Edinburgh man’s murder confession attempt rejected

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
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A MAN’S attempt to confess to a murder for which his brother is serving a life sentence has been rejected by appeal judges.

Thomas Shields, 31, went to a lawyer’s office and swore a statement a week after his brother, Patrick Shields, 20, was convicted of stabbing a man repeatedly in a feud between their families.

He insisted that he had been the killer and that Patrick’s conviction should be overturned.

However, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that the statement could not be used as fresh evidence by Patrick Shields in an appeal because there was not the required “reasonable explanation” for such evidence not having been led at his trial.

In any event, they said the alleged confession was inconsistent with scientific evidence which helped convince the jury that Patrick Shields was guilty.

George McLaughlin, 45, was attacked near his home in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, in April 2011, and bled to death from wounds to a major artery.

Patrick Shields incriminated his brother at a trial and Thomas Shields was listed as a defence witness, but was not called to give evidence. The prosecution said Thomas Shields was simply a “convenient smokescreen” by the family to cause confusion in the evidence against his brother.

The jury returned a majority guilty verdict against Patrick Shields and he was ordered to serve at least 16 years of a life sentence.

The previous year, his sister, Elizabeth Shields, 33, had been jailed for life for murdering a 61-year-old man at his home in Barrhead.

In an affadavit by Thomas Shields about the death of Mr McLaughlin, he stated: “Patrick was not guilty of this murder, and I know this because it was in fact me who caused the death...Patrick was nowhere within sight. I believe I was acting in self-defence. I am not lying to try and protect my brother.”

Lady Paton, sitting with Lord Mackay and Lady Cosgrove, said there needed to be a “reasonable explanation” for evidence not having been heard at a trial before it could be admitted as fresh evidence in an appeal.

She added: “In the present case...the defence lawyers’ decision not to lead Thomas Shields as a witness in case he damaged the appellant’s defence was a tactical decision and does not, in our view, amount to a ‘reasonable explanation.’ That is sufficient for the disposal of this appeal.”

However, it was perhaps worth observing, said Lady Paton, that the description of events given by Thomas Shields in his affidavit was inconsistent with evidence that his brother’s jeans had been stained by the dead man’s blood and no staining had been found on his clothing.

Also, according to Thomas Shields, the stabbing had occurred inside a tenement close but there was a trail of blood from outside to inside the building.