Frail William Cassels had been due to take to the witness stand against 35-year-old con artist Thomas Restorick and Philip Brewser, 38, who were accused of carrying out the brutal attack in Duddingston Row.
But prosecutors have been forced to drop the case as Mr Cassels was suffering from memory loss which left him unable to recall the alleged incident. Mr Cassels was 64 when he was set upon in his flat, had a knife held against his neck, and was left with dents in his skull from repeated blows from the axe hammer.
Restorick was previously jailed for ten years in March 2002 after being found guilty of conning a retired civil servant from Corstorphine into handing over £454,000.
The fraudster stole the life savings of 77-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer Ralph Pride by pretending it would pay for an inquiry into police corruption by Lord Hardie – then Scotland’s Lord Advocate and later a High Court judge – before using the cash to fund a luxury lifestyle.
Following Mr Cassels’ memory loss, the Crown Office said that there had been “insufficient evidence” to proceed with the trial following a review, and the case was “now closed”.
Mr Cassels said: “I’ve got no memory of what happened. I can’t remember any of it. I was seen by a psychologist who said that I wasn’t fit to take the stand because of my memory.”
Mr Cassels was allegedly attacked in his flat on October 10, 2010 after two men forced their way into his property.
Restorick, of Kenilworth Drive, Liberton, and Brewser, of Saddletree Loan, the Inch, were charged with assaulting Mr Cassels, demanding money from him and holding a knife against his neck. They were accused of pushing him into a bedroom, pushing him against a wardrobe causing it to collapse onto the pensioner, attempting to strike him in the face with a knife or similar object, and repeatedly striking him on the head with an axe-hammer or similar instrument to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement.
On the same day in Mr Cassels’ flat, Restorick was also accused of attacking Colin Halket, hitting him with an axe hammer or similar instrument on the head and body in a second attempted murder charge. This charge was also dropped.
A Crown Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that the procurator fiscal at Edinburgh received a report concerning Philip Brewser and Thomas Restorick in connection with alleged incidents occurring in October 2010. Proceedings were subsequently raised at the High Court where they were charged with attempted murder.
“It is always the duty of the Crown to keep cases under review. In this case after receiving new information, Crown Counsel conducted a full and careful review of all the available evidence. Crown Counsel concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed further. The case is now closed.”
Sentencing him after his fraud trial, a judge told Restorick, then 25, that he had committed the worst deception of the elderly ever brought before a Scottish court. The trial heard that Restorick lived a life of luxury using the stolen cash. The self-employed builder was found guilty of deceiving Mr Pride into handing over money between December 1998 and November 2000, including making huge cash withdrawals for as much as £39,000.
Restorick was caught after the victim’s concerned family alerted police who bugged the telephone at Mr Pride’s house and put a spy camera in a waste paper basket to gather evidence.