Glasgow & West Scotland

'Unimaginable' suffering and death of Lynda Spence

Lynda Spence and flat in West Kilbride
Image caption Lynda Spence was taped to a chair in the loft of a flat in West Kilbride and tortured and murdered by Coats and Wade

The horror of Lynda Spence's slow death is almost unimaginable.

For two weeks she was tied to a chair and tortured.

But those 11 words cannot begin to describe the pain and fear she must have endured.

Although the exact details may never be known, the boasts of her killers and the confessions of their accomplices give a glimpse into her grim ordeal.

Terrible end

Her kneecaps were smashed, her hands branded with an iron and her thumb chopped off.

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Media captionPhilip Wade and Colin Coats have been found guilty of abducting, torturing and murdering 27-year-old financial advisor Lynda Spence.

Not allowed to visit the toilet, she was forced to sit in her own waste.

How she was murdered and what became of her remains is not clear, although the High Court in Glasgow heard she may have been smothered, beheaded and burnt.

But what led the 27-year-old financial advisor to such a terrible end?

Confident, charming and generous, Lynda liked the high life: expensive champagne, fast cars and casinos.

The trouble was that too often she was spending other people's money.

In December 2008 she was declared bankrupt with debts of £39,716.75 but when those debts were written off a year later, she set up her own mortgage and lettings company, Fraser Properties, in Glasgow.

Her only experience in finance was five years working in a call centre and there does not appear to be any formal record of the company's existence.

'Compulsive liar'

Lynda's best friend at school, Amanda Robertson, who worked for her at the firm in the city's west end, said she was generous and extravagant, buying £300 bottles of Cristal champagne, driving a black Mercedes convertible and lavishing entertainment on her friends.

At one point she owned two flats in smart Buckingham Terrace.

Image caption The trial heard Ms Spence spent cash given to her by Glasgow's Chinese community for flats in Maryhill

But Ms Robertson also agreed that Lynda was "a compulsive liar" who "ripped people off".

In particular, the trial heard that the financial advisor had taken deposits totalling £175,000 from members of Glasgow's Chinese community for properties in a development in the Maryhill area of the city.

Instead of using the money to secure the flats she had simply spent it all herself

She also owed £180,000 to John Glen, a property developer who sent her abusive text messages threatening to cut off her fingers and to chop off her head.

By the time of her disappearance Lynda was being investigated by Strathclyde Police for fraud but had also been recruited as an informant by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

They wanted information on an Albanian, Sokal Zefraj, whom Lynda claimed to be her husband, although the trial heard it was a marriage of convenience.

Distraught mother

Lynda had set up her business with money which her parents James and Patricia had inherited from the sale of her late grandmother's bungalow.

Nonetheless she appeared to have remained close to her family, speaking to her mother on the telephone almost every day.

Image caption Lynda's mother Patricia Spence made an emotional appeal for information about her missing daughter

But in April 2011, the calls suddenly stopped and Lynda was eventually reported missing.

At a tearful news conference on 14 June 2011 her mother was distraught, sobbing uncontrollably as she pleaded for anyone who knew what had happened to her daughter to contact the police.

There were men who knew, men who could have stopped the ordeal and saved a young woman's life.

Why did they not do so?

Perhaps it was avarice, perhaps it was terror. Or perhaps they simply lacked the moral courage.

Whatever the reason, the young woman described by her mother as a "loving, caring girl" had picked the wrong men to scam.

Colin Coats, 42, was a violent criminal who had been convicted of an air rage attack in September 2009 when he assaulted a member of the cabin crew and threatened passengers.

Business deal

His loyal accomplice Philip Wade, also 42, was a cocaine dealer with a conviction for drink driving.

Coats had invested £85,000 with Lynda, all of his money.

Image caption Ms Spence persuaded a Glasgow printer to produce fake Danish government bonds

Initially he hoped for a return of £100,000 but she could not pay and strung him along with the promise of millions from a land and property deal near Stansted Airport in Essex.

But there was no deal.

In desperation, she persuaded a Glasgow printer to produce fake Danish government bonds. They were supposedly worth £6.6m.

In fact they were worth nothing at all.

Enraged, Coats plotted his revenge.

On 14 April 2011 Lynda was lured from her home in Glasgow to Coats' house in the Ruchill area of the city.

There he and Wade abducted her, driving to a quiet residential street in the Ayrshire village of West Kilbride where two other members of the gang, David Parker and Paul Smith, were waiting.

It was here in the dingy attic of Flat 4, 114 Meadowfoot Road, that Lynda would spend the last two weeks of her life, taped to a leather computer chair, enduring a cruel catalogue of violence.

Chamber of horrors

Outside in West Kilbride life carried on as normal. The Largs and Millport Weekly News reported on a row about the removal of stained windows from a church.

It could have been any village in Britain.

But amidst the normality, a dingy attic had become a chamber of horrors.

Wade, from Glengarnock, North Ayrshire, brought a torture kit to the flat, a bag containing garden loppers, bandages, surgical tape and a bucket.

Almost daily Coats and Wade would come to the flat and go upstairs. It appears that Coats would torture Lynda while Wade watched.

One of her toes was crushed by the loppers and the tip of her little finger was cut off. Her hands were burned with a hot steam iron and her kneecaps were smashed with a golf club.

The property belonged to Parker, 38, who told police: "I know she was injured, but I didn't know in what way. I didn't want to know."

"She was in a frightened state. When they put the hacksaw blades through my door I realised it was high-duty serious."

Smith, 47, who was also offered money to "babysit" Lynda, told detectives that he and Parker gave her cups of tea and soup but did not allow her out of the chair, even to go to the toilet.

Beaten up

Smith said Coats cut off the tip of Lynda's little finger during a visit with Mr Wade and then returned alone later and cut off her thumb.

He said he saw her hands covered in surgical tape and that she was beaten up while being questioned about her bank accounts.

Image caption Paul Smith and David Parker admitted assaulting Ms Spence and keeping her prisoner

Although Parker and Smith eventually gave evidence against Coats and Wade they did not intervene to save Lynda, claiming they were too scared to do anything.

"I quite liked my fingers the way they were", said Smith.

Both men were originally charged with Lynda's abduction and murder but pleaded guilty to reduced charges of holding her captive, assaulting her and trying to cover up the crimes.

As the torture continued Coats extracted enough information to realise that Lynda had been handing over some of his money to Mr Glen, the property developer she had scammed.

Coats decided to pay a visit, meeting Mr Glen on 20 April and showing him a plastic bag containing Lynda's thumb. It had the desired effect and Mr Glen paid Coats money.

On 27 April, Coats and Wade told Parker and Smith they could leave the flat. It appeared they had decided that Lynda would die.

Body never found

Prosecutors were unable to say exactly how and when Lynda was murdered.

Her body has never been found.

But Coats boasted to a cellmate in prison that he smothered her, cut off her head and burnt her remains in a furnace.

Peter Hadley said: "He said he had killed her, she had tape over her mouth and he held her nose until she died."

On 29 April Coats and Wade drove to Tighnabruaich, Argyll, in Lynda's hired Vauxhall Astra where they asked Wade's friend Lee Winyard if they could use his boat.

He refused, saying later: "I thought I was being asked to dispose of a body."

Extort money

Neither the body nor the car has ever been found.

For months Coats and Wade must have thought they had got away with murder.

But on 15 August 2011 Coats forced John Glen to strip naked in an attempt to extort more money from him.

Terrified that he would be the next victim, Mr Glen went to the police the next day and told them all he knew.

Detectives were initially hampered by the reluctance of witnesses to talk to them but gradually they began to piece together what had happened.

Smith and Parker eventually admitted their part in the plot while Wade confessed to a friend that he had helped dispose of a body.

And, despite an attempt to thoroughly clean the flat, a fingerprint belonging to Coats and a spot of Lynda's blood in the bathroom were enough for the jury to convict her killers.

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