A man accused of starting a fire 19 years ago in which a father-of-five died walked free from court yesterday (Thursday).
At the High Court in Glasgow judge Lord Ericht ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict 42-year-old Barry Henderson of murdering Gordon Graham (43) and attempting to murder his wife Anne.
Lord Ericht told Mr Henderson: “The evidence led by the Crown is insufficient and I uphold the defence submission that there is no case to answer. I formally acquit you of the charge.”
Mr Henderson from Fraserburgh had denied deliberately setting fire to the property at 74 High Street, Fraserburgh, where the Graham family lived on May 3, 1998. He lodged special defences of alibi and incrimination.
The Graham family, who moved from Glenrothes 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 and fire experts claimed it was a deliberate fire and Mr Henderson was charged with murder and attempted murder.
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.
He added: “There is no evidence of how the fire started. The reports from the expert witnesses are speculation.”
In his ruling Lord Ericht said that the fire expert witnesses reports were based on a police statement from an eye witness who claimed to have seen white bags in the property close near to a wheelie bin.
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.”
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.”
Prosecutor Jim Keegan QC argued that he had shown by other means that it was the same Barry Henderson.
He said the case was a circumstantial one and said a dock identification would be difficult given the passage of time sine the fire and how people’s features change with age.
Mr Keegan added: “When he entered the witness box Mr Chalmers nodded to Mr Henderson.”
The QC went on: “I accept there are limitations in this case given the passage of time. Most cases are dealt with within a year or two of them happening.”
Mr Henderson made no comment as he walked from court.