Malcolm Webster case: Wife killer loses bid to widen appeal grounds

Claire Morris and Malcolm Webster Malcolm Webster was convicted of murdering Claire Morris

A man who murdered his wife in a crash has failed to have further grounds of appeal included in a challenge against his conviction and sentence.

Malcolm Webster, of Surrey, was jailed for a minimum of 30 years for murdering Claire Morris in Aberdeenshire in 1994.

At the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, Webster's lawyers sought to widen the appeal case and to bring up transcripts of expert evidence.

But the legal arguments were rejected by appeal judges.

Webster, 53, was convicted of murdering Ms Morris, 32, in a faked car crash before staging a similar attempt in New Zealand on a second bride.

'Cold-blooded'

Trial judge Lord Bannatyne told him that the murder of Ms Morris on a road near Kingoodie in Aberdeenshire was "cold-blooded, brutal and callous".

He set fire to the vehicle with his unconscious wife inside it before later receiving an insurance pay-out.

Webster denied the offences and stood trial at the High Court in Glasgow last year, but has launched an appeal against conviction and challenged the 30-year term as excessive.

His counsel Chris Shead told judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal that leave to appeal against conviction had been granted on five grounds.

Mr Shead said that three others which had been rejected should also be included as he maintained they were "arguable".

Expert evidence

But Lord Carloway, sitting with Lady Smith and Lord Osborne, said they were not satisfied that cause had been shown for leave to be granted for the further grounds rejected in the sifting process.

They also rejected a bid to have transcripts of expert evidence and speeches from the trial produced at this stage.

Webster's appeal includes a challenge to a decision to allow evidence from a further witness after the trial was under way, a claim that the Crown failed to lead sufficient evidence to exclude accident as the cause of the fatal fire and an attack on the way the prosecutor invited the jury to consider the evidence over the murder and attempted murder.

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