THE father of a teenager who became the first murder victim in the Western Isles for almost half a century has called for the “cowards” who took his son’s life to spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Johnathan MacKinnon and Stefan Millar were convicted yesterday of killing Liam Aitchison, a 16-year-old from South Uist who was beaten, stabbed and stripped of his clothing in a derelict building on Lewis.
Liam was homeless at the time and had been staying at various addresses.
A jury at the High Court in Glasgow found both men guilty of the murder that sent shockwaves through the island community.
MacKinnon and Miller, both 22, had denied murder, but now face life terms when they are sentenced later this month.
Speaking outside court after the verdict with wife Claire by his side, Liam’s father, Norrie, said his “beloved crazy diamond” had no chance of surviving after being subjected to the attack.
“He fought to defend himself, but he didn’t stand a chance against the violence he came against that night,” Mr Aitchison said. “He was left stripped of his clothes with 20 stab wounds. No family should have to endure what we have.
“The cowards who robbed our Liam of his life and his future should never be able to see the outside of a prison ever again.”
He added: “We are pleased the jury has returned a guilty verdict which will finally allow Liam to rest in peace and bring his family some closure.”
The judge, Lord Kinclaven, remanded his killers in custody pending their sentencing, and the two showed no emotion as they were led to the cells.
There were shouts of “pair of monsters” from Liam’s family when the verdict was returned at the end of the three-week trial.
Until Liam’s killing, the last murder in the Western Isles had been the killing of 80-year-old Mary Mackenzie at her cottage at Brue, on Lewis, in 1968.
Chief Inspector Gordon Mac-Leod, the Western Isles area commander for Police Scotland, said murder was an “extremely rare event” and that Liam’s death had “affected the whole community very deeply”.
During the trial, the court heard how Liam was stabbed 20 times and suffered multiple blunt-force head injuries, including a fractured jaw and nose. Two major arteries were struck, injuries a pathologist said would have been fatal.
After the attack on 23 November, 2011, the killers left their victim and clambered out of the blood-soaked, derelict RAF building in Steinish, without leaving any significant trace they had been there. They even returned to MacKinnon’s home and began concocting a story to try to cover up what they had done.
The court heard how earlier that day, the duo and Liam had been drinking and listening to music at MacKinnon’s house but left when MacKinnon’s mother got fed up with the noise.
MacKinnon lashed out at Liam when a bottle of his aftershave fell out of the teenager’s pocket. The men then made their way to the disused building in Steinish. Liam is thought to have been poleaxed with a beer bottle before being knifed and beaten to death.
Detective Inspector Andy Logan, the senior investigating officer, said it was “a most brutal and callous” and “senseless” murder.
“My thoughts are with Liam Aitchison’s family at this difficult time and my hope is that the convictions today will provide some form of closure for them,” he said.
“Liam would have just celebrated his 18th birthday this month had he not been murdered. Liam was a 16-year-old boy who had his whole life in front of him and enjoyed the support of a small number of persons locally.
“Unfortunately, Liam fell into the company of Johnathon MacKinnon and Stefan Millar, believing them to be his friends and placing his trust in them. They completely betrayed this trust, and in a most brutal and callous way they killed him in a senseless and sustained attack with weapons.”
Mr Logan added: “Neither man has expressed any remorse throughout the investigation.
“This was a particularly difficult and complex inquiry involving a significant amount of police and specialist resources.
“This was the first murder to be reported in the Western Isles in many years and is a very rare occurrence in what is normally one of the safest places in Scotland. It was, therefore, very shocking to the close-knit community. I would like to thank the people of Stornoway for their assistance throughout this protracted investigation and praise the dedication of the investigation team, specialists, local officers and staff.”
The judge thanked the jury for their care and attention in what he called an “anxious” case.
MacKinnon and Millar will be sentenced on 28 June at the High Court in Edinburgh.