THE release of a notorious killer who shot dead a German tourist and then savagely attacked his family has been criticised by MSPs as another example of "soft-touch Scotland".
James Boyce, 70, is to be freed after serving 17 years for killing Thomas Boedeker, even after being told that he would be locked up for at least 20. The brutal murder and Boyce's savage attack on the victim's family stunned the quiet community of Cairnryan, near Stranraer.
Boyce's sentence was reduced to 17 years on appeal and he was freed on grounds of good behaviour and after social workers, who visited his daughter's home in Glasgow where he plans to live, agreed with the parole board that he represents no threat to the wider public.
However, Bill Aitken, a Conservative MSP and the convener of the justice committee at the Scottish Parliament, said: "I accept that Boyce has served a significant period in custody, but the fact remains that a judge expressed the view that 20 years should be the minimum tariff.
"Under Kenny MacAskill's soft-touch Scotland, it is a question of clear the jails as quickly as possible and, unfortunately, this case, like many others, demonstrates that the wrong message is being sent out."
Richard Baker, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, added: "My thoughts are with (Mr Boedeker's] family. This must be a dreadful moment for them.
"This man was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years, which was far from severe given the horrendous nature of his offence. People will rightly want to know why he should not serve the whole 20 years' term."
Mr Boedeker, 53, an architect, his wife Renate, 48, daughter Julia, 20, and son Just, 15, had been preparing to leave Scotland, following a four-week holiday in 1993, when they were surprised by Boyce.
Carrying a .45 calibre wartime revolver in one hand and a large kitchen knife in the other, he approached Mr Boedeker demanding: "Money. money,"
Without waiting for a reply, the robber shot the tourist twice in the arm and stomach. Julia took her father's wallet from his trouser pocket and handed it to Boyce, but was shot twice in the leg and thigh. Mrs Boedeker was then shot in the upper body and as Just tried to run away, he was shot through the right arm.
Boyce then turned to the two women, stabbing Julia three times in the back, piercing a lung, and the mother was repeatedly stabbed so violently that it smashed ribs.
The bus cleaner pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to the murder of Mr Boedeker and the attempted murder of his wife and two children, as well as robbing them at the Cairnryan campsite.
Boyce, who had a long list of previous convictions, including a prison escape, was originally sentenced to two life sentences and ordered to serve a minimum jail term of 20 years.
He was moved to Shotts Prison in Lanarkshire, a maximum security unit that is home to some of the most sadistic and ruthless criminals in the country.
However, his sentence was cut on appeal and over time he was moved to Castle Huntly open prison and even allowed to go on unsupervised walks to a bakery as prison chiefs attempted to integrate him back into society.
A source said: "Preparations for Boyce's release have been ongoing for a while now.
"He is delighted, he thought when he was sentenced that he would die in jail, but he has kept his nose clean and the people assessing him seem satisfied that he is no longer a danger to society.
"Seventeen years seems a fairly light sentence considering how horrific his crime was."
Boyce, originally from Rutherglen, near Glasgow, asked to be transferred to Belfast's notorious Maze prison in 2001, as he had hoped to be taken under the wing of members of the Ulster Defence Association.
Mr Boedeker's family were unavailable for comment. A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said they could not comment on individual cases.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Every individual has the right to challenge their sentence."