A killing every three days as violence surges on the streets

Key quote

"Labour set out in its recent manifesto a clear determination to build safer communities through tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, with a real emphasis on community policing as well as stepping up efforts to support victims of crime." - Labour spokesperson

Story in full THE number of murders in Scotland has jumped by nearly a third in the past year, with an even bigger rise in fatal stabbings, according to new figures which deal a serious blow to the Scottish Executive's record on violent crime.

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Figures obtained by The Scotsman reveal there were 120 homicides in 2006-7 - the equivalent of one every three days and up 29 per cent on the previous year's 93. Of those 120 killings, 47 people were stabbed to death, compared with 34 in 2005-6, an increase of 38 per cent.

Nearly two-thirds (77) of the 2006-7 homicides occurred in Strathclyde, while Grampian saw 13 killings and Lothian and Borders 12. There were six homicides recorded in Fife, five by Northern Constabulary, four in Tayside and three in the Central Scotland force area. No homicides took place in Dumfries and Galloway.

The tally of homicide victims in Scotland in 2006-7 has largely wiped out the apparently big improvement in the previous year, with the figure of 120 victims being higher than all but two of the eight years between 1996-97 and 2003-4.

When a record drop in homicides was announced last autumn, Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, hailed it as clear evidence that the Executive's efforts to tackle violence, in particular the west of Scotland's knife-carrying culture, were bearing fruit.

Last summer, a five-week amnesty, part of the Executive-led "Safer Scotland" campaign, netted 13,000 weapons, while the penalties for those carrying blades have increased.

The drive was launched amid growing concern at Scotland's record on violent crime. A report by the World Health Organisation two years ago said Scotland had the second highest murder rate in western Europe.

But the new figures appear to expose the fall in the murder rate witnessed in 2005-6 as a blip.

Opposition politicians last night claimed the rise showed the Executive had failed to make Scotland a safer place.

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Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's justice spokesman, said: "These figures are deeply troubling. We have a knife and growing gun problem in Scotland and it needs to be tackled.

"We need to take severe action against those who use weapons, but we must also tackle the underlying problems of drink, drugs and deprivation."

Annabel Goldie, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "These figures show that Scotland is not the safer place that the Lib/Lab coalition pretended it was. Far too few police on the beat and the continued scandal of automatic early release have both served to make Scotland a more dangerous place, not a safer one. That's why we would launch the biggest assault on crime and drugs Scotland has ever seen."

The big rise in knife killings is a blow to the Executive, although last year's figure of 48 is lower than the numbers recorded each year between 2001-2 and 2004-5.

Jeremy Purvis, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "These figures show knife crime is Scotland's leading crime menace. We are the only party that will have both much more effective early intervention for young people, including breaking down gang culture, and, where necessary, seven-year sentences. This is an effective, long-term contribution."

Following the announcement in September that murders had fallen to their lowest level in 15 years, with almost a third fewer homicides than in the previous year, Ms Jamieson said: "These figures are encouraging and welcome news for the law-abiding public who want to feel safer in their homes and on the streets."

But, perhaps anticipating the latest rise, she acknowledged the drop did not mean society had "turned the tide on violence in Scotland".

The Executive has launched a raft of measures to reverse Scotland's violent reputation, including tougher penalties for people carrying blades, high-profile campaigns and restricting the sale of non-domestic knives.

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Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the police's Violence Reduction Unit, said enforcement could do no more than "contain and manage" the problem of Scotland's deadly love affair with knives.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said crime was falling and there were more police officers in Scotland than ever before.

He said: "Labour set out in its recent manifesto a clear determination to build safer communities through tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, with a real emphasis on community policing as well as stepping up efforts to support victims of crime."

Murderer struck on day he was freed early

BRENDAN Reilly, 19, from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, stabbed David Wilson, in the town on 2 July, 2005.

Earlier that same day, Reilly had been released from a young offenders' institution after serving half of a four-month sentence for possessing a weapon.

It emerged during the trial that Reilly was a member of a gang which arranged fights with other groups in the area via the internet.

Detectives had one website closed down after they discovered photographs of heavily armed gang members, including Mr Wilson, 20, also from Port Glasgow, holding a butcher's knife.

Reilly claimed that when he encountered Mr Wilson, he thought there was going to be a fight. Reilly said: "David Wilson got out of a taxi. He lifted up his jumper and I saw a blade handle. Someone shouted, 'Let's do him'."

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And Reilly added: "He challenged me in front of other people."

The teenager admitted stabbing Mr Wilson three times in the back, but said he was acting in self-defence.

A jury convicted Reilly by a majority verdict of murder and he was ordered to serve at least 15 years behind bars.

The judge said any one of a number of youths could have fallen victim to Reilly's "senseless violence", and that he was not convinced the teenager had any real remorse for taking a life.

After he was sentenced, Reilly taunted his victim's family from the dock with the words: "Fifteen years ... no bother."

Father left to die in the snow

A DEVOTED father of four was driven to a remote hillside and then left to die in the snow after a brutal attack which saw him punched, kicked and stabbed.

Dean Jamieson, 30, a care assistant from Kemnay in Aberdeenshire, was picked up by his killers in their car, thinking it was a taxi, after he left a pub in Aberdeen in April last year.

He was then driven to a remote car park at Elrick Hill on the outskirts of the city where he was robbed, brutally beaten and slashed with a knife, stripped of most of his clothes and then left to die of hypothermia and blood loss.

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Colin Cowie and Kevin Leslie, a criminal whose previous convictions include derailing a train and injuring the 30 people on board, were found guilty of Mr Jamieson's murder, while Shaun Paton was convicted of culpable homicide.

Mr Jamieson's widow, Carol, fled in tears from a press conference after the verdicts were delivered, too upset to speak of the enormity of her loss.

Mr Jamieson's mother, Jo, said: "He was killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

She described her son's murderers as "evil personified".

Knifed through the heart

FATHER-of-two Marc Lancashire was stabbed to death in May last year by a man already facing charges of violence.

His killer, Robert Turner, 41, a delivery driver, was twice freed by courts before knifing his victim in the heart at a block of Edinburgh flats in Calder Crescent.

On the day of the murder, Mr Lancashire, originally from Liverpool, had been celebrating his home city club's win the FA Cup.

His killer was sentenced to a minimum of ten years for the murder.

Sports-mad teen stabbed in gang fight

LIAM Melvin was a "sports-mad" teenager popular with classmates at his school in Edinburgh.

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But the 17-year-old's life was snuffed out when he was stabbed during a confrontation with a gang of youths near Burdiehouse Burn Park in the south of the city last December. The area is a popular teenage hang-out.

Liam was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by paramedics, but died from his injuries.

His grandmother Joyce, described the outgoing teenager as "a lovely wee lad".

"He had a lot of friends and was very popular. He was always cheery, always very lively. He loved boxing and he was into football," she said.

Two teenagers, Bonnie Igoe and Jay Murray, and 20-year-old Edmond Reid, have appeared in court in connection with Liam's death.