American student fights extradition to Scotland

St Andrews University. Picture: Contributed
St Andrews University. Picture: Contributed
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AN AMERICAN student is fighting extradition to Scotland where he faces attempted murder charges for allegedly poisoning a fellow undergraduate’s wine with methanol.

Alexander Hilton appeared in federal court in Boston on Thursday where he asked for bail pending an extradition hearing scheduled for 7 March.

His lawyer says Hilton is mentally ill and denies any wrongdoing. A federal prosecutor argued that Hilton should be detained, given the seriousness of the charge and his mental illness.

The judge did not issue an immediate ruling, the Boston Globe newspaper reported.

Hilton, 21, was studying economics and computing at St Andrews University in March 2011 when he is alleged to have spiked another American’s wine with the colourless and ­flammable liquid used in anti-freeze, according to prosecutors.

The students were playing drinking games in a dormitory before a ball at Scotland’s oldest university.

Hilton offered the wine to Robert Forbes, a fellow American from Virginia, and told him it was a gift, authorities said.

Mr Forbes, who was aged 19 at the time, suffered severe nausea and headaches, temporarily lost vision and would have died had he not gone to the hospital, ­according to prosecutors.

Reports at the time said he spent a week in hospital after drinking the wine ahead of the annual New Ball at the five-star St Andrews Bay Hotel.

“It’s an attempted murder case … a serious case, and we can’t lose sight of that,” assistant US attorney David D’Addio told the judge.

Authorities did not disclose a motive for the alleged poisoning, but witnesses told investigators that Hilton had been acting strangely at the time. He returned to the US just days later.

Hilton, a graduate of a leading American prep-school, has suffered mental illness since childhood and been placed on suicide watch at a federal detention facility where his condition is deteriorating, his lawyer Norman Zalkind told the judge.

“He’s going to get sicker and sicker and sicker,” Mr Zalkind said. His lawyer also said the US extradition treaty with the United Kingdom should be voided because it fails to guarantee an American citizen of his ­constitutional rights under the American judicial system.

A member of the Virginia man’s family said they had no comment as they did not want to interfere with the judicial process.

Mr Forbes was studing international relations at St Andrews as part of a four-year degree. After the incident, he returned to the US where he underwent specialist treatment at a hospital in order to restore his sight.At the time, a friend said that Mr Forbes had seemed “worse for wear” after having a glass of the wine and began suffering problems with his vision at the ball.

“Over the next couple of days, it emerged that Robert was in hospital. His vision was blurring, he was exceptionally ill and very sick,” the friend told The ­Scotsman.

Authorities have revealed they scanned Hilton’s computer after the poisoning and found he had conducted ­internet searches for information about combining alcohol and 

He also had a funnel in his university accommodation, which he said was used for drinking games.

Mr Hilton’s legal team ­described him as a “smart man, but with the socialization skills of a 14-year-old”.