Laird who plotted to kill lover relies on 400-year-old law in appeal

Disgraced tycoon Malcolm Huntley Potier bought Gigha in 1999
Disgraced tycoon Malcolm Huntley Potier bought Gigha in 1999
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A FORMER Scottish laird, jailed for twice plotting to murder his former partner, has begun a fresh attempt to win his freedom using the ancient law of habeas corpus.

Malcolm Huntley Potier, 58, was sentenced to 13 years in jail in Australia for soliciting a hitman to kill Linda Oswald, his former girlfriend and mother of his daughter, and later plotting against her life while in prison in Long Bay, New South Wales.

Potier, a former multi-millionaire property developer who acquired the title of baron when he bought the Hebridean island of Gigha in 1999, maintains his innocence and intends to appeal his first conviction to the High Court of Australia.

Yesterday, Potier told the New South Wales Supreme Court that if a miscarriage of justice was proved in the first trial, the second trial would also miscarry, as his previous convictions were told to the jury.

Representing himself, he told the court he was seeking to use habeas corpus – a legal action from 17th-century England through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention – after his most recent bail application was refused.

He said: “I have been in custody 11 years. The court must act. Habeas corpus is a very old but very important remedy that’s not been changed for 400 years.”

The failed businessman was jailed for a maximum six years in 2002 over a plot in which he paid a detention centre inmate £4,600 to murder Ms Oswald and her boyfriend. But would-be assassin Alessandro Basso fled to his native Italy with the money he had been given.

Potier was sentenced to a further 12 years in 2006 after trying to have her murdered while he was behind bars.

Potier was found guilty of approaching his cellmate, known as Mr A, at Sydney’s Long Bay jail and asking the inmate to organise her death. It was reported that the fallen tycoon favoured a car accident to kill Linda. Prison authorities used hidden cameras and a listening device to gather evidence against him.

Potier bought Gigha for £5.4 million, beating off competition from Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. His empire once included a number of landmark buildings in Glasgow. But he went bust in 1994 and Gigha was repossessed by a Swiss bank.

Ms Oswald gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Sarah, in 1997, but the couple soon split. Two years later, Ms Oswald moved to Scotland to live with her parents, but had to travel to England to allow Potier access visits.

He snatched the girl and fled to Australia using a false passport. Potier was then arrested in Melbourne and taken to a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Sydney.

Ms Oswald travelled to Australia to get her daughter back and moved in with ex-boyfriend Glenn Wakeham in Queensland.

Potier will be eligible for release on parole in August 2013. He has previously attempted to sue the Legal Aid Commission, the director of public prosecutions, the trial prosecutor, the New South Wales (NSW) attorney-general and several lawyers who acted for him.

But the NSW Supreme Court knocked back attempts to begin civil proceedings against individuals involved in his case.

Justice Robert Shallcross Hulme rejected one proposed lawsuit in March 2010 saying there were no grounds for the action.

He then said another proposal was “an abuse of process”.