ONE of Scotland’s most high-profile lawyers was found dead in his bedroom in a hotel in Pakistan the morning after he had left a wedding early, feeling unwell.
Paul McBride, QC, had been at the wedding with civil rights lawyer Aamer Anwar on Saturday evening.
When he failed to appear for breakfast on Sunday morning, Mr Anwar tried repeatedly to contact Mr McBride, before alerting staff at the Pearl Continental hotel in Lahore.
“They broke the door open and then went in,” Mr Anwar said. “Security came in with me and then we found Paul. He was cold, he was asleep, I thought he was asleep.”
Reports from officials in Pakistan said Mr McBride might have died as a result of a heart condition.
The 47-year-old advocate had been on holiday in Abu Dhabi with his parents, before travelling to Pakistan on business with Mr Anwar.
Mr McBride had a high public profile. Two men are currently on trial in Glasgow accused of sending suspected parcel bombs to him and other leading supporters of Celtic Football Club.
The Crown Office said it was not for them to comment on whether Mr McBride’s death would affect the trial.
Lawyers and politicians were quick to pay tribute to the QC after hearing the news of his death. First Minister Alex Salmond described his death as “sad and shocking news”, while Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thomson said he would be “sorely missed”.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont described him as “one of the finest legal minds of his generation”, and his close friend and fellow QC, Derek Ogg, said: “I think we’ve lost someone very important.”
Mr McBride had attended the wedding of one of Mr Anwar’s relatives on Saturday night, along with Pakistani government ministers and officials, but had left early and returned to his hotel feeling unwell.
Mr Anwar said: “The last couple of days he complained about being unwell and had gone to bed early … and after the wedding he left early.
“He was moaning about feeling unwell and said he was going to go back to his room. Then I tried to phone him last night and thought he’d gone to his bed. I tried to phone him this morning when I got up, but I thought he must be asleep.
“I phoned him several times during the course of the morning and he didn’t answer, so eventually I went to his room and knocked on the door.”
He said he called security to open the door after Mr McBride failed to answer.
They broke down the door and found the lawyer dead in his bedroom.
Paying tribute to Mr McBride, Mr Anwar added: “I think it’s a massive loss to the legal community – and to the whole of Scotland. He was the outstanding lawyer of his generation. The thing that always stood out about Paul is that he knew everybody – not just the people at the top but everybody to the bottom. He knew everybody on first-name terms.
“He was full of life and he was highly respected.
“Everyone’s in shock, but at the end of the day, the biggest thing is it’s a huge loss to his mum and dad. I spoke to them, he was their only boy – their golden boy. I don’t know how anyone is going to console them.”
Supt Faisal Gulzar, of Lahore police, said: “At this stage we think he died of natural causes and do not suspect any foul play. We have checked CCTV footage from the hotel and carried out initial investigations.”
Superintendent Gulzar said police had found sedatives among his luggage and were waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination.
A statement issued on behalf of Mr McBride’s family said: “Paul died in his sleep last night in a hotel in Pakistan, and at this time we would ask you to respect the privacy of his family.”
Paying tribute to Mr McBride, who was called to the Scottish Bar in 1988 and appointed a QC at the age of 35, said to be the youngest ever in the UK, Mr Salmond said: “This is sad and shocking news. Paul McBride was an outstanding Advocate, and a very substantial public figure in Scotland.
“Paul’s genius lay not just in applying his first-class mind to the complex procedures of Scots law, but also his unrivalled ability to explain and promote the laws of Scotland to a wider public.
“His reservoir of talent was great indeed, and I believe he had so much more to contribute to the law, and to the great debate on Scotland’s future.
“Paul will be sorely missed across Scotland’s legal system, political parties, sport and journalism.”
Celtic Football Club chief executive Peter Lawwell describing him as a “very good friend of Celtic and someone who cared passionately about the club”, and saying that he would be “sadly missed”.
A spokesman for the Faculty of Advocates said the group was shocked by the “untimely death of one of Scotland’s most prominent QCs”.
“Our thoughts are naturally with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
A former member of both Labour and the Scottish Conservatives, Mr McBride had left the Tory party after Ruth Davidson was elected as leader north of the Border.
In a joint statement issued by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, they said: “This is devastating news for his partner Gary, family and his friends. We offer our sincere and deepest sympathies to them.
“Paul was in the prime of his life. He lived life to the full and had contributed so much to the legal profession, the media and public life in Scotland.
“He had a fabulous intellect and was interested in so many things. He was a fearless advocate who was not afraid to speak out about injustice and intolerance.
“He will be sorely missed.”
Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, said: “Paul McBride was one of the finest legal minds of his generation. While we didn’t always agree, I always thought of him as a thoroughly decent man”.
His close friend and fellow QC, Derek Ogg, added: “A lot of people regard Paul as being populist, pragmatic and down to earth, but he had a mind like a steel trap. He was a very bright lawyer, and the judges loved that, they loved the fact that he could argue legal concepts on his feet, chop and change them, make the case. He was a star in that sense, but he was a star, and everyone will say this, in every sense. I think we’ve lost someone very important.”