Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Man convicted over fatal stabbing of drinking companion

Bertie Hall Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Bertie Hall said he had acted in self-defence when he stabbed Terry Miller

A man who killed his drinking companion by stabbing him in the throat has been convicted of culpable homicide.

Bertie Hall, 49, was convicted of killing Terry Miller during a drinking session at his home in Whitburn in West Lothian in December 2016.

He had denied murder, saying he had acted in self-defence after Mr Miller lunged at him with a bread knife. The jury accepted this and convicted him of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Hall will be sentenced in September.

Judge Lady Scott ordered a medical report in advance of sentencing after the defence submitted that Hall had been diagnosed with alcohol-related brain damage which caused him cognitive difficulties.

During the trial at the High Court in Livingston, the jury heard medical evidence that Mr Miller drowned in his own blood from a severed vein in his throat following the confrontation on 27 December.

Police and ambulance personnel worked for nearly an hour to try to clear his airway and restart his heart, but ultimately were unable to save the 30-year-old.

'It was an accident'

Hall claimed in his defence that Mr Miller had attacked him twice, the second time with a bread knife, and said he had stabbed him in self-defence with a small kitchen knife he kept on the arm rest of his chair for opening letters.

He said: "Did I mean to stab him in the neck? No, I didn't. You could say it was an accident hitting him with the knife. I was defending myself.

"I didn't give him the chance to stab me. If he had the chance to stab me he'd have killed me."

Image caption Hall approached neighbours in West Main Street while still carrying the knife

Eyewitness Derek Liddell gave evidence that he saw Hall attack Mr Miller after the victim accused him of sexually abusing women - something the court heard he had never been accused or convicted of.

Hall contended that Mr Miller had given him a black eye in another confrontation the previous night, after Mr Liddell had accused him of being a "grass".

Mr Liddell also told the court that he had to make three calls to the emergency services to summon an ambulance, because he was too drunk to remember Hall's address.

Before the emergency services arrived, hall went out onto West Main Street, covered in blood and still carrying the knife, to confess to neighbours what he had done.

One neighbour told the court how Hall had told her "listen, I've just murdered a guy in my house", while another said he had walked up to him in the street and said: "Excuse me, can you help me? I've killed somebody."

'Vicious attack'

The court heard that Hall's house was used as a local drinking den, and both the accused and his victim had consumed large quantities of alcohol.

Self-confessed alcoholic Hall had boasted of drinking nine litres of cider a day, while Mr Miller's blood-alcohol level was ten times the drink-drive limit. The two did not know each other before the all-night drinking session.

Hall, who has been on remand since the killing, will be sentenced at the High Court in Aberdeen on 6 September.

Det Insp Stuart Wilson from Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team said: "What started out as two associates enjoying a drink together over the festive period, resulted in a vicious attack on Terry Miller by Bertie Hall.

"This incident left the local community deeply shocked, particularly given the time of year, and in the wake of the attack local officers carried out high-visibility patrols to engage with the public and offer reassurance.

"At this time, I would like to thank the family of Terry Miller for their assistance and support during our investigation and it is my hope that they can now begin to move on with their lives."

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