Orkney murder: Ex-soldier Michael Ross flees court after guilty verdict

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AN IRAQ War hero tried to escape from court today after he was convicted of the "savage, merciless and pointless" murder of a Bangladeshi waiter 14 years ago.

Michael Ross, 29, was just 15 when he burst into a restaurant on Orkney and shot Shamsuddin Mahmood in front of horrified customers.

After being found guilty of the murder, the Black Watch sergeant leapt across the dock at the High Court in Glasgow.

There were gasps from the public gallery as the soldier veered towards the jury before exiting via a side-door, pursued by police officers and court officials.

He was wrestled to the ground in the corridor and handcuffed as he sat on the floor, before being taken from the court to prison.

The soldier had earlier remained impassive as Judge Lord Hardie ordered that he be remanded in custody, and deferred sentence.

But as he was being led from the dock, he appeared to take a deep breath before turning and trying to make his escape.

The murder was the first on Orkney for 25 years and today's verdict brought a 14-year mystery to an end.

Ross burst into the Mumutaz restaurant on Orkney just after 7pm on the evening of June 2 1994 and executed the 26-year-old waiter in front of shocked diners.

The jury of five men and 10 women found Ross guilty of murder by a majority verdict after four hours of deliberation.

He was also found guilty by majority of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of the murder weapon and changing his clothing.

The calm of Orkney, which has a population of under 20,000, was shattered by the killing of Mr Mahmood.

The prosecution relied entirely on circumstantial evidence, which it said formed a "compelling, unanswerable case" against Ross.

But the defence claimed there was no way a 15-year-old boy could have committed such a crime.

One of the key witnesses was Michael Ross's father, Eddie Ross.

The 57-year-old was a serving police officer at the time of the murder and had been stationed outside the restaurant after the killing.

Mr Ross, a former firearms officer with a lifetime interest in guns, was also asked to examine the bullet casing retrieved from the crime scene.

During the trial it emerged that Mr Ross had been in possession of a box of ammunition of the type used in the shooting.

Mr Ross claimed he only had this one box, and it had been sealed.

But this was disputed by Royal Marine James Spence, who supplied Mr Ross with the ammunition and told police he had also given him an open box of loose cartridges.

Mr Ross received a four-year jail sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice and later lost his job with the force.

As Ross left court after today's verdict, he was approached by a man who began shouting and tried to hit him.

Prosecutors claimed that Ross, at the age of 15, was a racist, and these extreme views drove him to hunt down and murder one of the island's few Asian residents.

Advocate-depute Brian McConnachie, who described the murder as "savage, merciless and pointless", told the jury: "When that mask is removed, you're staring at Michael Ross."

He later added: "It has taken a long time, but for Shamsuddin Mahmood and his family and the people of Orkney to see justice done is better late than never."

Donald Findlay QC, defending, roundly criticised the prosecution's case, claiming that it was unthinkable for a 15-year-old boy to commit such a crime.

There were also major gaps in the prosecution case, he said, and key evidence was lacking.

Mr Findlay argued that Ross, far from being a killer, was a "war hero".

The defence brought forward several black soldiers Ross had served alongside in Iraq, who spoke of his brave actions on the frontline.

Judge Lord Hardie told Ross: "In view of the verdict of the jury and also in view of the fact you have no previous convictions, I require to obtain a social inquiry report before sentencing you."

Ross was one of 12 soldiers decorated for outstanding service in Iraq in 2005.

He was mentioned in dispatches for showing bravery following two improvised explosive attacks in North Babil.

Andrew Laing, the area procurator fiscal for the Highlands and Islands, said: "This was a callous murder of an innocent young man who was well known and liked within the town.

"This cowardly act shocked not only the local community but people throughout Scotland.

"My thoughts remains with Shamsuddin's family, who I know since 1994 have been keen to see the perpetrator of this terrible crime brought to justice."

Ross, a first offender, will be sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on July 11.