Prisoner found guilty of Theresa Riggi assault

Angela Hamilton claimed to have 'sympathy' for child-killer Riggi despite being found guilty of sneaking into her cell and cutting her face with a razor blade. Picture: PA
Angela Hamilton claimed to have 'sympathy' for child-killer Riggi despite being found guilty of sneaking into her cell and cutting her face with a razor blade. Picture: PA
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A FEMALE prisoner who attacked child killer Theresa Riggi with a razor in Scotland’s only all-women jail was sent back behind bars for two years today

Angela Hamilton claimed to have “sympathy” for Riggi despite being found guilty of sneaking into her cell at Cornton Vale Prison, Stirling, after breakfast and cutting her face with a razor blade.

She left Riggi lying screaming on her cell floor with her face covered in blood and a clump of her hair missing from her head.

As prison guards rushed to Riggi’s aid, Hamilton, 40, was captured on CCTV calmly walking back to her cell.

But today Stirling Sheriff Court heard that Hamilton claimed to have gone to Riggi’s cell to shout for help.

Sheriff William Gilchrist said: “I saw the recording of her going into the cell. There is no question of her seeking assistance for Miss Riggi.”

Hamilton’s lawyer, Murray Aitken, agreed there was no evidence she had tried to get help for Riggi but said sound could not be heard on the prison CCTV footage.

He added: “She has sympathy for Miss Riggi in the position that she found herself in and ultimately what happened to her but she denies responsibility for the attack itself.”

Sheriff Gilchrist told Hamilton she had attacked Riggi when she was in a “very vulnerable position” and said he had no option but to jail her.

Hamilton denied the attack but a jury of 10 women and five men at Stirling Sheriff Court took little over an hour to find her guilty by majority following a two-day trial.

The assault occurred on November 19, 2011, while Hamilton was in jail serving a sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Riggi was in Cornton Vale during her first year of a 16-year sentence imposed for killing her three young children in Edinburgh, in a crime which shocked the country.

The court heard she was regarded as “a high-profile” prisoner.

During the trial, prison officer Calum Graham told how he went to Riggi’s cell that morning after hearing screaming, saw Hamilton leaving the cell and then Riggi lying on the floor inside with blood on her face, still screaming.

His colleague James McCabe said his hands and clothing became “covered in Riggi’s blood” as he tried to help her.

Sheriff Gilchrist told Hamilton he had to send to her prison given the “gravity” of the offence.

He said: “There are obvious concerns about your use of drugs, your mental health problems and concerns about your record but quite apart from that this is a conviction for assault to severe injury involving the use of a razor.”

He added: “The person who was attacked was in a very vulnerable position.”

He jailed her for two years and ordered her to be supervised for a year on her release.

Earlier, Mr Murray urged the sheriff to spare Hamilton jail in favour of a community-based punishment.

He said Hamilton suffered from mental health and drug problems but she was “not prone to acts of violence”.

But Sheriff Gilchrist said a background report indicated she had been accused of assaulting fellow patients several times while being treated in Leverndale mental health secure unit in Glasgow.

Mr Murray said none of the incidents had led to court proceedings or a conviction.

Riggi, originally from California, USA, had a history of self harm which was on record in prison, and had been diagnosed with a personality disorder and paranoia.

She tried to kill herself twice in prison a week after being assaulted by Hamilton.

Jurors heard Riggi was found with a “ligature round her neck walking towards a set of stairs” on November 26, 2011, before being saved by prison staff.

Later that same day she was found “drowsy and incoherent” in her cell and and she said she had taken “40 pills”.

Riggi was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert for treatment and kept in overnight before being taken back to prison.

She had previously tried to kill herself after stabbing each of her children - eight-year-old twins Austin and Gianluca, and their sister Cecilia, five - eight times at their home in the Scottish capital in 2010.

She leapt out of the second-floor flat after trying to cover up their deaths with a gas explosion.

Riggi was originally charged with murder but admitted culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The following year she was transferred to a secure mental hospital in England and was found dead in her cell there in March this year.

A coroner ruled that the 50-year-old died at Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottinghamshire from bronchial pneumonia.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Bernadette McInerney, who treated Riggi at Rampton, said she was “planning for the future” and had “active plans for life after incarceration”.

The coroner heard Riggi was playing guitar, socialising and going to church in the days before her death.

When Riggi was sentenced for killing her children High Court judge Lord Bracadale described her actions as “truly disturbing” and “grotesque”.

Shortly before the killings, Riggi had moved to the Scottish capital from Aberdeenshire with her children following the break-up of her marriage to their father, Pasquale Riggi.

The High Court heard that Riggi had been a protective mother who was involved in a custody battle with her estranged husband over access to the kids.

Prior to the stabbings, each carried out with a different knife, Riggi made a chilling phone call to Mr Riggi, telling him to “say goodbye”.