grampian Police said: “George Hall is no longer employed with the force.”

Up until today’s resignation Mr Hall had consistently denied the allegations.