Lothian Murder Files: "Neil deflated like a balloon in my arms"

'Billy Liar' killer Henry Williamson robbed Anne and David Wyse of their 'happy-go lucky wee lad', nine-year-old Neil, in a murder which stunned Scotland. Today, 17 years on, his family are steeling themselves for the potential release of the dangerous fantasist.

In the first of a four-part serieson Lothian murders which have largely

faded from the public memory,the couple tell SUE GYFORD about living with their loss, while SHAUN CUMMING recalls how the killing of two

small children affected 1950s Edinburgh

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ANNE Wyse, remembers only too clearly the day her nine-year-old son left home for the last time.

It was three days after Christmas, 1992. Her husband David had nipped to the bookies in Gorebridge and young Neil popped out to walk his beloved dog, Laddie. Anne, who was eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, stayed at home with five-year-old Gemma.

"He left at about ten past 11, and he wasn't usually away very long," she says. "I saw the dog in the garden and thought that was strange. I went out to see if I could find Neil and I couldn't, so I came back and went for David. It was at the back of one when I went to the police station.

"I said 'My wee lad's not come back with my dog and it's not like him'. "They said, 'Do you want to have a seat?', and they held up his lead and held up his jacket and said 'Do you recognise them?'." They were told that Neil had been found unconscious in Shank Pond on Gore Glen and rushed to hospital.

There was one more detail, she remembers: "They told us that a local youth had found him in the pond." She and David look at each other. Seventeen years on, that innocuous phrase still has them shaking their heads in anger as they repeat it to one another: "A local youth . . ."

In their modest family home, the couple are remarkably composed as they relive that day. The surroundings are ordinary, but

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the comfortable domesticity contrasts with the extraordinary events they describe.

That local youth, it would emerge, had done more than "rescue" Neil. Henry Williamson, also known as Ray, had in fact lured him to the pond in the first place.

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It's not known how Williamson managed to convince the boy to come with him but it certainly wasn't by force – witnesses saw them walking together in the park. But once there he had strangled him with Laddie's lead and thrown him into the icy water – before pulling him out and trying to resuscitate him.

Williamson was a fantasist with a constant craving for attention. Known as Billy Liar in Gorebridge for his tall tales, the 19-year-old had already faked numerous accidents because he enjoyed the attention of the emergency services. His dad was so concerned at the way he got drawn into London's Burning and Casualty that they had been banned from the family home.

This time, however, Williamson had gone way beyond his usual fictions in a warped attempt to be hailed a hero.

Anne and David rushed to the Sick Kids, where medical staff were struggling to restart their boy's heart. Eventually they were led into intensive care, where Neil was on life support.

Anne says: "When I saw him I was in shock. It just wasn't like him – he usually had ants in his pants, he never sat still."

She also had to contend with police questioning: "They grilled me for a couple of hours. I suppose they've got to ask all these things but I thought 'leave me alone'."

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Police initially speculated that Neil had fallen into the pond and praised Williamson for acting "quickly and courageously". The teenager even appeared on television urging children to stay away from icy ponds.

But it was clear to Anne and David that something was wrong. The pond was two and a half miles from their home in Newbyres Crescent, and he would never stray so far on his own.

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As Neil's hypothermic body began to warm, other clues emerged, Anne says: "He had a purple mark around his neck but with him being that cold you don't notice it at first. When the body warms up it starts to show.

"I said, 'What's that, round there?'. They had a look, but they never really said anything to us."

In fact, the discovery had confirmed what the police also suspected – that Neil had not slipped. Williamson was questioned, and on 6 January finally confessed in front of a detective and his own father.

But before that came the greatest heartache of all for the Wyse family.

On Hogmanay, as the world outside prepared to party, Anne and David took the advice of doctors to switch off their son's life support machine.

David recalls the moment Neil's three-day fight for life ended: "They put Neil in my arms because Anne was pregnant," he says. "It was like a balloon deflating," he breaks off in tears.

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But the day was far from over. Neil died at 2.15pm and Anne's body began to feel numb from the shock.

A concerned nurse took her blood pressure and realised she was in labour, two weeks before her due date.

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Rev Judith Huggett from Gorebridge parish church had been with the family as they watched Neil slip away. She now loaded them into her car and sped to the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion where, just two and a half hours after Neil died, his brother David Neil was born.

Anne says: "Your emotions were upside down. When I was in labour I didn't really feel it because I was physically numb. It was a funny feeling, it was horrible. I said 'They've taken my wee pal and left me with this greetin'-faced bairn'.

"Neil always did everything for me, and now I had to do things just when I couldn't be bothered. I was just exhausted."

And, returning home two days later, they also had Gemma to care for: "She was only five years old. She was broken-hearted," Anne says.

Despite his confession, Williamson pleaded not guilty, and that May David and Anne saw him convicted of murder and sentenced to life.

Since then, they have passed many painful milestones. Anne has always referred to nine years old as the "bogey age", and found it hard to watch Gemma and David grow older than their big brother would ever be.

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When David was ten or 11 they sat him down and told him what had happened. Anne says: "He never used to say anything about it for a long, long time and just recently he said he'd loved to have met his brother."

Now the kids are 16 and 22, both living at home. David's birth might have been a moment of confusion for his mum, but she now swells with pride when she describes how he is training to be a painter and decorator. He looks a bit like Neil, she says, but is a different character.

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She went to the pond once. "I went with the dog one day, I went with the bairns. It was horrible. But I think it's just something that you've got to do," she says.

Neil would have been 26 now, and she bumps into his school friends in the village – they still tell her how much they miss him.

But there is one person the family hope never to bump into. Henry Williamson is now 36, and his 15-year tariff has expired, making him eligible for a parole hearing. And while life might go on for the Wyses, Billy Liar will always be the "local youth" who ensured their "happy-go-lucky wee lad" would never come home.