Brother-in-law jailed for axe and hammer murder

The West Lothian farm where James Smith murdered his brother-in-law Alexander Cameron. Picture: Vic Roddrick
The West Lothian farm where James Smith murdered his brother-in-law Alexander Cameron. Picture: Vic Roddrick
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A MAN has been jailed for life after murdering his criminal brother-in-law and burying him in a shallow grave under manure.

James Smith bludgeoned Alexander Cameron to death by striking him on the head with an axe and a heavy fencing hammer. A judge at the High Court in Edinburgh ordered that Smith, 58, should serve at least 17 years in prison after he was earlier convicted of murdering his victim.

Lord Matthews told Smith: “You were convicted by the jury of the murder of Alexander Cameron and an attempt to defeat the ends of justice by taking various steps, the worst of which were that you hogtied his body and then, using a mechanical digger, you buried him amongst a collection of debris.

“This was a dreadful way to treat a fellow human being.”

Defence solicitor advocate Murray Macara QC said that Smith, who has previous convictions for serious assault, had been placed in segregation in prison after threats were made.

He told the court: “I understand the threats made against him have also been extended to his wife and family.”

He said Smith faced a number of health problems.

Smith had previously admitted responsibility for the death Mr Cameron, 67, by repeatedly striking him on the head with the tools during the attack between 19 and 25 January at West Cairns Farm, Kirknewton, West Lothian, but denied the crime was murder.

He claimed during a trial that he acted in self defence and that threats had been made to shoot his wife Helen.

Smith tried to cover up the crime by burying Mr Cameron, formerly of Newcraighall Road, Musselburgh, East Lothian, under horse manure and paving slabs at the farm. He was also convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Smith claimed he feared he was going to be killed when Mr Cameron ran at him. He said he fell over trying to avoid being struck and grabbed “two large hammers” and swung one to the back of his victim’s head.

He prepared a confession saying: “Pulling myself up I then went into a frenzied sort of numbness and was striking him several times on the head. All that I can remember thinking was ‘I can’t let him shoot Helen’.”

Mr Cameron’s body was later recovered from the makeshift grave. His wrists and ankles had been bound and his head and face were covered in blood from “blunt force trauma” injuries.

The victim was reported missing after failing to turn up at a family funeral on 22 January. Police saw him three days earlier.

When officers turned up at the farm, Smith confessed. He said: “They were going to shoot Helen. We were tired of threats.”

Mr Cameron was said to have links to serious, organised crime groups in Central Scotland and connections with Liverpool gangs.

He was previously jailed for six years after a cannabis crop was found in kennels at the farm in 2009 and was ordered to pay more than £525,000 under a crime profits confiscation order. His realisable assets were said to include the farm where he met his death.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron’s family said: “James Smith is a coward and a callous, evil, cunning and manipulative person who showed more compassion during evidence for a farmyard animal than he did for a human being.”