Ex-drug dealer denies he was behind murder of 'cousin Jodi'

A FORMER drug dealer denied repeatedly yesterday that he was the murderer of the Midlothian schoolgirl Jodi Jones.

John Ferris, 18, told a jury that he regularly sold cannabis to Jodi’s boyfriend, Luke Mitchell, who is on trial accused of killing her.

The teenager, who said he was Jodi’s second cousin, said he had been on a path, near to where the girl’s body was found, on the evening of her death.

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Under lengthy cross-examination by the defence QC, Donald Findlay, he agreed that after the death he changed his appearance by hacking off his hair, delayed in going to the police, mis-stated the time he had been at the path, and had been ostracised by some of Jodi’s family. Each time Mr Findlay asked if he had murdered Jodi, he replied: "No."

Mitchell, 16, denies repeatedly striking Jodi, 14, with a knife and murdering her on 30 June last year in a wooded area near Roan’s Dyke path, a short-cut between the Easthouses and Newbattle areas of Dalkeith. He says in special defences that it is believed the Crown will contend that Jodi was murdered between 5pm and 5:45pm and that he was elsewhere, and that she was killed by a person or persons unknown. Mitchell also denies unlawfully possessing a knife or knives, and supplying cannabis to Jodi and others.

Mr Ferris told the High Court in Edinburgh that he now lived in Ayrshire, but used to live in the Dalkeith area.

He admitted having supplied cannabis to friends and relatives, and said that Mitchell regularly bought the drug from him, and still owed him for his last purchase, on the day before Jodi’s death. He insisted that he had stopped dealing around Christmas last year.

Mr Ferris said he often saw Mitchell with knives. Once, Mitchell left a knife at a house and Mr Ferris took it home. He had handed it into the police after Jodi’s murder.

On the day of the killing he had ridden an old moped down Roan’s Dyke path to meet his cousin and close friend, Gordon Dickie, at Newbattle. The court was told that witnesses in the area put the time of hearing a noisy moped and seeing two youths at or shortly after 5pm. Mr Ferris said the pair used the path on the return journey.

Mr Findlay asked what time Mr Ferris had told the police he and his cousin were heading up the path. The witness said: "Around five o’clock." Mr Findlay told him to be careful and asked again. He said: "Before five o’clock... I cannot exactly remember."

The QC read from a statement which said "about half-past four". He suggested that that time was about 45 minutes out, and asked for an explanation.

Mr Ferris said he had looked at a clock when he got into Mr Dickie’s house, and it said a quarter to five. It had been wrong. Mr Findlay continued: "You and Dickie may have been in the area at or about the time that Jodi may have been attacked, yet you saw nothing and heard nothing?" Mr Ferris answered: "No."

Mr Findlay: "You would have the jury believe you know nothing?"

Mr Ferris: "Yes."

The witness agreed that the moped had been stopped at a break in a wall, behind which Jodi’s body was discovered, and that he seemed to be "piling up a rather substantial list of coincidences". He said he did not know why he had not gone to the police for several days, nor told any of Jodi’s family he had been on the path that evening.

He added that he was supposed to go to Jodi’s home that night to see her brother, Joseph, but decided against it. Mr Findlay described that as "another remarkable coincidence".

Mr Ferris accepted that he had changed his appearance, by hacking at his curly hair. Asked why he had been so desperate to get rid of if, he replied: "I do not like curly hair."

He said he was no longer welcome at his grandmother’s house. He had been told by Jodi’s mother that "Joseph was going to batter me."

Mr Findlay, who suggested Mr Ferris would lie when it suited him, asked: "Did you murder Jodi? Did Gordon Dickie murder Jodi? Did the two of you together murder Jodi?"

To each question, Mr Ferris replied: "No."

The trial continues.