Glasgow & West Scotland

Martin Olej jailed for life for murdering John McCulloch in Port Glasgow

The son of a former policeman has been jailed for life for murdering a pensioner and setting fire to his home.

Martin Olej attacked 69-year-old John McCulloch at his house in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, on 14 August 2009.

The 22-year-old then doused lighter fluid around his victim and set it alight as he lay stricken on the floor.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Olej was told that he must serve at least 12 years in prison before he becomes eligible to seek release.

At an earlier hearing at the High Court in Glasgow, the murder charge against co-accused Iain Starrett, 21, was found not proven.

Drinking session

The trial heard how Olej and Starrett - who were both teenagers at the time - had gone to the pensioner's home "for a drink".

Olej later assaulted the retired welder, knocking him to the ground.

Instead of seeking help for Mr McCulloch, lighter fuel was then poured onto the floor of the living room as he lay helpless.

Olej then lit the liquid and fled the property, leaving his victim to burn to death.

The jury was shown graphic photos of Mr McCulloch's corpse, which was later discovered in his burnt-out home.

Pathologist Dr Marjorie Turner said the OAP's body was "extremely charred" to such an extent that any injuries could have been "obliterated".

One fire officer told the trial the remains found were among the worst he had ever seen.

It is thought specialist DNA tests were required to identify Mr McCulloch.

Olej, of Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, and Mr Starrett, of Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, were first brought to court in 2011.

Olej denied responsibility for the fire and claimed he had instead tried to pull Mr McCulloch to safety when he became aware of a blaze.

Unprovoked attack

The jury did not believe him, however, and convicted Olej of murder.

Jailing him at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Carloway told Olej that, as far as he could see, it had been an unprovoked attack.

The judge said the assault followed "the generous decision" of the retired welder to allow Olej and Mr Starrett into his home.

The judge told him: "You are now aged 22. You do not have any significant previous convictions, but the court notes you have been in trouble since this offence."

Lord Carloway said life imprisonment was the only penalty could be imposed for the crime of murder.

The judge said that in setting the minimum term Olej must serve before he can be considered for parole, he took into account that he came from "a caring and supportive family" and that he had psychological difficulties, including the diagnosis of autism.

Following his conviction, it emerged that Olej had appeared at Rothesay Sheriff Court in February 2009, where he admitted setting fire to a pillar box on the Isle of Bute.

He was admonished on a charge of malicious mischief after his lawyer claimed the fire in May 2008 was down to "crass stupidity".

Olej's father is a retired Strathclyde Police inspector, who was once part of the community safety team based in Greenock.

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