DCSIMG

Boyfriend goes on trial accused of murdering Jodi Jones

Key points

• Jodi Jones trial starts, her ex-boyfriend in the dock

• Defence lawyers claim accused has alibi

• 14-year schoolgirl was tied up and stabbed to death

Key quote

"All the members of the jury must be able to put out of their minds anything that they think they may remember having heard or read or seen about this case." - LORD NIMMO SMITH

Story in full THE boyfriend of the schoolgirl Jodi Jones went on trial yesterday accused of murdering her after tying her arms and striking her repeatedly with a knife.

Jurors were told to forget anything they might have read or seen about the killing, as the case against Luke Mitchell opened at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mitchell is said to have slashed Jodi in a wooded area in their home town of Dalkeith when both were aged 14.

In special defences, he claims to have been elsewhere at the time, and that another, or others unknown, were responsible.

The judge, Lord Nimmo Smith, warned that jurors must keep an open mind and be "free from prejudice and extraneous influence".

Early evidence in the trial centred on Roan’s Dyke path, which links the areas of Dalkeith where Jodi and her boyfriend lived, and where Mitchell is said to have murdered her.

Photographs taken at the scene showed the initials LM and JJ carved into a tree.

Mitchell, now 16, of Newbattle Abbey Crescent, Dalkeith, denies the unlawful possession of a knife or knives before Jodi’s death on 30 June last year, and being involved in supplying cannabis to her and others.

He also pleads not guilty to assaulting Jodi, of Parkhead Place, Easthouses, Dalkeith, by striking her on the head and body, compressing her neck and causing her to fall to the ground. Mitchell is said to have applied a ligature round her arms and to have repeatedly struck her on the head, mouth and body with a knife and to have murdered her.

The defence counsel, Donald Findlay, QC, submitted special defences of alibi and incrimination while tendering Mitchell’s not guilty pleas to each of the three charges.

Before the 15-strong jury was selected, Lord Nimmo Smith addressed all those who had been called to court for possible selection.

He reminded them of the oath the jurors would be asked to take "to well and truly try the accused and give a true verdict according to the evidence".

Lord Nimmo Smith continued: "Once that has been done, the jury become the judges of the facts in the trial. All their decisions about the facts must be based on the evidence which they hear in the course of the trial and on nothing else.

"All the members of the jury must be able to put out of their minds anything that they think they may remember having heard or read or seen about this case."

The judge said it would be inappropriate for anyone who knew Luke Mitchell, Jodi Jones or others named in the charges to serve on the jury. He also indicated that the trial was expected to run beyond Christmas, and if that were to cause serious personal difficulties, rather than mere inconvenience, then it might be another reason to seek to be excused.

At one point, Mr Findlay objected to a woman who lived in the Dalkeith area, fearing that she might know some of the witnesses.

Lord Nimmo Smith said that with no reflection at all on the woman, she should be asked to stand down.

Mitchell’s special defences were read to the jury of eight men and seven women. In his alibi plea, it was stated that his lawyers understood the Crown would contend that Jodi was murdered in the wooded area between 5pm and 5:45pm on 30 June, 2003. "At no time between these times did he set foot on Roan’s Dyke path," the plea insisted, adding that Mitchell had been in his home and in the nearby area.

The incrimination defence said that Jodi was not murdered by Mitchell but "by a person or persons whose identity or identities are to him unknown".

Detective Constable Rory Hamilton, 36, was first on the witness stand.

The officer explained on a map of Dalkeith the location of various points, such as Easthouses and Newbattle, and Roan’s Dyke path which connects them.

DC Hamilton took the jury through a series of photographs, taken in August this year, which showed the path, a wall, broken in places, which ran alongside it, and areas of woodland and fields. A video, shot as a police camera operator walked the path, was also shown.

The advocate-depute, Alan Turnbull, QC, referred DC Hamilton to photographs of a tree, and he agreed that the initials "LM", with "JJ" underneath, had been carved into it.

The trial continues today.

In the dock, Luke Mitchell looks his age

DRESSED in a pressed white shirt, blue tie and grey slacks, he looked like a young school-leaver applying for his first job.

Instead, this slightly spotty, blushing 16-year-old found himself in a very different forum - the dock of a court standing trial for murder.

Luke Mitchell, accused of stabbing his young girlfriend, Jodi Jones, to death, had been at pains to appear as smart as he could for the first day: his shoulder-length, light brown hair was tied back into a pony-tail with a rubber band assisted by several kirby grips to prevent any stray hair coming loose.

For all to see, the teenager was trying to put on a brave face for relatives, smiling nervously at an elderly woman who stepped forward, beaming adoringly, as he headed downstairs at the end of yesterday’s proceedings.

But, as he had sat flanked by two security guards while the first evidence was heard, his head shook almost imperceptibly, with the occasional twitch, perhaps the strain that would affect anyone, innocent or guilty, facing such a serious charge.

However, these small movements seemed the only signs of emotion as he sat under the gaze of Lord Nimmo Smith, the trial judge.

Mitchell sat, his head occasionally bowed, but mostly he looked at maps and photographs of Easthouses and Newbattle, near Dalkeith, shown to the court by the prosecution.

It was on the Roan’s Dyke - the path linking Easthouses and Newbattle - that Jodi was stabbed to death on 30 June last year.

There was one poignant moment during a dry account of the area’s geography provided by Detective Constable Rory Hamilton, of Lothian and Borders Police, who was being questioned by the advocate depute, Alan Turnbull, QC.

As the court was shown pictures leading down the path, one photograph stood out: two intertwined trees upon which the initials "JJ" and "LM" had been carved.

IAN JOHNSTON

 
 
 

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