US student faces prison after antifreeze spiking

American student at St. Andrews University in Scotland faces extradition for nearly killing friend Robert Forbes (pictured).
American student at St. Andrews University in Scotland faces extradition for nearly killing friend Robert Forbes (pictured).
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An American citizen left a fellow student temporarily blind and in hospital after poisoning his drink with a solvent used in paint and antifreeze, a court has heard.

Alexander Hilton, now 24, spiked a bottle of red wine with methanol and encouraged fellow US national Robert Forbes to drink it on the evening of a ball for students of St Andrews University.

Mr Forbes, also now 24, later experienced extreme lethargy, headaches, confusion and a complete loss of his vision for a time after consuming the toxic drink in March 2011.

Without treatment, the poison in Mr Forbes’ system would have had “life-threatening consequences”, the High Court in Edinburgh heard yesterday.

The court was told how the victim was given whisky as part of his treatment in hospital to help counter the toxin.

Hilton will be sentenced next month after yesterday admitting a charge of assaulting Mr Forbes to his severe injury, permanent impairment and to the danger of his life.

He appeared before the court, more than four years on from the crime, after being extradited from the US in May this year.

Judge Lord Burns told Hilton his crime was one of the “utmost seriousness” as he deferred sentencing until July.

The court heard that Hilton was in his second year studying economics and computing at St Andrews at the time of the incident. Mr Forbes, described as a “sociable young man”, was a year below, studying economics, history and philosophy.

They were both part of the same large social group, living at the university’s New Hall halls of residence. Hilton, from Princeton, near Boston, left St Andrews and the country shortly after the incident.

The court heard that on the evening of Saturday 5 March 2011, a student ball was being held for the New Hall students.

Mr Forbes began the evening having drinks with his friends in his room and was later joined by Hilton. Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told the court: “The accused brought two bottles of red wine with him. He handed one of the bottles of wine to Robert Forbes, stating that it was a gift.

“The accused had mixed the wine in this bottle with methanol. At this time, Robert Forbes noticed that the bottle of wine was full, but that the seal on the screw top was broken as if it had already been opened.

“During the time that the friends were within Robert Forbes’ room, the accused kept encouraging Robert Forbes to consume the bottle of wine that he had handed him.”

Everyone else in the room noted how “keen” Hilton was for Mr Forbes to drink the wine, the court heard. Mr Forbes took two large gulps of the drink and found it had a bitter taste. He later drank more but continued to comment on how “foul tasting” it was.

Judge Lord Burns told Hilton: “The crime to which you have pleaded guilty will attract a custodial sentence in the absence of exceptional circumstances.”