NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Murder accused 'confessed to starting fire' in Fraserburgh

Gordon Graham
Image caption Gordon Graham lost his life in a fire

A murder accused confessed to starting a fire in which a man died in 1998, a court has been told.

Barry Henderson, 42, denies killing Gordon Graham and attempting to murder his wife Anne in a fire in Fraserburgh.

Witness Malcolm Chalmers told the High Court in Glasgow he was on a street several years ago with some friends when Mr Henderson spoke to them.

Mr Chalmers said Mr Henderson said he and another man lit the fire.

The Graham family - who moved from Glenrothes, Fife, about three years before the fatal fire - were dubbed the "family from hell".

Mr Chalmers said: "Barry (Henderson) said he and PeeWee got rid of the family from hell by killing the dad.

"He said they lit the fire and killed Gordon Graham."

'Unburden his soul?'

The court has already heard that PeeWee was the nickname of Steven Duthie, who was detained by police in 2009 for murder.

He was interviewed at Livingston Police Station and held for six hours without charge.

Prosecutor Jim Keegan QC asked: "Do you remember the context of this conversation," and Mr Chalmers replied: "The only thing I remember is the conversation that came out of Barry's mouth."

Mr Keegan went on: "What he said related to responsibility for the fire," and Mr Chalmers said: "Yes."

Chef Mr Chalmers told the court that he was not a friend of Mr Henderson, but sold him drugs.

He was asked by defence QC Brian McConnachie: "Why should he unburden his soul to you," and he replied: "It wasn't to me it was to a group."

Image caption The fire happened in Fraserburgh's High Street

When asked if he went to the police with this information, Mr Chalmers said: "No, it was none of my concern if somebody is stupid enough to brag about something - whether guilty or not. It's up to them."

The jury heard that Mr Chalmers made a statement to the police in December 2009 after a review of the fatal fire was ordered.

Mr McConnachie asked Mr Chalmers: "Given the lifestyle that you were living at the time how on earth do you remember the conversation," and he said: "It's not something you hear everyday."

He agreed that there had been rumours circulating for years about who set the fire and one of the names that was mentioned was Mr Henderson.

'Rumours and gossip'

It was suggested to him that he had made up the alleged confession after saying nothing for years to get the police off his back, but he denied this.

Mr McConnachie said: "You just gave up a name which you had heard in rumours and gossip," and Mr Chalmers replied: "No, I gave up the truth."

The jury heard that Mr Chalmers has a number of previous convictions for fire raising, including a conviction for wilful fire raising at the High Court in Aberdeen in 2001 for which he received a 47-month jail sentence.

In his police statement Mr Chalmers said that Mr Henderson made the comments about setting the fire after a chat about foreigners getting houses and then the Graham family came up in the conversation.

Mr McConnachie put to Mr Chalmers that he had made it up based on rumours and gossip heard in Fraserburgh, and he said: "No, he said it in front of me."

Mr Henderson denies all the charges against him and has lodged special defences of alibi and incrimination.

The trial before Lord Ericht continues.

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