NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Fire murder accused walks free due to insufficient evidence

Barry Henderson
Image caption Barry Henderson denied murder

A man accused of starting a fatal fire 19 years ago has walked free after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence.

Barry Henderson, 42, denied killing Gordon Graham and attempting to murder his wife Anne in a fire in Fraserburgh in 1998.

Lord Ericht told the High Court in Glasgow the evidence led by the Crown in the trial was insufficient.

He acquitted Mr Henderson of the charge.

Image caption Gordon Graham lost his life in a fire

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

In 1998, a police probe into the fire ruled it was accidental, but the case was re-opened in 2009.

Mr Henderson was charged in 2016 and the trial began in July.

Defence QC Brian McConnachie argued at the end of the Crown case that there was no evidence before the court that the fire was started deliberately.

Lord Ericht said: "It is clear from the experts, they were relying on a witness statement which said there were white bags lying round the bin.

"There is no evidence before the court there were such bags and the woman who gave the statement did not give evidence.

"Therefore the experts are founding on inadmissible hearsay. There is not sufficient evidence the fire was started deliberately."

Image caption The fire happened in Fraserburgh's High Street

Mr McConnachie also highlighted the fact that neither of the witnesses - Karren Fraser and Malcolm Chalmers - who claimed that Mr Henderson confessed to them were asked to identify him in the dock.

He said: "No attempt was made to get the accused identified by the Crown witnesses who said he confessed to murdering Gordon Graham."

Lord Ericht agreed with this, saying: "The Crown was required to prove the person named as Barry Henderson by the witnesses was the same Barry Henderson sitting in the dock."

Mr Henderson made no comment as he walked from court.

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