Parole for killer who shot dead her husband

A MOTHER who shot dead her policeman husband after claiming she had suffered years of abuse at his hands left jail yesterday after serving four years for the killing.

Kim Galbraith gave a smile as she left Cornton Vale prison in Stirling at 7:15am in a silver people-carrier.

Galbraith, 33, was driven two miles to Bridge of Allan railway station, where she took a train to Stirling, then a connecting service to Glasgow.

Wearing a light blue blouse and grey fleece, she appeared pale and drawn as she asked fellow travellers for change from a 10 note.

Galbraith, who killed her husband, Ian, as he slept, was understood to be reunited with her daughter, Lauren, four, in the south of England last night.

Although freed on parole, Galbraith remains on a four-year extended sentence, which means she will be supervised in the community in the interest of public safety.

Her original murder conviction was reduced to culpable homicide, and prompted a change in the law regarding diminished responsibility.

But last night, the family of Constable Galbraith criticised the Scottish justice system for allowing his killer to walk free after just four years.

Patricia Galbraith, who lives with her husband, Ian, a retired naval officer, at Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, said: "This woman killed our only child and she can walk free after four years in jail. How can this be justice? We have no faith at all in the justice system."

Saying that she would never accept Galbraith was not a "murderess", the grieving mother added: "This was a calculated, premeditated murder of a loving son and devoted father, and how the courts can accept that this woman was suffering from diminished responsibility is beyond us."

Galbraith shot her 37-year-old husband dead with his hunting rifle as he lay in bed at their home at Sandhole Cottage, Furnace, Argyll on 14 January, 1999.

She initially told police that two masked men had broken into their home, killed her husband and then raped her before setting fire to the cottage.

Firefighters who attended the scene discovered her barefoot on the road wearing a blood-spattered nightdress, clutching her baby daughter and screaming.

However, she soon confessed she had shot her husband and was charged with murder.

At her original trial at the High Court in Glasgow in June 1999, Galbraith claimed her husband subjected her to years of abuse. She said he forced her to take part in three-in-a-bed sex sessions with prostitutes, raped her at gun-point, and made her have sex in a dog kennel.

Two months before killing her husband, she had tampered with the brakes on his car.

Her defence presented evidence that the policeman, a former soldier, collected Nazi memorabilia and had armbands bearing swastikas.

But neither the women Galbraith claimed her husband brought to their home nor the handgun she said he used to threaten her were ever traced.

The policeman’s ex-wife, Julie, to whom he was married when his relationship with Galbraith began, gave evidence that he was a loving husband who was never violent.

Both the Crown and defence team accept no evidence of abuse has been produced beyond Galbraith’s own claims.

She admitted killing her husband but denied murder, asking to be found guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide on grounds of diminished responsibility. However, she was convicted of murder and given a mandatory life sentence.

The case took a dramatic twist in April 2000, when it emerged that Lord Osborne, the judge who presided over her trial, had stated in his report on the case to the Scottish Executive that he felt she should have been convicted of culpable homicide.

Galbraith appealed and in June 2001, her murder conviction was overturned in a landmark judgment which saw the law relating to diminished responsibility rewritten.

At the time of Galbraith’s first trial, the law in Scotland, which dated from 1923, stated that a claim of diminished responsibility could not be accepted by a jury without proof of a "medical disease". But Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, sitting at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh with Lords Penrose, Bonomy and Nimmo Smith and Lady Cosgrove, said the law should be updated to take account of other reasons.

Lord Rodger gave the Crown permission to proceed with a retrial of Galbraith, and in May 2002, she admitted culpable homicide at the High Court in Glasgow. The Crown accepted the plea on the basis she was suffering from diminished responsibility due to psychological and psychiatric problems, and she was sentenced to ten years in jail. Last November, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled this was excessive and reduced it to eight years.

The Parole Board of Scotland automatically reviews prison terms once half the sentence has been served. Galbraith, described as a model prisoner, was released on parole yesterday for good behaviour, having served half her sentence.

After Galbraith was taken into custody, her daughter was cared for by her mother, Wendy Scarsbrook, and step-father Sydney. However, Lauren went to live with a female relative of her mother after Mrs Scarsbrook died of a suspected brain haemorrhage in July 2000.

Mr Galbraith’s parents plan to seek legal advice on access rights to their grand-daughter.

Mrs Galbraith, 72, said: "We have seen very little of Lauren . We have lost our only son, and we do not want to lose touch with our only grandchild."

Scottish Women’s Aid said it hoped Galbraith would be able to "rebuild her life in safety".

A spokeswoman said: "The re-writing of the law in relation to diminished responsibility, which arose from Kim Galbraith’s appeal against her murder conviction, was a welcome and positive development."