Official who survived hitman attack dies of cancer

Leslie Cumming's battered and scarred face after the brutal attack by hitman Robert Graham. Picture: PA

Leslie Cumming's battered and scarred face after the brutal attack by hitman Robert Graham. Picture: PA

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A SENIOR Law Society of Scotland official who survived an attempted murder by a hitman almost ten years ago has died of cancer.

Tributes have been offered after Leslie Cumming, the society’s former chief accountant, passed away peacefully last week at St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh.

Mr Cumming was repeatedly stabbed in a lane near his Murrayfield home in January 2006, in a frenzied attack thought to have been motivated by the nature of his work, which involved inspecting law firms’ books and exposing rogue solicitors.

His attacker, Robert Graham, 46 at the time, was convicted of the crime after confessing to a colleague that he had “done a judge in” and was paid £10,000 by a man in a BMW to give him “a good working over”.

Speaking after the verdict in 2011, Mr Cumming, then 68, described the ordeal as “horrific and bloody”, and said giving evidence at the trial had been “traumatic for my wife and me”.

His wife, Ann, declined to speak when contacted last night but one neighbour said: “[Mr Cumming] was well respected and he will be missed.

“He was a quiet man but be was always willing to stop and talk. We feel very sad.”

Mr Cumming joined the Law Society as its chief accountant in 1984 and remained for 22 years until his retirement in 2006.

During his time there, he oversaw major improvements to the way law firms were regulated in order to protect the public. Yesterday, its leaders said they were saddened at the news of his death and paid tribute to a “well-regarded colleague” who brought a “wealth of experience and enthusiasm”.

Chief executive Lorna Jack said: “As chief accountant, Leslie oversaw and instigated huge change in our regulatory work and financial monitoring, which resulted in more robust processes and greater levels of public protection.

“His later promotion to deputy chief executive highlighted the importance of his role within the society at that time and the work he did to improve how solicitors run their businesses and, most importantly, enhance protections for the clients who rely on solicitors’ services and advice.”

Police believed the accountant’s attempted murder had been planned by someone “disgruntled” by investigations he was conducting into allegedly crooked lawyers as part of his role with the solicitors’ professional body.

Graham – who was born in Ireland and assumed a new identity after arriving in Britain from New Zealand 16 years ago – repeatedly stabbed Mr Cumming on the head and body, and later fled to Australia in an attempt to evade capture.

Mr Cumming’s funeral will be held at Warriston Crematorium’s Lorimer Chapel on Monday.

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