Glasgow & West Scotland

Zoe Nelson murder: Robert Bayne loses jail term appeal

Robert Bayne and Zoe Nelson
Image caption Bayne will serve at least 20 years in prison for murdering Zoe Nelson

The man convicted of murdering 17-year-old Zoe Nelson and burning her body in woods in North Lanarkshire has failed in a bid to have his jail term cut.

Robert Bayne, 22, attacked the teenager, put a plastic sheet over her face and set her on fire, near Cambusnethan, Wishaw, in May 2010.

He was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years but claimed this was excessive.

Judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh said it was at the upper end of the scale but still appropriate.

Bayne's counsel, Chris Shead, argued that his crime "however repugnant" could not be regarded in the categories of murder where previous appeal court guidance had established there should be sentences at that level.

Lord Reed, sitting with Lord Brodie, said that sentencing was not a precise science but the trial judge was very experienced and best placed to make the decision.

"The sentence was arguably at the upper end of the range, but that reflects her assessment of the gravity of the case having heard the evidence over a number of weeks," said Lord Reed in refusing the appeal.

Bayne, formerly of Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, was found guilty of murdering Ms Nelson, formerly of Newmains, at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

He was found guilty of repeatedly striking her in May 2010 on the head and body, placing a plastic sheet over her head restricting her breathing and by unknown means inflicting injury on her.

He was also convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by setting fire to the teenager's body.

'Appalling crime'

Trial judge Lady Dorrian told him: "This was an appalling crime, the circumstances of which are properly to be described as shocking."

Zoe was found in a wooded area with parts of her body reduced to ash.

The college student was found to have a number of other injuries most of which were inflicted by blunt force.

Pathologists said they probably resulted from blows or punches and evidence was also found that could have come from compression of her mouth during asphyxiation.

In refusing Bayne's appeal, Lord Reed said: "The exact cause of death could not be determined. The evidence suggested that in all likelihood the girl was dead before her body was set on fire."

The judge said that evidence at the trial showed that the victim had been in his company throughout the day leading up to her death and he had become increasingly aggressive towards her.

He said: "The sentencing judge described this as the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl, as it plainly was.

Criminal record

"The age of the girl and her vulnerability are aggravating factors to be reflected in the sentence imposed."

Lord Reed said schizophrenic Bayne's criminal record, which included assault and robbery, was a further feature to be taken into account.

The senior judge said it had been previously recognised that attempts to avoid detection were also to be regarded as an aggravating factor.

He added: "The steps taken to avoid detection are particularly serious in the present case as the burning of the body would be especially distressing to the family of the deceased."

He said they had been referred to previous appeal court authority where it was held that certain types of murder, such as where children or on-duty police officers were victims, would attract minimum sentences in the range of 20 years.

Lord Reed said: "We accept these are indeed suitable examples, but by no means exhaustive."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites