Edinburgh blaze killer Alexander Birrell shunned by family on his deathbed

Notorious triple killer Alexander Birrell was shunned on his deathbed by his own family, a Fatal Accident Inquiry heard.

Family members told the authorities they wanted nothing to do with Birrell as he lay dying from cancer in a hospital ward.

Birrell was in the final stages of small cell lung sarcoma when he was transferred to Perth Royal Infirmary from Perth Prison last May.

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He was placed on palliative care as doctors ruled there was nothing further they could do, and he was pronounced dead two weeks later.

Alex Birrell senior and his son in 1991. Pic: Courtesy of Daily RecordAlex Birrell senior and his son in 1991. Pic: Courtesy of Daily Record
Alex Birrell senior and his son in 1991. Pic: Courtesy of Daily Record

Fiscal depute Mohammed Sadiq said: “On 26 May 2018 the deceased’s family were updated and they wished to be called only to be informed of his death.

“They stated that they did not wish to be involved in the funeral, the death certificate or the registration process.”

Details of the family’s snub to Birrell were contained in a joint minute read to the inquiry at Perth Sheriff Court.

Birrell, 66, was jailed at in 1991 for killing his mother-in-law and her two young grandchildren in a fire-raising attack in the city.

He remained behind bars for 25 years after being caged for life for plotting the blaze that killed Mary McGregor, 62, and her grandchildren Karen and Kirsty Lawrie, aged 5 and 4.

He ordered their West Granton Flat to be set on fire by his son and a friend in a twisted bid to get his estranged wife to come back to Scotland.

Birrell was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years, while his son, Alexander Jnr, was also jailed for life. The friend, Derek Montgomery, was sentenced to 12 years for culpable homicide.

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During his time in prison Birrell, from Ferniehill Road, challenged a parole board decision that saw him fail to be released on licence.

The parole board refused to allow him out after he served his minimum sentence because police intelligence claimed he was trying to get guns to seek revenge.

Birrell’s trial heard his wife moved to Plymouth and the blaze was part of a plan to create a crisis to get her to come home.

He hounded Montgomery into starting the fire and had assured him there would be no one inside. Montgomery said he poured petrol through the door as Birrell jnr held the letterbox open, soaked the rag, put it in and lit it.

Sentencing Birrell at the High Court in Edinburgh, Judge Lord Caplan told the him: “Your motives could only be described as evil and your actions were totally ruthless. You have destroyed an innocent woman and two young children.”

The FAI was told that Birrell had been liberated from prison in 2016 but had been returned for a further offence later the same year and had not been given any further release date.

Mr Sadiq said the Crown were only seeking a formal finding from the court and the view was backed by representatives of the Scottish Prison Service and NHS Tayside.