Veteran died on anniversary after resisting mugger in Stirling, trial hears

Edinburgh High Court. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh High Court. Picture: TSPL
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A WAR veteran died on his 64th wedding anniversary after resisting a mugger who had tried to steal his wallet, a murder trial jury has heard.

• James Duguid denies attempting to rob and murder Mr Gillespie

• John Gillespie tried to fend off the man and ended up on the ground, it was alleged

John Gillespie, 88, had been taking a stroll along a riverside on a spring afternoon to look at the daffodils when a man stepped in front of him, a court was told.

He tried to fend off the man with his walking stick and ended up on the ground, it was alleged. He required surgery for a broken hip, but he went into a steady decline and died in hospital about a week later.

James Duguid, 51, of Raploch, Stirling, denies attempting to rob and murdering Mr Gillespie, of Stirling, in April last year. It is claimed he demanded the pensioner hand over his wallet, and pushed and pulled him at an underpass at the junction of Lovers Walk and Riverside, Stirling. He allegedly hit him with a walking stick, and dragged him along the ground.

Mark Cassidy, 41, told the High Court in Edinburgh that his mother was the eldest child of Mr Gillespie and his wife, Agnes, 88. His mother, Louise, had died at the age of 62 in January last year, and it had been a hard blow for his grandparents. He tried to visit regularly, he said. His grandfather was registered blind but had some vision.

Mr Cassidy recalled his “papa” being in very good spirits when he saw him about a day or two before the incident.

“He had been having trouble with his hearing and he had his ears syringed and it made a huge difference to him,” he said.

On 19 April, Mr Cassidy was driving to his grandparents’ house when he saw an ambulance near the riverside, which he knew was a favourite spot for his grandfather to take a walk.

“Whenever I saw an ambulance, I always thought, ‘Oh no, it’s papa.’ It hadn’t been...up to then,” said Mr Cassidy.

He continued to the house and his grandmother told him she was concerned his grandfather had not arrived home.

“I said I would pop up to the riverside because I knew it was a route he walked to see the flowers. I didn’t tell her I had seen an ambulance,” he added.

He approached a police officer at the ambulance and explained he was looking for his grandfather, and gave his name.

“He said not to worry, he had had a fall. I went into the ambulance and my grandfather was being treated. He was very agitated. He was in pain. He was coping, but only just, really. He said he had been to see the daffodils. He was walking along and a man stepped in front of him and said, ‘Gie’s your wallet.’ He demonstrated how the man thrust his hand out at him. He kind of raised his stick to try to keep the man away. The stick was seized and there was some pushing and pulling of the stick and the next thing he knew, he had fallen down.”

Mr Cassidy said his grandfather had been “no shrinking violet” and it did not surprise him that he had offered resistance. The person had not got the wallet because it was still in his grandfather’s jacket pocket.

Over the coming days, Mr Gillespie had an operation for a broken hip but there was a very steady decline, and he died in hospital on Easter Monday. Following the recent death of Mr Cassidy’s mother, the loss of his grandfather had been another devastating blow.

“My grandmother is finding it quite difficult to cope. It has been an absolutely terrible time,” said Mr Cassidy.

John Gillespie, 57, the dead man’s son, said his father had served in the Royal Navy, on minesweepers in the English Channel.

The trial continues.