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 Man appeals 70s murder conviction

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PostSubject: Man appeals 70s murder conviction   Tue Sep 09, 2008 9:19 pm

A man who was jailed for life for murdering a woman in North Lanarkshire 35 years ago has taken his case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

George Beattie was 19 when he was convicted of stabbing 23-year-old typist Margaret McLaughlin in woods near Carluke in 1973.

Beattie served 15 years of his sentence before being released on parole.

He lost an appeal in 1994. This latest attempt was referred by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The jury at Beattie's original trial took 35 minutes to find him guilty of the frenzied knife attack on Miss McLaughlin.

The court heard he had claimed Ms McLaughlin was killed by men wearing top hats decorated with mirrors while he was forced to watch.

The story was supposed to explain why he apparently knew so much about the scene of the crime.

'Rough Justice'

Beattie, now 54, continues to protest his innocence and his campaign has been backed by local MPs and the BBC's Rough Justice programme.

Beattie's latest appeal, which is being heard by judges Lord Hamilton, Lord Nimmo Smith and Lord Cullen, began with evidence from psychology expert Professor Gisli Gudjonnson.

Professor Gudjonnson, from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London, told the court he carried out tests on Beattie and came to the conclusion that he was of low average intelligence and "a confabulator."

He said: "They make things up, not necessarily deliberately, to make it look like they have a better memory than they have."

Beattie claims the jury in his first trial should never have heard statements he is alleged to have made to detectives, insisting he was subjected to bullying.

He claims that at one point police officers held his head under water in a sink.

Although he never confessed to the murder, the prosecution case depended heavily on Beattie's supposed "special knowledge" which could only be known to Miss McLaughlin's killer or a witness to the murder.

Beattie's legal team said this argument was undermined by the fact that much of the information was already known to police and the position of the body and clothing was common knowledge in the area.

They also claim forensic tests later showed the knife which Beattie pointed out to police was unlikely to be the murder weapon and that Beattie's alibi left him only 10 minutes to commit the crime, move the body and remove bloodstains on his clothing.

Frenzied attack

Miss McLaughlin was walking to the railway station to catch a train to Glasgow when she was murdered in July 1973.

Her route took her along a woodland path through an area known as Colonel's Glen, where her body was found. She had been stabbed 19 times and her ring had been stolen.

Beattie, who worked in a steel mill and was considered by some as a local misfit, became a suspect after telling police who were conducting door-to-door enquiries that he had been in the woods that night.

A tissue was found in his pocket stained with blood which did not match his own and could have come from Miss McLaughlin.

Beattie attended the start of his appeal but sat in the public benches along with television producer Peter Hill, who made the Rough Justice programme.

The hearing is likely to continue for several days and the judges are expected to give their decision in writing at a later date.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7606972.stm

Published: 2008/09/09 17:41:01 GMT

© BBC MMVIII
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